The 57th International Art Exhibition, titled Viva Arte Viva is curated by Christine Macel and organised by La Biennale di Venezia chaired by Paolo Baratta. Running from now to the 26th November 2017, this year’s Biennale presents 120 invited artists from 51 countries with 103 new artists participating for the first time in various venues all throughout the city of Venice.
Central to the exhibition is a strong dedication to maintain an open dialogue between artists themselves and the public as the Biennale promotes its underlying theme of the artistic act as one of resistance, liberation and generosity. Inspired by humanism, this international exhibition celebrates mankind’s ability to control the dominant powers that govern world affairs, which if left unguarded, can cause harm to the human dimension.
Read on to follow the footsteps of The Artling's team as we uncover some of the Asian artists and National Pavilions of the Venice Biennale 2017 that caught our attention.
Turned Upside Down, It's a Forest
Curated by Meruro Washida
Born and raised in Hiroshima, Takahiro Iwasaki’s artistic practice is seen to allude to the history of Hiroshima, especially that of war and peace, a consequence of the atomic bomb that annihilated the city. In the same manner, artist uses figurative representation in his works to reflect how an object can be presented as something else entirely when it is seen in a different way. Furthermore, the fine delicacy of his craft also traverses the worlds of the micro and macro, resonating with the power of miniscule atoms of the atomic bomb.
Reflection Model (Ship of Theseus) is new work based on the motif of the Itsukushima Shine in dilapidation after a typhoon. Built over 800 years ago in the Miyajima Island near Hiroshima, the design of the architectural structure included an elevated stage and corridors constructed in front of the main hall, so that it can absorb the wrath of the sea and protect the building’s core. The title of this work “Ship of Theseus” is a paradox that raises questions of an object’s ability to retain its original identity if all its components are replaced.
In Tectonic Model (Flow), books are stacked precariously on top of an antique table found in Venice with their bookmark strings unravelled and made into tiny construction cranes. Carefully selected, the books used revolve around subjects on the mechanisms of earthquakes, science, technology and energy. The use of the word “Tectonic” within the title holds a double meaning, which refers to both the method of construction and the changes in the earth’s crust. The unstable manner in which this installation is put together reflects the instability of the earth itself – visually appearing firm, but actually constantly changing.
Counterbalance: The Stone and The Mountain
Curated by Lee Daehyung
Counterbalance: The Stone and The Mountain aims to answer how individual stories relate to national histories and how one’s understanding of this in a Korean context is relevant to the rest of the world now and in the future. Using 3 generations of Koreans, the exhibition hopes to inspire the imagination and trigger the empathy of diverse audiences as their works reflect the distillations of the human experiences on a transnational scale.
Cody Choi’s works represent a group of artists in the 1990s that responded to the dominance of Western culture through appropriation and parody. Through his own experience of being an immigrant to the United States, the artist is able relate to and critique on both Asia and the US, along with their perceptions of one another.
Lee Wan represents the third generation of artists and his artistic practice includes per formative and archival works of art. Adopting an investigative approach, Lee places himself into social and economic systems. In his installation work Proper Time, the artist has filled a room with 600 clocks, each engraved with the names, birth dates, nationalities and occupations of individuals he interviewed from around the world. Adjusted to move at a different rate, the clocks highlight the amount of time different individuals with varying professions must work before they can afford a meal.
Continuum – Generation by Generation
Curated by Qiu ZhiJie
The theme of the China Pavilion is based on the Chinese concept of buxi, which means ‘ceaselessly’ and ‘unrelentingly’. Implying an unbroken, energetic transmission, the term here alludes to a generative life force that survives through resilience and adaptability to the factors of fate and history. Core to the Chinese civilisation since ancient times, the combined works of these artists reflect thus the aim of this exhibition to capture the energy of perseverance and resilience, cultural transmission and regeneration. The diverse mediums used highlights the innovative vitality of Chinese contemporary art-making and the possibilities of transforming and renewing traditional art practices – looking to China’s longstanding culture and the binary link between the past and present.
Here Tang Nannan’s short film, Odyssey Smoking, gradually unravels a set of images of a train moving hesitantly across an undulating sea. The underlying intent of this work touches upon the moment of leaving, emptiness and loneliness. Farewell is a tradition theme in Chinese art and here the artist has brought it to another dimension whereby sorrow is expressed as one bid farewell to tradition and like the train, facing the unknown future with courage.
The Spectre of Comparison
Curated by Joselina Cruz
The title of this exhibition The Spectre of Comparison derives from the novel Noli Me Tángere, which was written by a Filipino patriot José Raizal. Originally written in Spanish, this phrase encapsulates the artistic practices of both artists presented, as it is reminiscent of the protagonist in Raizal’s novel whose double vision means that he could not see either the Philippines or Europe without being reminded of the other.
Both Maestro and Ocampo works at their core are produced through a multiplicity of contexts and reflects this “spectre of comparison” through their respective departure from the Philippines. While Maestro’s practice moves through various artistic mediums of sound, film, text and photography, Ocampo paintings are forceful figurative images. The exhibition is therefore a discursive construct of a consciousness and gaze that is built across temporal and geographic zones.
