Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pavilions of Venice + Continental Breakfast: Croissants, Confiture and Dark Coffee

The Venice Biennale
June 4 - Nov. 27th
In the last issue I featured the artists selected for the US Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale and in this issue I want to share some of the other art available at this 54th "Worlds Fair of Art" in Venice, Italy. The selection of Pavilions written up here was randomly determined by the venues who sent me press releases for their exhibition. There are over 70 National Pavilions at this year's Biannale and I look forward to checking them all out over the next several months. If I find something extraordinary, I will share that art with you by end of the summer.

54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia
The Luxembourg Pavilion with the exhibition Le Cercle Fermé: at Ca' del Duca, 3052 Corte Del Duca Sforza, Venice. 
Martine Feipel & Jean Bechameil, 
"Le Cercle Fermé," exhibition view. 

Anybody interested in the work of Martine Feipel & Jean Bechameil soon realises that the notion of space is central to it. The observer is presented with a single idea: the obvious necessity of finding a "NEW" type of space. They believe space is in crisis today. The space we think of as living space is simultaneously a space for action, orientation and communication and since we live in a period of change, past models no longer work. To remodel a civilization one must modify the "everyday" first, which will lead to completely remodeling the world. That is the message of this art. 

54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia
Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation St. Mark's Square Gallery, Piazza San Marco 71/c, Venice
Jompet Kuswidananto, Cortege of the Third Realm, 2010.
A sound & video Installation of 24 human sized objects creating a marching band. 
Courtesy of the artist and Akili Art Museum.

The Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation and Arthub Asia proudly present "Xijing" (pronounced Zhee-zhing) the first institutional exhibition dedicated to the work of the Xijing Men, a unique collaborative team composed of artists Chen Shaoxiong (China), Tsuyoshi Ozawa (Japan) and Gimhongsok (South Korea).  Xijing—the capital of the West—exists upon a fictive geopolitical axis created in correspondence to the real cities of Beijing (capital of the North), Nanjing (capital of the South) and Dongjing/Tokyo (capital of the East).  Developed over the course of the past five years and displayed here at the foundation's venue in Piazza San Marco, the show is a quixotic journey through the creative world of Xijing – a city of encounters, locations and narratives awakened by the above named team. Xijing is revealed through their art, made up of a variety of media and formats.

As a construct of fiction, Xijing is conceived to make the process of ‘situating’ Xijing a participatory and productively instable experience. All of the "Guides to Xijing" created so far: (Do you know Xijing?, Welcome to Xijing, This is Xijing and I Love Xijing) are performances captured on video. Alternating between dark humor and existential eccentricity, the scripts are devised to show Xijing as the other side of all things human. These video-based works and a sound installation will show off the Xijing Men's unique creativity. Commissioned by Arthub Asia and curated by the Beijing-based Beatrice Leanza. This exhibition starts a program of residencies by Bevilacqua La Masa centered on Asian artists and inspired by the ancient link between Venice and the East.

54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia
The Pavilion of Turkey is organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts. 

"Plan B"
Ayşe Erkmen's sculptural installation draws on the complex relationship Venice has with water. Her project takes as a point of departure that 'Plan A' has already failed.  'Plan B' transforms a room inside the Arsenale into a complex water purification plant where machines perform as sculptures, placing the audience inside the filtration process - which eventually provides clean, drinkable water back to the canal.

Each component of the filtration unit has been separated out, humorously disseminating the machinery throughout the room then reconnecting the elements with extended pipes. The artist choreographs the elegant industrial forms to draw attention to the process of transformation, at the end of which, the purified water is returned to the canal: a courageous, but futile, gesture against the overwhelming odds of creating a fresh water canal out of one fed by the Mediterranean Sea and connected to the Atlantic Ocean. While a reference to the potentiality of change, the work is simultaneously a critique of unrealistic and unsustainable solutions created to solve complex problems.

54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia
The Pavilion of Iraq. Gervasuti Foundation Fondamenta S. Ana (Via Garibaldi) Castello 995 Venezia (vaporetto Arsenale or Giardini)
Ahmed Alsoudani - Untitled 2011

Azad Nanakeli - "au" 2011

Iraq's experimental contemporary artists have never had a chance to present their work for an Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale; the first and last major appearance in 1976 outlined only some of their "modern" artists. The Iraq Pavilion for 2011 will indeed show the world an exciting professionally-curated selection of 6 Iraqi artists from two generations, including various artistic media (painting, performance, video, photography, sculpture & installation).

