This summer marks the 56th annual festivities of the Biennale Arte Exhibition. Born from the contemporary artistic minds such as Curiger, Gioni, and Enwezor, the Biennale provides an international stage in which contemporary artists come together to comment upon and recreate the world around them. Rather than an overarching theme, this year’s exhibition, All the World’s Futures, builds upon three intersecting categories referred to as “Filters“: Garden of Disorder, Liveliness: On the Epic Duration, and Reading Capital.Artists were asked to represent their nation on the global stage. With 89 countries in all, I regret to say we could not see them all. We did, however, manage to see 12 pavilions: Switzerland, France, Germany, Great Britain (England, Scotland and Ireland), South Korea, Japan, Italy, United States, Australia, Canada, Israel, and Uruguay.
The National Pavillon provided our little group with an opportunity to explore personal perspective of individuals from all of the world. While certain pavilions appeared to reinforce age-old stereotypes (the German pavilion, for example, was extremely regimented and industrious), others defied expectations entirely.
Coming from a predominately Western mindset, I found myself faced with the unexpected voices of past and present in countries I had erroneously (and paradoxically) defined as “peripheral.” The Uruguay pavilion, fittingly titled Global Myopia, was one such example. Upon entering the pavilion, I was visually assaulted… by plain white walls. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that the walls were not, in fact, blank, but covered with imagined aerial perspectives. The implications were convicting: as members of a “Western” perspective, many of the visitors find themselves seeing the world around them without truly “seeing.” The work is meant to stimulate our sympathy “for the immediate and the insignificant.” It is only when we allow ourselves to get up close to other cultures and explore that we find ourselves able to truly appreciate the experience.
Other installations spoke not to our cultural ignorance, but instead encouraged viewers to reexamine their own fast-paced lives. Upon entering the Francia pavilion, the visitors would find themselves presented with a large Scotch pine, which emitted a soothing hum.
Although the space seemed rather unexciting, we found ourselves moving toward the ampitheater-styled steps, les marches. These steps heralded our first surprise: they were actually made of foam core. Joining the rest of the pavilion’s visitors on these plush steps, we lay back to enjoy the zen of the environment, and were met with a second unexpected delight: the tree was actually moving. The tree moved according to its metabolism, allowing it to travel a distinctive path throughout the space.
It is as if the interior and exterior roles have been reversed. Amidst the Giardini (the garden where the pavilions have been staged), the building recalled the “follies” of French 18th century parks (“folly,” from the French folie and the Latin folia, menaing “leaf”). The space, titled Revolutions, invited visitors to appreciate “the order of things” found within our natural environment. The space provided a sanctuary for cross-culture unity and reflection, utilizing our collective environment as a conduit.