2017.05.26 Fri, by Girolamo Marri Translated by: 王丹艺
VIVA ARTICLE VIVA

STATISTICS

During the four days of previews:

786,323 selfies were taken on vaporettos (ferryboats) while passing next to a pair of gigantic white hands coming out of the Grand Canal to prop up a palazzo. The hands were awkward and useless, and so were all selfies.
2,347,732 times the word “sorry” was uttered by people bumping into one another.
45,752 people stopped to check maps, take selfies, or say hello to one another in the narrowest passages, causing traffic jams.
734 times I got lost trying to get from this place to that place. Thankfully I was using Google Maps; the number would have been much higher otherwise.
72,003 people stopped for over 30 seconds at the entrance of rooms where videos were being played, holding the curtain open and shining light on the projection screen.
347,743,482,657 USD made by property owners renting palazzi (or storage rooms) to the naive crowd of art dwellers.
7,756,832 people whom other people pretended to recognize at events and in the streets.

HIRST

“Oligart” I think when I land in front of one of Hirst’s gargantuan things just outside Palazzo Grassi, and I resolve not to see his show. Though I sympathize with all people who struggle with midlife crises to resolve their past—such as IT guys well in their forties who take up parkour and pop their kneecaps dreaming of themselves as ninjas—I can’t accept someone’s unresolved teenager issues to generate this much speculation and above all to monopolize both Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, which are usually dedicated to real shows.

由达明·赫斯特造的那些庞然大物中的一个,我不喜欢 One of those really big things by Damien Hirst that I don’t like

由达明·赫斯特造的那些庞然大物中的一个,我不喜欢
One of those really big things by Damien Hirst that I don’t like

VIDEOS

While video demands attention and commitment, unlike performance it allows for sitting down and taking a rest; plus there is no peer pressure to applaud at the end—which is why I have a strong appreciation for video. And in fact it is the videos which partly redeem the main exhibition, “Viva Arte Viva” (curated by Christine Macel), a show which I find otherwise tame and under-researched because it throws up a narrative so nebulous as to embrace every artwork on the planet (and no, that’s NOT a good thing). Both in the Giardini and in the Arsenale, the show is structured around a pointless separation into smaller thematic pavilions (Pavilion of Artists and Books? Pavilion of Shamans? Dionysian Pavilion?), each introduced by wall texts so simplistic they could have been written for children books or Hollywood scripts.

Here are three of the videos that rescued the show,

1. Marcos Ávila Forero’s “Atrato” documents an event the artist organized in 2014 on the river Atrato in the Amazonian forests of Colombia. A dozen locals face each other in a circle, submerged in the river up to their waist, learning how to rhythmically beat the surface of the water with their hands as though it was an instrument. The artist learned that “playing the water” was an Afro-Columbian ritual lost when the area became embroiled in a perennial armed conflict, but also that a similar technique still survived in Congo. Though the video is just a window showing a single moment of a much more complex endeavor, it brilliantly captures its essence. I listen to the beat and the splashes, I witness how joyful is the locals’ effort to reconnect to a lost tradition that bridged two continents, and the relevance of such a re-appropriation becomes very easy to grasp.

2. Hilarious and extremely political is Guan Xiao’s “David” (2013), a three-channel video in which we see myriad kitsch appropriations of Michelangelo’s statue that are celebrated with an extremely annoying pop song throughout the video.

3. Also on the humorous side (I think Ms. Macel was too earnest to include a Pavilion of Humor?) is Søren Engsted’s “Levitation” (2017), the video documentation of a performance in which the artist, who is sitting crossed-legs on a plinth, discusses the ability to hover above ground.

