Top Picks for Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale has returned for its 56th installment. This edition brings with it a huge variety of work and events, with its director Okwui Enwezor claiming the biennale will present more political work than has been seen in Venice for years. Here are 4 projects we are excited to see:

© Casey Kelbaugh

© Casey Kelbaugh

The Mosque

This year ‘THE MOSQUE: The First Mosque in the Historic City of Venice’ is presented by the Swiss artist Christoph Büchel and is, as the title makes pretty clear, the first ever mosque in the historic centre of Venice. The project, which is the artist’s contribution to the Icelandic Pavilion for the 56th Venice Biennale, can be found in the interior of the former Catholic Church of Santa Maria dell’Abbazia della Misericordia, which had previously been left closed for some 40 years.

The project has sadly already attracted controversy, with the local police declaring the national pavilion a ‘threat to safety’, and rather more pettily ‘a headache’. In defence of the mosque Hamad Mahamed, who will be leading prayers there, says ‘It gives us the chance to show people what Islam is really about-and it isn’t the pictures shown in the media.’ In addition the mosque evokes Venice’s intertwined history with Islam: whilst this is the first mosque in the city centre, Venice has traded with the Islamic world for centuries and the city’s distinctive architecture bears traces of  the influence of Islamic culture.

© artnet

© artnet

Pamela Rosenkranz

Already tipped by many as the star pavilion of 2015, this year the Swiss present the artist Pamela Rosenkranz’s work ‘Our Product’. This experiment in phenomenology is composed of a huge pool of scented liquid the colour of Caucasian skin. ‘Our Product’ is a work that is acutely sensitive to its surroundings: combining the ‘aqua alta’ experienced by the city with the very skin colour of its residents. Rosenkranz worked with the master perfumers Dominique Ropion and Frederic Malle to produce the scented pool and has explained that the colour of the pool is meant to represent the average skin tone of the figures in classic Venetian paintings.

© artnet

Cristiano Corte © British Council

Sarah Lucas

The YBA makes a triumphant return with her characteristically candid and corporeal art. Representing Great Britain, Lucas’s project titled “I SCREAM DADDIO” is made up of an assortment of sculptures of human bodies, with sexuality as the dominant theme. Lucas created the works over the course of a summer in London, during which the artist met with various female friends who she then cast in plaster for the show. In fact, the friends cast include the likes of her dealer Sadie Coles and the chef Margot Henderson.

Lucas’s work explores her relationship with her body and the bodies of the women she knows with honesty and humility. “No one’s told me off about the fannies yet,” Lucas explained to the Guardian. “You don’t tend to see ‘em much, do you, outside of pornography. […] Yes, I am a feminist, and it is a feminine show. I am not on my soapbox about it, but yes, I wanted this to be a strong feminine show. ”

Shilpa Gupta, Untitled performance (2015). © Mark Blower

Shilpa Gupta, Untitled performance (2015). © Mark Blower

India and Pakistan’s collaboration

India and Pakistan have both received minimal representation in previous years at the Biennale: after eight unofficial displays between 1954 and 1982, India was first officially represented in 2011, but then did not return in 2013, and Pakistan hasn’t been represented since 1956. This latest project organised by a non-profit foundation headed by the businesswoman Feroze Gujral presents an exhibition that attempts to unite and celebrate the divided countries. Whilst neither country has an official pavilion this year ‘My East is your West’ is on show at the Palazzo Benzon on the Grand Canal and features work by Mumbai-based artist Shilpa Gupta and Lahore-based artist Rashid Rana.

Organised by the Gurjal Foundation which was established in 2008 to promote art from the Indian subcontinent, ‘My East is your West’ presents a piece by Gupta in which an anonymous performer uses carbon paper to draw out lines on a piece of hand-woven cloth measuring 3,394m- representing the border that runs between India and Bangladesh and the construction site of what is to be the longest security fence in the world. Meanwhile Rana presents a video work entitled My Sight Stands in the Way of Your Memory which re-creates the painting Judith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio built up by a mosaic of news film and CCTV footage.

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