54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia 
The Spanish Pavilion

The work L'Inadeguato, Lo Inadecuado, The Inadequate by the artist Dora García will be a single piece, an ensemble performance and will evolve constantly throughout the six months of the Biennale, involving nearly seventy participants. The performances will be accompanied by a book and a "Guide to the Performance" and will make use of Spanish objects and documents. The artist aims to replace an exhibition with an occupation, an artist's show with a theatre and a pavilion with the essence of Spain and its history.

The concept of inadequacy she explains through words by Erving Goffman in 'Encounters' (1961): "to be awkward or unkempt, to talk or move wrongly is to be a dangerous giant, a destroyer of worlds. As every psychotic and comic ought to know, an accurately improper move can poke through the thin sleeve of immediate reality." The title came to García based on the feeling of inadequacy she felt when given the "news" of her role in the 2011 Biennale's world stage.

"The Inadequate" is a work of joint authorship involving a group of artists, art critics and writers, with artist Dora García as the initiator and host. 

54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia 
The Japan Pavilion

Tabaimo "teleco-soup" (still) 2011. Video installation, 5'27' loop.
© Tabaimo / Courtesy of Gallery Koyanagi and James Cohan Gallery. 
The artist Tabaimo is one of the country's leading young artists. She first received critical acclaim for her multimedia installation Japanese Kitchen (1999), which combined surreal, hand-drawn animations with architectural elements in an unblinking examination of contemporary Japanese society. In Venice, "TABAIMO: teleco-soup" will continue that trajectory. In Japanese the exhibition title, "teleco-soup," connotes the idea of an "inverted" soup, inverting the relations between water and sky, fluid and container, self and world. Coined by the artist, this phrase examines Japan's identity as an isolated island state and the traditional facets of their society, now having to function in an age of globalization. 

The structure of this exhibition further references a proverb attributed to the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi, "A frog in a well cannot conceive of the ocean," and a Japanese addendum, "But it knows the height of the sky." Through the use of a multi-channel animation / projection and mirrored panels, Tabaimo transforms the interior of the Japan Pavilion into a well, open to the sky.

The succession of images will lead to a recognition of the unimaginable breadth of a well—ie: contemporary Japan—and through the installation's anti-gravitational orientation, will connect to an infinite depth / height in a world with the sky below, visible through an aperture in the floor at the Pavilion's center. Extending beyond the confines of the Pavilion, the installation will destabilize relations between up and down, interior and exterior, broad perspectives and narrow perspectives, and immerse the visitors into an experience which asks them to question, "Is the world of a frog, living in a well, really so small?" 

The 54th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 
The Pavilion of The Republic of Latvia Cannaregio 4118, Palazzo Albrizzi

The Latvian exhibition showcases artist KRISTAPS ĢELZIS, one of the most unique and brilliant personalities in Latvian contemporary art. The title "ARTIFICIAL PEACE (Contemporary Landscape)" strides the borderline between monumental painting and conceptualism while belonging to both. The works are in watercolour technique, using luminescent water-based acrylic paints.

The interaction between colour, light, imagination, and emotion forms the underlying concept. The large format watercolour series "Contemporary Landscape" is the core of the exhibit. These paintings reveal the story of our very personal relationship to our world. The huge pulsating fields of colour represent the striking daily transitions of the artist's emotions, whose further evolution is up to the viewer. Silhouettes of the visitors will interact with the paintings and become a part of the artwork. In the context of "Artificial Peace" light plays a particular role: fluorescent blue lights help to add an endless depth to the layers of the painting, allowing the viewer's gaze to penetrate into deep space. This blue light becomes a kind of emotional binding between the visitor and the artwork while revealing "painted space". 

The 54th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 
The Romanian Pavilion Giardini di Castello 

Left: Lucia Tkáčová and Anetta Mona Chisa, 2010. Photo: A.M. Chisa.
Right: Ion Grigorescu „Selfportrait as Tuthankamon", 1975 Photo: I. Grigorescu. 
Courtesy JGM Gallery Paris & the Van Sluijs collection Amsterdam.
Eastern European contemporary art has for twenty years had an awkward transition into democracy with artists fighting against a culture left over from the communist era of controlled and suppressed thinking. One part of this pavilion focuses on the essential role played by the work of Ion Grigorescu (born in 1945), an iconic figure of avant-garde thinking in Romania. Grigorescu was a forerunner in his country for conceptual and performance art - using the human body as his artistic medium. 

