Impressions of the Venice Biennale



By Lee H. Skolnick, FAIA


I just returned from the Venice Biennale. There’s much to say about the sheer quantity and range of work. The ‘Encyclopedia of Knowledge’ theme allowed and encouraged this overload and I must admit that this singular characteristic alone made for an impressive experience. At the same time, the sum total of the offerings leaves me wondering whether the art of any given moment in time really is a collective expression of where we are as a society and a culture. Although much of what we see must be ascribed to the curators and their choices, nonetheless it is easy to question, or at least wonder, what else is out there that might have shed other lights on the issues of interest and importance to us today. And, of course, to ponder whether the artists are speaking to themselves, to a limited population of cognoscenti, or to the general public.


On another note, the Fondazione Prada staged an installation at the 18th Century Ca’ Corner della Regina. It was a re-installation of a 1969 exhibition called “Live In Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form” that was originally staged in a Kunsthalle in Bern, Switzerland. The idea was to re-produce in full scale this previous exhibit and examine what the overlay of ensuing time and vastly different alternate physical context does to our perception and understanding. This is a truly provocative and intellectually inspiring concept that produced a terribly empty and unsatisfying experience. It might better have been thrown out as an idea to ponder rather than expending what must have been a tremendous amount of time, effort and money in order to make manifest this conceptual proposition. On the other hand, perhaps even though the visceral experience turned out to be less than positively engaging, the fact that events like the Venice Biennale allow us to experiment and, at times, fail is a wonderful opportunity to explore and test the relationship between the intellectual and the experiential.