All Articles
All Articles

The Encyclopedic Palace at Venice Biennale


The Encyclopedic Palace at Venice Biennale

The Book of Genesis as a graphic novel, plastic human sculptures, "Apollo Ecstacy" and more in our look at the 55th international exhibition

by Paolo Ferrarini
on 07 June 2013
venice-biennale-2013-encyclopedic-palace-Marino-Auriti-2.jpg venice-biennale-2013-encyclopedic-palace-Marino-Auriti.jpg

Since 1998, the Venice Biennale of Art and Architecture is no longer a traditional exhibition of national artists, but is instead a real international showcase where the single invited countries are accompanied by a main exhibit, which has a different curator for each edition.

The main theme of the 55th International Art Exhibition is "Il Palazzo Enciclopedico" ("The Encyclopedic Palace") and it’s the biggest proof of the abilities of curator Massimiliano Gioni, a prodigy of contemporary art and director of Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and NYC's New Museum. The primal inspiration is the work of Marino Auriti who, in 1955, filed an incredibly ambitious project with the US Patent Office for an Encyclopedic Palace; a 136-story museum. Auriti’s idea was to build it in Washington DC, occupying an area of 16-square city blocks. The model of the building was shown in a couple of exhibitions and then forgotten in a warehouse. Today it magnificently opens the exhibition at Arsenale.

"Auriti’s plan was never carried out," states Gioni, "but the dream of a universal, all-embracing knowledge crops up throughout the history of art and humanity, as one that eccentrics like Auriti share with many other artists, writers, scientists, and self-proclaimed prophets who have tried—often in vain—to fashion an image of the world that will capture its infinite variety and richness. Today, as we grapple with a constant flood of information, such attempts seem even more necessary and even more desperate."


Repetition, obsession, collection, constance: these are the keywords of Gioni’s vision of art, explained through the work of 150 artists from 38 countries. On display we’ve found works of living artists, both emerging (like Helen Marten) and established (like Paul McCarthy), but also historical pieces and works that do not pretend to be actual works of art. The final result is an incredibly precise reconstruction of the contemporary visual zeitgeist, where everyone can create art and realize creative projects, with a camera or with a diary, with a collection of objects or with photographs, with a paper notebook or with an app.


Are comics a form of art? The answer is yes and Robert Crumb (known for Fritz the Cat) is at La Biennale with his most ambitious work—a graphic novel about the entire book of Genesis. All 50 books are presented with the original tables, framed and aligned in a totally white environment.


A perfect example of obsessive accumulation is "The Hidden Mother," a series of almost 1,000 commercial and amateur pictures of babies that Linda Fregni Nagler collected between 2006 and 2013.


German artist and self-taught photographer Michael Schmidt spent four years of his life investigating industrial production of food throughout Europe. The series "Lebensmittel" (which translates to "Food") is a photographic documentation of those processes.


Maps, plans, collages, numbers and symbols are Matt Mullican's mania. His work also includes performances aimed to explore his own psyche. "Untitled (Learning form that Person’s Work)" is a sort of labyrinth where grotesque sounds and human voices create an abstract and intense atmosphere.


An entire room in the area of Arsenale is populated by 80 plastic sculptures by Polish artist Pawel Althamer. "Venetians" is based on molds of faces of real Venetians, whose bodies are then reproduced with gray plastic wires and castings. The effect is magnificent and scary at the same time.


Channa Horwitz's work is based on repetition and geometry. Since the '60s her artworks have used a numeric progression from one to eight, so to graphically reproduce rhythm and time in movement, combining science and art on a very small scale.


A similar constant rigor can be found in Walter De Maria's "Apollo’s Ecstasy," even though the final effect is majestic and solemn. Apollo symbolizes reason, form and classification, all of which are found in these bronze essential sculptures.


The saturation of information is well symbolized by the "Scrapbooks" series by Shinro Ohtake. In 1977 he started creating a collection of books, full of ready-made materials, particularly from magazine and newspapers. In the process, he paints and writes on them and the pages become so encrusted that they almost resemble actual sculptures.


Artist Oliver Croy and critic Oliver Elser present a large collection of paper and cardboard houses. In 1993 they found these models in a junk shop and then discovered that the author was Peter Fritz, an employee at an insurance company. "The 387 Houses of Peter Fritz" is a simple presentation of this mysterious treasure, of which it is almost impossible to find information on the origins, scope and inspiration.

The Venice Biennale's 55th International Art Exhibition is open now to the public and runs until 24 November 2013.

Images by Paolo Ferrarini

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world
Loading More...