墨西哥Ávila Forero的《阿特拉托(Atrato)》,在军械库的主题展中 Marcos Ávila Forero’s Atrato, in the main exhibition at the Arsenale

墨西哥Ávila Forero的《阿特拉托(Atrato)》,在军械库的主题展中
Marcos Ávila Forero’s “Atrato”, in the main exhibition at the Arsenale

关小,《大卫》,2013 Guan Xiao, “David”, 2013

关小,《大卫》,2013
Guan Xiao, “David”, 2013

Søren Engsted,《漂浮(Levitation)》,在贾尔迪尼的中心场馆 Soren Engsted, Levitation, at the Central Pavilion in Giardini

Søren Engsted,《漂浮(Levitation)》,在贾尔迪尼的中心场馆
Soren Engsted, “Levitation”, at the Central Pavilion in Giardini

THE UK AND CANADIAN PAVILIONS

UK: Phyllida Barlow is 73 years old, and for over 40 years she held an honorable yet unglamorous position as a teacher at the Slade School of Art in London before retiring in 2009 to dedicate herself full time to her sculptures. The Swiss colossus Hauser and Wirth took notice, and her career began to fly. Now she’s representing her country at the Venice Biennale. In my opinion, her tenacity wins hands down against the instant success of a supposedly rebellious youth such as Sarah Lucas, who represented the UK two years ago. Of course, my judgment wouldn’t be as positive were it not supported by a strong liking for Barlow’s practice and for her show in Venice. I truly admire the gigantic shapes that populate the space, made with materials as unassuming as plywood, concrete, foam, and cardboard. They are playful and they are spontaneous, but at the same time they look ancient and menacing—if left unguarded, they might at any moment knock down the pavilion walls and squash all the people queuing for the German Pavilion…and then take a sip from the Canadian pavilion fountain.

Canada: Incidentally, the Pavilion is great, as it was two years ago. The artist Geoffrey Farmer decided to take advantage of the renovation the pavilion is undergoing for its 60th birthday and opened up the central room to turn it into a fountain that sprays water a few meters above the ground. In older times fountains were a ubiquitous sight throughout Europe. As architecture and fine art were considered overlapping disciplines, fountains, decorated by sculptural elements, became the meeting ground for visual aesthetics and spatial functionality, and were commissioned both privately and publicly, But seeing fountains in an art festival nowadays feels refreshing (I couldn’t resist saying this), as for some reason they are a rather unpopular medium among contemporary artists. (Ed. –Renata Lucas “fontes e sequestros” 2015?) Possibly, socially conscious artists fear fountains convey a sense of colonialist grandeur, or something similar. In general, the ratio of neon and mirrors to fountains in the art world is truly unacceptable.

由家菲里达·巴洛(Phyllida Barlow)造的那些庞然大物中的一个,我喜欢 One of those really big things by Phyllida Barlow that I like

由家菲里达·巴洛(Phyllida Barlow)造的那些庞然大物中的一个,我喜欢
One of those really big things by Phyllida Barlow that I like

英国馆 UK Pavilion

英国馆
UK Pavilion

英国馆 UK Pavilion

英国馆
UK Pavilion

加拿大馆因杰弗里·法莫(Geoffrey Farmer)的《镜子的出口(A Way Out of the Mirror)》而成为了一个喷泉,该作品受到一系列日期为1955年的摄影所启发,而这些照片展示了一辆撞上火车的运木车 The Canadian Pavilion turned into a fountain for Geoffrey Farmer’s A Way Out of the Mirror, inspired by a series of photographs dated 1955 showing a lumber truck colliding against a train

加拿大馆因杰弗里·法莫(Geoffrey Farmer)的《镜子的出口(A Way Out of the Mirror)》而成为了一个喷泉,该作品受到一系列日期为1955年的摄影所启发,而这些照片展示了一辆撞上火车的运木车 The Canadian Pavilion turned into a fountain for Geoffrey Farmer’s “A Way Out of the Mirror”, inspired by a series of photographs dated 1955 showing a lumber truck colliding against a train

在加拿大馆的作者 Writer, in Canadian Pavilion

在加拿大馆的作者
Yours truly, at the Canadian Pavilion

VIVA ARTE VIVA

A prejudice I wasn’t able to overcome: I find the title of the Biennale unbearable. It literally translates as “Go Art Go” (okay, also “Long Live Art”, but still). While I understand—though do not fully agree with—the necessity of choosing an immediate, non-controversial title, and while the curator and the communication team went to great lengths in affixing all kinds of readings, the fact remains that the title is terrible, far beyond the reach of any irony.

