HIGHLIGHTS – VENICE BIENNALE 2017

GERMANY
Artist: Anne Imhof
Curator: Susanne Pfeffer

“A space, a house, a pavilion, an institution, a state,” is how curator Susanne Pfeffer describes Anne Imhof’s Faust (1978). “The floor and the glass walls penetrate space in a fluid, crystalline and intense manner, as it happens in power and money centers. Spaces subjected to borders, but always revealing everything by making it visible and controllable. The raised floor lifts the bodies of the performers and changes the proportions of space. Below, above and beside us there are bodies as a single and collective phenomenon. In raised or curled position the performers move through, below and above the pavilion. They stand on isolated glass pedestals or squatted as if they were hanging from the walls of the rooms; body, sculpture and, at the same time, merchandise. Suddenly we are in a building of power and powerlessness, will and authority, resistance and freedom. Outside, in their own territory, dogs watch the house.”

ITALY
Artists: Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Roberto Cuoghi and Adelita Husni-Bey
Curator: Cecilia Alemani

Il mondo magico [The Magic World] wanted by Cecilia Alemani for the Italian Pavilion crosses multiple references to the imaginary, the fantasy and the fable, where artists turn art into a tool for living and surviving. Rituals, beliefs, mythologies and fairy tales as devices through which the individual can master a historical condition that no longer belongs to him. Giorgio Andreotta Calò (1979), Roberto Cuoghi (1973) and Adelita Husni-Bey (1985) use magic as a cognitive means to rebuild reality, shaping intricate personal cosmologies, complex aesthetic universes. As in the rites described by the Neapolitan anthropologist Ernesto de Martino (1908-65), Andreotta Calò, Cuoghi and Husni-Bey stage crisis situations that are resolved through aesthetic/ecstatic transfiguration processes.

ESTONIA
Artist: Katja Novitskova
Curator: Kati Ilves

If Only You Could See What I’ve Seen With Your Eyes, a title from a dialog in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), brings together reflections on large-scale data-driven industries, ecology at the time of the ecosystem crisis and the domain of the visual. Facing these issues, Novitskova (born 1984) explores the new articulated role of the image and the collection and processing of data: tools used to map every possible surface, moment, and spectrum of the Earth and known planets. An environment colonized by drones, prehistoric animals, alien and outsize figures, gives away the baffled swing between known and unknown, between domestic and alien, between nature and sophisticated technology.

USA
Artist: Mark Bradford
Co-Curators: Christopher Bedford and Katy Siegel

The abstraction ability of Mark Bradford (born 1961) is not against the expression of content, but embodies it. A selection of materials normally used in collage and painting stages and recreates the ordinariness of a beauty salon, the Home Depot chain, or the streets of Los Angeles, where the artist was born and raised. Through environmental and large-scale works, Bradford speaks of marginalization, social vulnerability and resilience, in a continuous swing between threats and hope for the broken promises of the American dream. Tomorrow is Another Day is a narrative made of ruins, violence, ambitions and beliefs, in which a material, gestural, and lively painting enters the real world, restating its contradictions and nuances.

FRANCE
Artist: Xavier Veilhan
Curators: Lionel Bocier and Christian Marclay

Merzbau Musical by Xavier Veilhan (born 1963) is inspired by the recording studios atmospheres and the pioneering work of Kurt Schwitters. Aimed directly at the viewer/listener Studio Venezia presents a series of musical instruments especially created for the occasion and hosts performances of musicians and singers from different backgrounds. The latter are busy recording new audio tracks and experimenting with new instrumental productions.

GREAT BRITAIN
Artist: Phyllida Barlow
Curators: Delphine Allier and Harriet Cooper

The sculptures by Phyllida Barlow (born 1944) inhabit the entire space of the pavilion, from the floor up to the ceiling and flowing outwardly. Mazes of monumental columns alternate with colorful architectural prostheses both childish and sinister. The artist invites us to cross a desolate landscape of rotting and derelict shapes, populated by urban furnishings, tar castings, and bright colors where human presence meets and clashes with the physical limits of poor materials.

ROMANIA
Artist: Geta Brătescu
Curator: Magda Radu

Memory is apparition; an epiphany, like art.
Geta Brătescu, the first female artist to represent Romania at the Biennale, offers a reflection of her studio, conceived both as a real space and as a meta-artistic entity. A complex assemblage that hosts and develops the body of work of the artist – drawings, collages, engravings, upholstery, sculpture, photography, videos and performances – suggests a space at the same time physical and mental, a space in which cultural and personal memory, self-analysis and female mythology collide.

SOUTH AFRICA
Artists: Candice Breitz, Mohau Modisakeng
Curators: Lucy McGarry and Musha Neluheni

The double solo exhibition explores the destructive power of storytelling in relation to the current state of forced migration that affects part of the world’s population. Love Story (2016), by Candice Breitz, wonders about the conditions that produce, or don’t produce, empathy, through interviews with six refugees, and the monologues of Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore. While Modisakeng’s Passage (2017) features the disintegration of the African identity and the effect that this produces on personal stories.

NEW ZEALAND
Artist: Lisa Reihana
Curator: Rhana Devenport

With Emissaries (2015-2017) the imperialistic glance turns back on itself destroying the common notions of beauty and authenticity, history and myth. Lisa Reihana (born 1964) reactivates in a film version the iconic French wallpaper Les Sauvages De La Mer Pacifique, designed by Jean-Gabriel Charvet in the early 1800s. Through a panoramic video installation which runs throughout the aisle of the pavilion, the artist emphasizes expansionism, power and abuse impulse of the illuministic ideals and of scientific and cartographic efforts.

SCOTLAND
Artist: Rachel MacLean
Curator: Alchemy Film and Arts in collaboration with Talbot Rice Gallery and the University of Edinburgh

“Referencing the Italian folktale The Adventures of Pinocchio, Spite Your Face offers a powerful critique of contemporary ‘post truth’ political rhetoric, in which the dubious language of truth is used and abused to enhance personal, corporate and political power. […] A bottle of Truth works its ambiguous perfumed magic, as a Madonna-like character offers a destitute young boy a way into the shimmering riches of the kingdom above. The price he pays is to cast himself morally adrift. He discovers that (un)Truth proves a worthy substitute for the real thing, packaged up and sold to an unquestioning public.” (Rachel MacLean).