Tuesday, October 22, 2013

La Biennale, Venice

Model of the Encyclopedia Palace
The Venice Biennale is one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. It began as an international art exhibition and has expanded to include festivals on art, music, cinema, theater, and architecture. Probably the two most famous exhibits linked to the Biennale are the Art and Architecture exhibitions, which alternate with each other so that they are bi-annual - usually, running from June to the end of November.

The cinema aspect of La Biennale takes place every year as the Venice Film Festival.  Music, theater and dance exhibitions are much smaller and don't last as long as the primary two. The festival also has kid and family friendly activities, so check the website for a calendar of events.

This year, 2013, is the International Art Exhibit - but what is it exactly you might ask? It is the most prestigious art exhibit in the world. You will find art from over 150 artists from 37 countries, as well as 88 national participants - meaning in addition to the individual artists,  88 countries have their own rooms or pavilions to display national offerings. It is spread in two main areas of Venice - the Giardini and the Arsenale.  The Giardini is in the eastern part of Venice and contains the main Central Pavilion showcasing individual artists as well as 29 national pavilions spread throughout the garden.  The Arsenale is a HUGE collection of buildings that date back to the 13th century where boats were built and armed for the military of the Serenissima. It was really the first assembly-type production center of the world. It's an interesting place to see in and of itself, and  now is used to host exhibits.

My Italian looks forward to this festival every year, whether art or architecture, he cannot wait to see what's on display. So, this past weekend we hopped on the train and headed to Venice to see what's what. There is so much to see that you can't do it all in one day; so the ticket you buy is good for two days - when you purchase the ticket make sure you get the right one, one is for 2 consecutive days, and another is for any 2 days be they consecutive or not.  We decided to see the Arsenale first as I had not seen the area since it was renovated.   It was very interesting - not only seeing the venue which consists of beautiful huge spaces, but also seeing the art. This year's theme is "Il Palazzo Enciclopedio" (The Encyclopedia Palace) which is based on an imaginary museum meant to hold all worldly knowledge. Marino Auriti had this dream and actually wanted to build a 136-story building in Washington that would take up over 16 blocks. While that building could not be built, the idea also correlates with the idea of "building" memory palaces, or memory maps, a technique used both in ancient times and today for remembering information. I don't know that much about art (especially modern art) or memory maps, but it did what art is supposed to do. It makes you think.

Sometimes the images are beautiful, sometimes they are scary. they are weird and creepy, maybe even smutty. you can get lost in the beauty of some detailed drawing and stare in awe at the talent of the artist. or you can avert your eyes from the creepy film clips of women with fluorescent makeup lounging in a disgustingly dirty space holding chickens. The art can be hauntingly beautiful or hauntingly grotesque (like the chickens. lol) but it all has the same purpose. It makes you feel and react. You don't always understand the underlying symbols or exactly what social point the artist is trying to make, but it does make you think. it makes you discuss possibilities, and it broadens your mind. We're only halfway through but I look forward to going back to see the exhibits in the Giardini. If you are going to Venice, you should try to catch La Biennale - it's really cool to share such an international experience.

Here are a few pics what we saw; click on my Instagram icon to see a few more.

More later...

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