ERNESTO NETO

I hear someone addressing an audience inside Ernesto Neto’s organic tent at the Arsenale. I can see that people are sitting comfortably on cushions and rugs, and I decide it’s worth going in to rest for a second. When I begin to take my shoes off, though, I realize that both my right and left sock have giant gaping holes. I take it as a sign from above, and decide to move on, without even bothering to read the caption. Later I find out that inside the tent, called “Um Sagrado Lugar (A Sacred Place)” hosts members of a Brazilian tribe named Huni Kuin, and that they perform shamanic rituals that involve the intake of ayahuasca (a strong psychoactive drug). Hallucinogens in the Arsenale? No, please no!

为什么我不敢进入Ernesto Neto位于军械库的神圣帐篷 Why I didn’t dare enter Ernesto Neto’s sacred tent in the Arsenale

为什么我不敢进入Ernesto Neto位于军械库的神圣帐篷
Why I didn’t dare enter Ernesto Neto’s sacred tent in the Arsenale

“绿光(Green light)”——一间在奥拉维尔·埃利亚松(Olafur Eliasson)工作室附近的艺术作坊,位于军械库的中心场馆。我是真的迷惑于,为什么这个该在那或在任何的艺术展中 Green light - An artistic workshop by Studio Olafur Eliasson, in the Central Pavilion at the Arsenale. I’m really puzzled as of why this should be there, or in any art exhibition.

“绿光(Green light)”——一间在奥拉维尔·埃利亚松(Olafur Eliasson)工作室附近的艺术作坊,位于军械库的中心场馆。我是真的迷惑于,为什么这个该在那或在任何的艺术展中
“Green light”, an artistic workshop by Studio Olafur Eliasson, in the Central Pavilion at the Arsenale. I’m really puzzled as of why this should be there, or in any art exhibition.

VOLUME

All the video works in Venice are played at a very low volume; I “hear” this is the result of some artist’s intervention aimed at making us all feel like we are turning deaf—a powerful comment on our deteriorating ability to sympathize with “the other”, on the makings of our identity, on the notion of agency, and all that.

(Okay, it’s not true, I made that up. It’s no one’s work, but it might very well have been.)

RAN DIAN VS GERMANY

Everyone is raving about the German Pavilion, and they’re probably right, but unfortunately Ran Dian cannot express an opinion on it. Though numerous attempts were made by all members of the team in Venice—neither the editor-in-chief nor myself could overcome the line in front of the pavilion’s entrance. Daniel suffered the last defeat on the morning of his departure, when he bravely showed up to the Giardini at the opening time so as to be first in line, and was told that performances would only start 60 or more minutes later. He then ran swearing all the way to the other side of town to catch his flight. While we apologize for failing to report on the artwork that won the Biennale prize, we are also confident that you’ll find plenty of reviews written by others who managed to spend a few minutes suffocating inside the pavilion, or waited next to the pavilion’s exit to gather opinions from those who were leaving it.

我能够在德国馆看到所有安妮·伊姆霍夫(Anne Imhof)的“浮士德” All I could see of Anne Imhof’s Faust at the German Pavilion

我能够在德国馆看到所有安妮·伊姆霍夫(Anne Imhof)的“浮士德”
All I could see of Anne Imhof’s “Faust” at the German Pavilion

策展人李大衡(Lee Daehyung)介绍Lee Wan为韩国馆造的作品。他给我们带来了一场非常愉快的旅行。他是策展人兼艺人,众多天才中的一位 Curator Lee Daehyung introduces Lee Wan’s work for the South Korean Pavilion. It is a really enjoyable tour he gives us. He’s a curator and an entertainer, a man of many talents

策展人李大衡(Lee Daehyung)介绍Lee Wan为韩国馆造的作品。他给我们带来了一场非常愉快的旅行。他是策展人兼艺人,众多天才中的一位
Curator Lee Daehyung introduces Lee Wan’s work for the South Korean Pavilion. It is a really enjoyable tour he gives us. He’s a curator and an entertainer, a man of many talents

SWISS PAVILION

I decide not to visit the Swiss Pavilion when I read that all works are inspired by Giacometti. I am so tired of Giacometti. My respect goes to the Swiss for making such an extraordinary effort of promoting his work, and ensuring that a good 8% of all art exhibitions on the planet at any given moment are of his work. But I have to say this, his work to me is not that good; it’s just sticks.

