SUE JACKSON Therapist/Writer/Photographer/Activist

Last year, as the unofficial blogger/photographer to the anti-East-West Link campaign, our battles were my blog's entire focus. But by Christmas, with the electoral win for people power and the dumping of the dud Tunnel, I was suddenly at a loss. What to write about now? Not sure yet. But there will be ongoing musings and images from this Australian life. So please leave a message. (No need to sign into an account. Simply comment as ‘anonymous’; then leave your name within the comment itself.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Venice Biennale: A Dream Come True

I love Venice, but I must admit in advance of our recent trip I was nervous that I had inflated it. That I'd be in for a let-down, particularly as we were returning to fulfil the dream of a life-time - to attend the Biennale International Art Exhibition. But I needn't have worried. Venice and the Biennale both more than delivered.
That's not to say it was all easy going. On day one at the Arsenale, I wandered from huge room to huge room muttering: 'I don't understand!' And I felt bombarded by a surfeit of riches. It was like I'd been transported to Acland street and prohibited from exiting until I'd eaten a cake from every single patisserie. I only lasted 3 hours at Arsenale before I had to go back to our apartment for a little lie down, to rest my buzzing head and broiling emotions.

'Also Sprach Allah'

This work by Adel Abdessemed, who was born in Algeria and lives in London, was created in an extraordinary manner. He was thrown up to the ceiling on a blanket held by his friends over and over again to draw a series of marks on the mat suspended above his head. The work certainly ticked my 'I don't understand' box.
But, luckily, while resting I had checked out the promotional material, from which the word 'avante-garde' leapt. Joy of joys! I realised I wasn't necessarily meant to understand, so I could relax and make my own sense of things. I could refuse some of the cakes and enjoy the rest.
Next day I sat entranced by the poignant documentary Giving Birth about the Senegalese sculptor Fatou Kande Senghor. This elderly woman makes large glowing fertility figures, in her dirt-floored home, from the clay dug and prepared by her grandsons. Internationally renowned, she feels unappreciated in her own village and fears that her art will die with her.
Something I loved about the whole Biennale was that the countries who didn't fit into the 2 main sites nevertheless found a home in Venice. And what a home it was. This palace was the venue for the strange (and free) Finnish exhibition:

Something else that delighted, and surprised, me was how political much of the art was:

Huge installation highlighting office waste

Chair in foreground made of guns & ammunition. Poster speaks for itself

Of course there were exceptions to the installations' political bias, like this one from the United Kingdom, which was full of sculptures like these:

Anti-smoking message?

Undoubtedly the stand-out for us was the exhibition by Fiona Hall in the beautiful new Australian pavilion, whose informal, engaging guides were a real bonus. Hall's three main themes - the environment, conflict between nations and the global economy- were beautifully realised.  Here is a taster:

Driftwood evolutionary chain (fish at bottom)

Extinct vegetation species mounted on currency of country responsible

Rotating figures of aggressive countries constructed from each country's own battle fatigue

Challenge to deification of 'progress'

Earlier, travelling in Europe I'd often been ashamed of my nationality, when people on learning where I came from made comments like: 'You're the country that doesn't let people in.' At last in the Australian pavilion I regained some pride in being Australian.

Even though in a week I only managed to see about 20% of the riches on offer, I'm most grateful to Venice for showcasing this Aladdin's cave of creativity from so many different parts of the globe.

Venice and its Biennale proved for me to be a dream come true.