La Biennale di Venezia

by Lee Michael Klein Once, in 2004 while observing the Campo del Palio in Sienna from the infield while Mick Jagger stood across in one of the windows in a loggia of a trackside palazzo, as the horses restless before the canapé bucked and brayed an official equipped with a microphone at the starting line cried out “tranquile…. tranquile”…_ to the rambunctious steeds or the jockeys resplendent in colorful silks atop them to control their mounts.

Once, in 2006 when in a McDonalds’ in the Galleria of Milano an unruly customer yelled at the counter help an afro-Italian manger with a gold stud in one ear-lobe calmed him with “tranquile …tranquile..tranquile…”

Once, while this writer was guiding on a double-decker tour-bus some Spanish speaking passengers were aboard who would not quiet down so the tour could be given.  So after asking and asking I yelled out “silencia”…. Although had this person known then what he knows now he would have  certainly used the other word…..This all comes to mind as I read in the New Yorker Peter  Schjeldahl in reporting on the 2007 Venice Biennale write “Tranquila, a Spanish observer was heard to judge, on the opening day”; righto and right away onto the next thing …

Over the few Biennale’s this writer has covered it has become evident to him that although the event itself is labeled as being in the ordained venues and pavilions that indeed all the concurrent exhibits and venues really comprise its campus as well; even, if in this year at this event “Think with the senses …feel with the mind (Pensa con i Sensi- Senta con la Mente)”, I felt like I was being talked at rather than to. Here by self-description is supposedly Robert Storr’s post -Duchampian return to art in the service of the mind and the soul; however in reality our curator is talking at us about a concept where somebody was already talking at us about somebody else talking at us (being talked at about being talked at- a hall of mirrors or the grand illusion non?).

 So, this does not mean that one could not imagine the conversation extended elsewhere. That what we are seeing is the emergence of the Venetian art scene of events future as museums like the Palazzo Peggy Guggenheim and the new Francois Pinnault Palazzo Grassi extend their grasp.

“There were great rooms” said David Elliot the director of Istanbul’s contemporary art museum “there were great rooms… Not great art, but great rooms”.  I have to admit the place lost my attention rather quickly.

………..Now this seems the proper place for this writer to categorically apologize for his review of two years past; for, while criticizing its’ information art mixed in propaganda (which I accused  of overdosing aesthetics) it still was far more purposeful than this lack of viewer oriented grasp. There were little or few surprises in Robert Storrs orchestra of artists we already know (Jerry Salz called it “Robert Storr’s resume writ large”)-(not to mention the survey of African art which included convenient non-Africans including Miguel Barcelo. Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat).

Over in the Giardini which houses the national pavilions The Russian effort was a video screen triptych called “Last Riot” by ES+F (Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyatsky and Vladimir Fridkes) of computer generations mixed together with live models engaged in sword play with faces as if out of a Sandro Botticelli, as a super-truck Sim makes its way up a winding mountain road and violet dragons fly. This work effortlessly uses Le Jardin as a proving ground compared to other uninspired draws. Also of note was the Korean pavilion’s Hyungkoo Lee.  This artist  states in the  accompanying wall text that when in school in the states (Yale) he suffered from “undersized Asian male complex” causing him to create all the exoskeletal and skeletal permutations to his fictional superhero persona.

Off campus a bit at the Peggy Guggenheim palazzo was Beuys/Barney exhibition which was a master exercise in point counterpoint curation showing the similarities in their use of ephemera and materiality, video, performance art, and vitrines.

The Palazzo Grassi meanwhile as of late the storehouse and display venue for the Francois Pinnault collection. David Hammons work outplayed many here something one might suppose might not work works. That is once one gets it ( in such matters  it took this wandering boy so long to find the place where he got it after he observed marriages and arrangements and came back and took a second and a third look).  Meanwhile, this new arrangement of the most contemporary of art in the magnificent setting of this palazzo makes for one of the most beautiful museums in the world. ……….."Perhaps the Most beautiful but not the most charming”: to the previous thought perenially in-shape critic Robert c. Morgan added ( in alluding to their obscene security measures) at a sun drenched reception for the Bennessee Prize at the Bauer hotel where the Bellinis flowed and Carolee Schneeman like and with a bird in and of paradise posed.

A canal like a crease in the pattern fold of Venice comes into the grand fluvial astride the balcony terrace of the great hotel where the dining and entertainment area rests majestic and where forefront to the sun blessed vantage one reposes with their back to the convergence as would a royal party now obscured to the world.