God, I feel so liberated having said that! Yes! Enough with Giacometti! And Frida Kahlo.

CHINESE PAVILION DINNER

At the Chinese Pavilion dinner, held in the serene cloister of a palazzo near the Fondamenta Nove, a conversation at my table goes like this:

Gallerist: “I’ve been based in Beijing for quite a long time, now almost 15 years; the art scene has been evolving and changing so much it always feels vibrant and there is so much to…”
French collector: “Ah China! The pollution!”
Gallerist: “Yes it’s bad, you have to take precau…”
French collector’s Lebanese wife: “Can’t the Chinese deal with their pollution? It’s so bad!”

I struggle to accept that people who supposedly had an education fail to recognize the link between pollution in China and almost all of the inexpensive and expensive goods they possess, including the botox on the woman’s lips, so I contemplate retaliating, but then decide the issue is too banal and I’d much rather concentrate on my delicious risotto with scampi, which was possibly the best dish I ate during my venetian week. A few moments later, anyway, we all leave our seats to go see the puppeteers who performed in Qiu Zhijie’s Pavilion, who spontaneously begin playing traditional instruments at their table

The pavilion itself, which I had seen in the morning, is not my favourite, though I certainly like it much more than those of the past two or three editions. My first instinct would be to say that it was overcrowded, but then I think it probably was not overcrowded enough. There is a kitsch element to some of the work and certainly to the way they have been installed, but it lacks exaggeration and thus feels too polite. Such feeling is exacerbated by the fact that much of the work is strongly rooted in craftsmanship, leaning too much towards embracing tradition rather than subverting it.

A room in the Pavilion kept me mesmerized though: four videos (videos to the rescue!) by Tang Nannan. Shot between 2013 and 2016, the videos are all connected to water; one was shot on a river, two at sea and one, Billenium Waves, portrays mountain crests as waves. While visually the most captivating was probably Odyssey Smoking, where a train makes its way on the open sea, reminiscent of a gigantic undulating spine, all of the videos are successful in being rooted in mythologies and ancient wisdom, which they bridge to our times thanks to a refined use of the filmic medium.

中国馆的表演者自发地开始在晚宴中演奏 Performers of the Chinese Pavilion exhibition spontaneously begun to play during the pavilion dinner

中国馆的表演者自发地开始在晚宴中演奏
Performers of the Chinese Pavilion exhibition spontaneously begun to play during the pavilion dinner

中国馆 Chinese Pavilion

中国馆
Chinese Pavilion

来自汤南南的《刺船(Odyssey Smoking)》截屏,黑白影像,2013,中国馆 Still from Tang Nannan Odyssey Smoking, Black and White Video, 2013, Chinese Pavilion

来自汤南南的《刺船(Odyssey Smoking)》截屏,黑白影像,2013,中国馆
Still from Tang Nannan, “Odyssey Smoking”, Black and White Video, 2013, Chinese Pavilion

SHIMABUKU

Shimabuku, an artist whom I hadn’t previously heard of, deserves a paragraph of his own: his work is that good. He presents three videos and accompanying objects in the main Arsenale Pavilion: in one, he sharpens the edge of a Macbook as if it was a knife; in another, he puts a pack of monkeys living in Texas whose ancestors lived in the snowy peaks of Japan in front of a snowdrift; and in the last one, called “Oldest and Newest Tools of Human Beings”, a group of people are given prehistoric stone axes in exchange for their iPhones. His anthropological, historical and environmental interests are mixed with a sense of how everything in our existence is intertwined, unaffected by the constraints of space and time. Such serene wisdom is dispensed through simple and inherently funny actions, and it’s so calming that upon spending a few minutes with his work, I finally relax my fists and jaw, which have been tightly clenched since taking sight of a dozen sneakers filled with plants displayed under a shiny purple light, a couple rooms earlier.

