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Venice Biennale 2007

by Wendy Dembo in Culture on 12 June 2007

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The 52nd Biennale di Venezia opened to the public this week and runs until 27 November 2007.

I was in Venice for the vernissage, which takes place a few days before the official opening. During that time Venice is filled with curators, artists, collectors, enthusiasts and fashionistas, all trying to see as many pavilions before it gets too crowded and snag press bags and invitations to as many parties as possible.

I tried to see as much of the pavilions and the Arsenale (the more alternative show housed in the Corderia, an old rope making factory). The French Pavilion had an amazing show by Sophie Calle that tasked 107 ladies with translating and dissecting a “Dear John” letter that she received. Videos by Feist, Peaches, Laurie Anderson, Daim and Susan Deyhem interpreted the letter. One woman translated the letter into Latin and a psychologist took a hard look at it as well. The German Pavilion, only letting 25 people in at a time, had a wait to see “Oil” by Isa Genzken. It was an odd show. I liked the hanging hanging astronauts (above right).

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The Russian Pavilion had a great installation called “Click I hope.” My favorite part was by Andrey Bartenev, his section contained 50 spinning LCDs that said “Connection Lost.” (Pictured above left.) Andrey was representing, wearing fabulous outfits every day and night. Northern Europe had fun show including an entire wall of dart boards. How could you not get a bullseye? (Pictured above right.)

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The Italian Pavilion “Think with the Senses—Feel with the Mind. Art in the Present Tense,” a survey curated by Rob Storr, was filled with some great art. I loved Bruce Nauman's “Fountain for Venice,” referring to some of his earlier photos that depicted him as a fountain. Congo's Cheri Samba's room was amazing. His work is very powerful and political. The pavilion is vast—even though we thought that we saw everything, we may have missed a bit. After a quick lunch I stopped in the African Pavilion, catching "Check List Luanda Pop" a show of contemporary African artists and really liking it. The room was filled with great energy. (Pictured above.)

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One of the best treats about going to the Biennale in Venice is getting into all of the Palazzos that are usually closed to the public. At the Ukranian Pavilion, I ran into Dzine, who showed us his tricked-out boat (left) with two DJ decks and TVs which is part of the pavilion and travels to a show in Rome next. After a bit, I went back to the Arsenale in hopes of seeing the “Hamsterwheel.” The illusive Hamsterwheel was across the water from the Corderia and to get there you had to be ferried by the Gelitin boys, who had made little boats out of scrap wood. The crossing was very slow and seemed like the boys were more interested in nude sunbathing than rowing. There was supposed to be an alternative shuttle, but after waiting for almost an hour, we sadly gave up. Continue reading...

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For my last day full day of art, I started off the day by having breakfast with Marco Stoffel to discuss his Seeds of Tolerance foundation and to see “The Ship of Tolerance” by Ila and Emilia Kabakov. (Pictured right.) His foundation hopes to teach tolerance to kids ages seven to 11, before they become prejudiced.

Ugo Rondinone's installation of "Trees" was beautiful. (Pictured below left.) From there we followed the signs to the Mexico Pavilion, which turned out to be in one of the Palazzos that I had always wanted to go into. The Palazzo itself, would have made me happy, but the installations by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer called “Some things happen more often than all of the time” was terrific. There were all of these interactive installations. One made you become an antennae for the local Venice radio. There was a selection of chairs that moved depending on how many people walked by it. (Pictured below right.) And perhaps my favorite was an installation that took your pulse and then transferred it to a light bulb overhead. There were a hundred light bulbs flashing with different people's pulses.

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