UK vs Poland and Romania At 56th Venice Biennale National Pavilions

UK vs Poland and Romania

It seems the art world has gone mad, with everyone rushing from one art event to another crossing countries and continents –jet settings in a flurry to catch the next VIP Preview, the next big thing to talk about. Busy speculating on  “best 10 artists” or “ the next emerging artists” in this art fair or another.  Short sited crowed filled with what can only be described as obsession for immediate self- gain, armed with VIP cards, and an air of self -importance.

The Venice Biennale takes place between May and November 2015. It cannot be viewed in 3 days of VIP touring, it is physically unachievable: 89 participating countries exhibit in National Pavilions while additional 136 artists curated by Okwui Enwezor for the central Pavilion and Arsenale.   The long queues (For everything; from toilets to coffee to entering pavilions)  the over crowding, the endless parties to attend creates only rushed shallow critics, of highlighted shows, mainly driven by political agenda’s and self promotions.

It was therefore plausible for Artlyst to allow us the time to stay in Venice and write our reviews, comprehending the notion that Art is for the general public, not just for the selected few. 

National Pavilions:

Despite mix reviews I enjoyed Sarah Lucas exhibit at the United Kingdom Pavilion  “I scream Daddio” is beautiful, touching, erotic, authentic and funny. More so I enjoyed reading the accompanied text which for once, wasn’t filled by an overly ambitious curator ‘s conceptual writing but like a diary-by the artist herself.  The Pavilion which was painted bright yellow, featured iconic Sarah Lucas body casts presented with modest home furniture in different positions- all with Cigarettes stuck either at their rectums or in their Vagina.  Black “ cats” casted of filled stockings with multiple tits and a large yellow sculpture titled” Gold Cup Maradona”.  Here, Lucas managed to stay authentic to her practice, creating intimate self portraiture, with self critic and humor, extending her documentation of her cigarettes addiction and exploring her sexuality with a fresh approach.

This simple yet effective exhibition stood up from the crowed because of its honesty and unassuming approach- as Sarah Lucas wrote: “ My overall conception for the show is that it should have the appearance of a dessert. A confection…….Deep Cream appealed to me, partly because it was called Deep Cream….”. This show of confidence position Lucas as one of the most credible female artists in the international art scene. 

Sarah Lucas , Octopus Spam Plinth ,2015. 

The Polish Pavilion showcased original thought provoking work by C.T Jasper & Joanna Malinowska.  

The Video “ Halka/ Haiti 18º48’05N 72º23’01”W “ portrays a poetic moment in which 5 soloists and a conductor from Poznan’s National opera performed the renowned Polish Opera ”Halka”  on a dirt road in Haiti to local audience , complete with a goat, passing motorbikes and random animals.  The Opera conveys the Soloist performing in full costumes while the Haitian natives observe.

The contrast between the sound the costumes and settings is striking.  It throws the viewer into a whirlpool of thoughts about the meaning of Western culture, colonialism and the future of globalism.

The 18º48’05N 72º23’01”W coordinates used in the project’s title, depict the location of Cezale, a village inhabitant by the descendants of Polish Soldiers who fought for the independence of Haiti.  In 1802 Napoleon sent the Polish Soldiers to suppress the slaves rebellion, however, the Poles teamed with the local insurgent and helped to liberate Haiti. As a result they where granted an honoree legal statue of blacks.

The Opera “Halka” which is a tragic story of lost love and death between a young pheasant and her might landlord performed in this location in Haiti resonates the beauty of art and culture capable of passing boundaries and continents.  It is innocent of patronizing western crusades, highlighting the notion that story telling is a human primary need- and love, loss and death are subjects of international language.


  Adrian Ghenie Darwin and Satyr 2014 and The Storm 2015

Exquisite Paintings by Adrian Ghenie where exhibited at The Romanian Pavilion.  In sharp contrast to the last Biennale where Romania exhibited conceptual (And somewhat shaky and experimental ) performances, this choice of artist demonstrated versatility and curatorial maturity by curator Mihai Pop.  

The exhibition titled ”Darwin’s room” exhibits mainly oil on canvas paintings depicting portraits of Charles Darwin and other 20th century icons. The exhibition is based on the artist’s vision of the contemporary world defined by memory and desire.

The portraits are twisted exploding with violent brush strokes. There is a coherent disturbance to their modification. Like a bad dream, they move between realism and liminal space. In “Darwin and Satyr”,2014 one can extend an association to Marc Chagall and indeed some of the subjects are biblical such as “ burning Bush” 2014.   

C.T Jasper & Joanna Malinowska “ Halka/ Haiti 18º48’05N 72º23’01”W, 2015 

Words/Photos: Michal Cole Top Photo: PC Robinson © artlyst 2015


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