岛袋道浩(Shimabuku)的《人类古老的和新晋的工具(Oldest and Newest Tools of Human Beings)》,在军械库的主题展中 Shimabuku’s Oldest and Newest Tools of Human Beings, in the main exhibition at the Arsenale

岛袋道浩(Shimabuku)的《人类古老的和新晋的工具(Oldest and Newest Tools of Human Beings)》,在军械库的主题展中
Shimabuku’s “Oldest and Newest Tools of Human Beings”, in the main exhibition at the Arsenale

FRANCE

I like architecture, I like music, I like participation, and I got very excited about the French Pavilion when I first read about it, as it promises a variety of unscheduled jam sessions between visiting musicians who’ll play on purpose-made instruments in rooms designed for perfect acoustics.

How disappointing, though, to walk into a space full of wooden structures and wooden instruments, the functionality of which seems secondary to their very debatable aesthetics. I eavesdrop on a brief conversation that the curator is reluctantly having with a visitor, and I hear that all the instruments have already been sold.

法国馆 French Pavilion

法国馆
French Pavilion

法国馆 French Pavilion

法国馆
French Pavilion

SATURDAY DEPARTURES

I wake up on Saturday morning to the clanging of trolley wheels on the street below. It is an unpleasant sound, loud and vulgar. But in it I can also perceive a deep longing, and with my face squashed against a synthetic pillow, I imagine the herds of art people making their way out of town, to migrate by boat, train and airplane to the next art appointment, to meet again in other hotel lobbies, in other VIP after parties or press previews, to greet each other with surprise and take selfies together, and to graze pensively on artworks and canapés.

由Nathaniel Mellors和Erkka Nissinen为贾尔迪尼的芬兰馆做的作品《阿尔托的土著(The Aalto Natives)》。这是最可爱的场馆之一,因为由电子动画和移动投影机做成的装置,播放着以未来的芬兰为背景的奇异的动画,它既具有独创性的又运作的相当不错 The Aalto Natives, by Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen for the Pavilion of Finland in the Giardini. This is one of the most beloved pavilions, as the installation, made of animatronics and moving projectors that play a grotesque animation set in future Finland, is both clever and well executed

由Nathaniel Mellors和Erkka Nissinen为贾尔迪尼的芬兰馆做的作品《阿尔托的土著(The Aalto Natives)》。这是最可爱的场馆之一,因为由电子动画和移动投影机做成的装置,播放着以未来的芬兰为背景的奇异的动画,它既具有独创性的又运作的相当不错
“The Aalto Natives”, by Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen for the Pavilion of Finland in the Giardini. This is one of the most beloved pavilions, as the installation, made of animatronics and moving projectors that play a grotesque animation set in future Finland, is both clever and well executed

一场行为表演,由穿着白色衣服的那些瘦弱的女人所演绎,他们赤脚坐在地上并玩弄着红色的果实或花朵 A performance, one of those with delicate looking women dressed in white, sitting barefoot on the floor and playing with red fruit or flowers

一场行为表演,由穿着白色衣服的那些瘦弱的女人所演绎,他们赤脚坐在地上并玩弄着红色的果实或花朵
A performance, one of those with delicate looking women dressed in white, sitting barefoot on the floor and playing with red fruit or flowers

LIU JIANHUA

A friend and I stare, hands in our pockets, at Liu Jianhua’s installation in the Arsenale, a 2014 piece named “Square”, made of 64 steel sheets with gold glazing. My friend asks: “Do you think so many Chinese artists make these hyper-sleek works to revive China’s former glory as a purveyor of the finest silk and porcelain, and redeem it from its embarrassing reputation for cheap low quality products?”

刘建华的作品 works of Liu Jianhua

刘建华的作品
Works of Liu Jianhua

TOILET PAPER PARTY

Though we manage not to get into the Pace Gallery party (only 3 names on the guest list for 10 uncool people at the door), to arrive too late for the Spanish Pavilion party first and the Scottish one twenty minutes later, we decide not to go to the one organized by Maurizio Cattelan for the Italian Pavilion. This is partly because it’s a long way from where we are, and it looks like it’s going to rain, but mostly because we all agree we don’t want to go to a party named “Toilet Paper”; not even when it’s because Cattelan runs a magazine with that name, organized an exhibition and a party called “Eat, Shit and Die” two years ago in Turin, and installed a golden toilet at the Guggenheim Museum in New York last year. Scatological jokes are only funny when they’re quick and spontaneous. This is just boring.