1001 Martian Homes
In 1001 Martian Homes, Tintin Wulia constructs a matrix of stories within a story based on an imagined future. The aim of her work contemplates recurring patterns in history about human movements through time and space in a bid to reimagine the definitions of “borders”, “space”, “time” and “connectivity”. The installation piece in made up of interrelated and interactive parts involving both the cities of Venice and Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. Corresponding to an identical counterpart in the other city in real time, the artist uses a online system of cameras and video projections in which the visitors are encouraged to partake.
Dapunta Hyang: Transmission of Knowledge
Dapunta Hyang: Transmission of Knowledge is an installation piece that reflects the on-going research that the artist is undertaking into the Malay history and culture, especially that of the nomadic seafaring Orang Laut people of Southeast Asia. One of the most versatile artists working in the region, Zai’s artistic practice involves sculpture, installation, painting, experimental sound and performance art among others.
For the centrepiece of the exhibition, the artist has presented a 17 metre-long skeleton of a ship reflecting the raw materials and traditional method of binding and building as it unloads hundred of books bound in the same manner. The red string not only ties everything together physically, but also alludes to the bloodlines of the people through generations. The beeswax is another vital aspect of the installation as it was used for embalming in the ancient world. With this work, Zai reimagines and brings to life the forgotten histories of an ancient maritime empire of the 7th century known as Srivijaya.
Together with the resurrection of the ancient world, which Singapore was a part of, Zai combines his personal encounters with the remaining members of Mak Yong, a dying pre-Islamic Malay operatic tradition. Photographic portraits of this small and disappearing community are featured alongside an audio recording of a Mak Yong master speaking in a language that few still understands today. The artist’s work thus questions identity, culture and history through the manner in which knowledge is transmitted through time and space.
The Mending Project 2009-2017
First executed in 2009, The Mending Project is an interactive installation that involves the artist himself or his assistant mending damaged clothing with colourful thread brought by visitors to the exhibition. As they carry out their task, conversations are made between the mender and the visitor, which finally ends with the piece of clothing is mended and placed on the table as part of the work with the thread ends still attached. The artist’s intention is to evoke meaningfully personal narratives and emotional resonances that transform the simple act of mending as new connections are formed.
Thu Van Tran
The Red Rubber
Thu Van Tran grew up between two cultures and her personal experience is reflected in her works. Inspired by literature, history, architecture and nature, she presents four works to this exhibition that raises questions about rubber from the point of view of history and the human senses. The rubber tree symbolises colonial conquest and the abuse of power that came with it and the artist hopes to offer a revelation of human shortcomings and irrationality.
Translated Vase_Nine Dragons in Wonderland
One of the first generation of Korean artists in the 1990s who emerged in a contrasting context of conservation and Westernisation, Yee Sookyung uses ancient techniques and contemporary languages in her works of various mediums. Her aim is to form a dialogue between tradition and experimentation and with Translated Vase_Nine Dragons in Wonderland, Yee recycles scraps of pottery from factories around Seoul, Korea. Traditionally, defective pottery are destroyed, however here the artist creates new meanings by preserving the fragments of history into a new and different form.
Takesada Matsutani is a prominent member of the Gutai Art Association (1954-1972), a post-war Japanese collective that anticipated innovative artistic forms like performances and conceptual art. This installation work involves a suspended cotton sack filled with Sumi ink and water, pierced right before the exhibition opened, allowing the black ink to drip onto the material below, creating a circle on the white fabric and into the basin on the ground. Here his work alludes to the flow of time and immobility as reflected in the stained fabric.
Porcelain as a medium plays an important part in Liu Jianhua’s artistic oeuvre. Spending over a decade perfecting his skills in this traditional art, more recently he has looked to the simplicity of its form and aesthetics. Square is an installation of large golden ceramic drops on black metal plates that are representational in nature as Liu explores the theme of materiality. Here the artist is seen to challenge the inherent solid state of porcelain by giving it the appearance of a liquid.
Curated by Adrian Heathfield
Doing Time exhibits two of Hsieh's One Year Performances together for the first time, assembling his accumulated records and artefacts into detailed installations. Known for his radical approaches to contemporary art, the contemporary artist uses time - long durations - to make art and life a simultaneous process.
In One Year Performance 1980-1981 (‘Time Clock Piece’), Hsieh installed a worker’s time clock in his studio that faces a 16mm camera suspended from the ceiling and published a declaration of intent. To realise his long investigation of time and labour, the artist shaved his head and subjected himself to the discipline of clocking in on the hour, every hour, for a whole year, documenting his performance with a single picture taken with each punch. Although Hsieh was unable to perform 133 of the possible 8760 punch-ins, his work evokes the disjunction between the lived perception of time and the social construction of clock time.
Five months after the ’Time Clock Piece’, Hsieh embarked on a new durational course that took him beyond the walls of his studio and into the streets of New York. Likewise, he published a statement of declaration for his intentions, where his aims were to spend a year outdoors without taking shelter of any kind. Entitled One Year Performance 1981-1982 (‘Outdoor Piece’), the artist committed himself to conditions that exceeded even the homeless, carrying with him scant provisions in a single rucksack. Ever part of his artistic practice, his yearlong performance was meticulously documented daily in hand-marked maps, intensifying Hsieh’s preoccupation with freedom, constraint and belonging. During this time, Hsieh was an illegal immigrant in the United States.
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.
Update: Read our latest coverage of the 2019 Venice Biennale and the Asian Pavilions at the big event.
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