我去了一场派对,那里有大约四十人并且他们看上去令人讨厌,音乐是死气沉沉的,鸡尾酒35欧元、啤酒35欧元且水要5欧元。为此,我离开了 I went to a party, there were about 40 people and they looked obnoxious, the music was stagnant, cocktails were 35 euros, beer was 35 euros and water was 5 euros. So I left.

我去了一场派对,那里有大约四十人并且他们看上去令人讨厌,音乐是死气沉沉的,鸡尾酒35欧元、啤酒35欧元且水要5欧元。为此,我离开了
I went to a party, there were about 40 people and they looked obnoxious, the music was stagnant, cocktails were 35 euros, beer was 35 euros and water was 5 euros. So I left.

在古巴馆派对外像停滞不前的僵尸一样摇晃的人们,他们没有受到邀请。像我一样。但是我从里面拍了张照片,且另一只手拿着我的莫吉托 People swaying like stalled zombies outside of the Cuban Pavilion party to which they’re not invited. Like me. But I’m taking a picture from inside while holding my mojito with the other hand

在古巴馆派对外像停滞不前的僵尸一样摇晃的人们,他们没有受到邀请。像我一样。但是我从里面拍了张照片,且另一只手拿着我的莫吉托
People swaying like stalled zombies outside of the Cuban Pavilion party to which they’re not invited. Like me. But I’m taking a picture from inside while holding my mojito with the other hand

ANTARCTICA PAVILION

The Antarctica Pavilion is hosted in yet another splendid palazzo, on the southern part of the main island of Venice, facing Giudecca. It hosts a number of works by international artists, some of whom had the chance to travel to Antarctica and produce work over there. I enjoy the way works are presented on top of photographic tripods and the overall balance between lyricism and science.

My favorite work is by LA-based artist Jasmin Blasco, a sound piece you can listen to on portable FM radios out in the garden. At a short distance from the solar powered radio transmitter and antenna that feed my radio, I sit near the canal and listen to about fifteen minutes (the total duration is an hour and a quarter) of Blasco’s improvised narration. The artist recounts a story of South Pole exploration in the early 20th Century from the perspective of the leader of the mission, but also from that of bacteria and other life forms trapped in the ice since millennia ago. The work is eerie; sentences find their way through long moments of silence, when one can hear the interference in the radio signal as well as ethereal synth chords. There are many references I connect with, from the short stories of H.P. Lovecraft to John Carpenter’s The Thing and the music of Vangelis. The piece is immersive, and I lose all sense of time and place very quickly; it’s only that annoying feeling I get in Venice, urging me to see more art and meet more people, that pushes me to come back from the Pole.

南极洲馆的展览现场 Installation view at the Antarctica Pavilion

南极洲馆的展览现场
Installation view at the Antarctica Pavilion

南极洲馆中,站在个人的作品《In From the Cold》前的艺术家Jasmin Blasco Artist Jasmin Blasco in front of his piece In From the Cold, at the Antarctica Pavilion

南极洲馆中,站在个人的作品《In From the Cold》前的艺术家Jasmin Blasco
Artist Jasmin Blasco in front of his piece In From the Cold, at the Antarctica Pavilion

TOTE BAG COMPETITION

One of the prime reasons to go to events such as the Biennale is to stock up on tote bags, so it seems absurd to me that no award is given by the Grand Jury for the Best Tote Bag of the Biennale. In the hope that, upon reading this, an official award will be set in place for the 58th edition, I will informally give a first prize to the bag of the Australian Pavilion: elegant, resistant and very spacious. Many people queued at the Pavilion entrance just to get it, and some even went in to see the show. It sports on one side the simple message “refugee rights” and on the other “Indigenous rights”. Most people opted for showing the “Indigenous rights” side while wearing it; more exotic, less committed, in Europe.

A special mention goes to the Luxembourg Pavilion tote bag, my personal favorite. I feel lucky that I get lost and accidentally ended up at the press breakfast of the pavilion, which is hidden at the end of a narrow street. Now I can pride myself of this colorful bag that says “Thank you so much for the flowers” on it.

ITALIAN PAVILION

For the first time in many years, the Italian Pavilion is good, and I don’t feel embarrassed by it.  Out of the three works, one is actually pretty bad, and it is, to everyone’s surprise, a video; but the other two are very good. “Untitled (The End of the World)”, by the Venetian artist Giorgio Andreotta Calò, is a large pool of water balanced on scaffolding 3 meters above the floor and reflecting the ceiling above. The third piece is “The Imitation of Christ”, an elaborate installation by Roberto Cuoghi, where images of the Christ are moulded on agar-agar, and then cast once again into final sculptures, after they have been deformed by mold and spores grown upon them during the intermediate stage.

Such a success truly is not a banal achievement, for the Italian Pavilion is usually compromised by mismanagement, interfering politics, and favor exchanges—an exquisite reflection of the country at large. Witnessing this little miracle in the Arsenale makes me feel optimistic: entropy can be reversed.

罗贝托·阔奇(Roberto Cuoghi),《耶稣基督的仿制品(Imitazione di Cristo)》,装置细节,意大利馆 Roberto Cuoghi Imitazione di Cristo (Imitation of the Christ), installation detail, Italian Pavilion

罗贝托·阔奇(Roberto Cuoghi),《耶稣基督的仿制品(Imitazione di Cristo)》,装置细节,意大利馆 Roberto Cuoghi, “Imitazione di Cristo (Imitation of the Christ)”, installation detail, Italian Pavilion

DAY OUT

When my tolerance for art, for crowds, and for mediocre food reaches its limit, I decide it’s time to take a break from Venice. I take the no.1 vaporetto to Lido, rent a bicycle, and pedal all the way down the island, for the first time admiring how green and nice it is, and how beautiful some of the architecture is. At the southernmost point, I take another ferry that also loads cars and, to my surprise, a bus, and cross to Pellestrina, the narrowest island in Italy, The day is beautiful and my intention is to pedal all the way south to Chioggia, at the other end of the Laguna, with a generous lunch break on the way.  After another 40 minutes riding through villages and fantasizing about living in one of the little fishermen’s houses facing the sea, I arrive at a restaurant a friend of mine had recommended; thankfully I had booked in advance, as most restaurants seem to be packed with families. I ask for a quarter liter of the house white, but it turns out to be an undrinkable sparkling thing and I send it back asking for a bottle of Pinot Grigio instead. While my idea is to drink a bit and save the rest for later, by the time I leave the table at the end of my glorious meal comprising a variety of lagoon fish and seashells and ricotta cake for dessert, the bottle is empty and I’m completely drunk.

I sit down on a bench in the village square to ponder whether it’s a case of sticking to my plan to head further south or not. The decision is taken for me, as I fall asleep on the bench and wake up feeling like a disaster an hour later, the sun having turned me into a giant fluorescent lobster. I drag myself to a nearby beach where a family is playing near the water. I’m glad a fat guy starts talking to me about football, not that I understand anything about football—in fact I don’t like it at all—but occasionally I perceive a sense of community among football supporters that is much stronger and much more ancient than any that will ever develop in the art world. When I run out of generic comments on the upcoming Champions League final, I take off my clothes and jump in the water for my first swim of the year. It feels marvelous; it washes away my intoxication and all the tension I had built up in the previous days in Venice.

I come out and say goodbye to my temporary friends.

“Say hi to the Pope when you get back to Rome,” says the fat guy, and I laugh.

The ride back feels surprisingly easy, and as I enter Venice again with the vaporetto in the soft light of the late afternoon, I’m once again at peace with all of the bad and the good art on display for the biennale, all of the good and bad people who came for the openings and the spritz, the hordes of tourists who couldn’t care less about any of this contemporary art nonsense, and the Venetians who have been forever enduring the permanent invasion of their city, contenting themselves with charging foreigners hundreds of euros for a cup of coffee they prepared scooping water from the nearest canal and boiling it in their kettles made of gold.

在小岛上的休息日 A day out in the Laguna

在小岛上的休息日
A day out in the Laguna

威尼斯,不差 Venice, not bad

威尼斯,不差
Venice, not bad

Girolamo Marri is an artist currently based in Rome and working throughout Europe and Asia.
His practice consists of talks that never begin, interviews where no question is asked or answer given, texts meant to be forever corrected, precarious installations, and all sorts of disquieting interactions with audiences and passers-by.