The art of the younger artists, Anetta Mona Chişa and Lucia Tkáčová, starts with historical references, but sees new meanings - forging liaisons between generations and posing critical and ethical questions for fellow Romanians. The two artists have been working together since 2000 and their art brings with it a global consciousness, a sense of questioning, and an open eyed curiosity about exploring their roots. The work deals with the complex eastern European mindset in regards to relationships between the individual and the collective, the differences between the older generation and the younger generation and what it means to be young and free in Romania, today. 

The 54th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 
The Pavilion of the Republic of Macedonia

"Zarko Baseski in his workshop."
Photo by Tristan JEANNE-VALES.
LEAP is a story based on the ideas of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche about man's struggle to surpass himself, the possibility to grow beyond himself, to leap beyond the limits of reality he himself creates. It can also be understood as a metaphor of the current conditions in Macedonia and the world.

The installation consists of three complex, hyper-realistic and larger than life size sculptures of the same man in three situations. The connection between the sculptures—a man carrying himself, a man leaping over himself and a man rising above himself—is man's eternal strife to transcend himself. The author of these sculptures is Žarko Bašeski.

Bašeski is a sculptor whose monumental bronze such as "Alexander the Great" and "The Horseman" decorate Macedonian civic centers.

The 54th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 
The French Pavilion

Christian Boltanski, "Chance," 2011. Photo © Didier Plowy
Christian Boltanski, a leading figure in the international art scene, is representing France at the Biennial; for the French pavilion, he is featuring an installation entitled "Chance." It deals with good luck, bad luck and chance - forces that fascinate us and rewrite our lives. 

"Chance" marks an important stage in the evolution of Christian Boltanski's work. Unlike the rest of his work, which is dominated by disappearance and death, here he opens himself up to a broader examination of fate. The unfolding of life and the rhythm of births and deaths raise the question of the universal and the individual in a new form, of what distinguishes one being from another. Far from being grim, the ambiance here is welcoming. Even though the brutality of an industrial and mechanical installation serves to thwart the building's Neoclassical harmony, filtered light shines down and illumines the pictures of newborns. Periodically, one of them will be chosen, and although nothing distinguishes him from the other babies in appearance, he may yet be the one whose power and fame leave a mark on history. 

His experience in theatre opened up a unique path for this artist. Even without a stage, Christian Boltanski knows how to make his exhibits theatrical and ow to get the audience intimately involved.
NOTE: A game drawn on this work is being featured on the Internet for the entire duration of the Biennial. You can try your luck and receive a gift from the artist. To play: 

The 54th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 
Hungarian Pavilion Giardini di Castello, Venice

Hajnal Németh: Crash - Passive Interview.
Photo: Tihanyi-Bakos Photo Studio, Museum Kiscell – Municipal Picture Gallery, Budapest, 2010. 
Hajnal Németh’s installation "Crash – Passive Interview" will be on show in the Hungarian Pavilion. The skeleton of the work is an experimental opera that takes place on the stage of life, relating, and reflecting on the stories of car crashes: the critical moment is slowed down by memory and recounted in utmost detail; the drive and the course of events leading up to that moment; as well as the complex relation of man to driving, in view of his inclination to have a car fetish. 

Filling the space is an acoustic experience, and a musical film. The installation is complemented with the librettos of the dialogues, namely the written records of the passive interviews, as well as a wrecked car, totalled in a crash, which occupies the space as an evocative artefact. Beyond how we react to the sights and sounds of a crash, the installation brings up the question of destiny.

"The sight of a totalled car is indeed shocking, as the energy of the crash is imprinted in its creases and distortions. Most of us are probably interested in the underlying story: How did the accident happen and what was the fate of the people inside?"

The 54th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 
The Ukrainian Pavilion 
Venue: CHIESA DI SAN FANTIN, Sestiere San Marco, Venice
Tiara of Ghent Altar, made from 12,800 handpainted wooden eggs. (size 6x6m)
Part of Post-vs-Proto-Renaissance, by Oksana Mas

Artist: Oksana Mas
Project: Post-vs-Proto-Renaissance
Art is an attempt to mend a bereavement, the loss of completeness in this fragmented world. In this regard, creation is a healing process where the artist show us evidence of a new found hope. The sphere, in the history of art, creates a circular motion, it makes our eyes flow and brings shapes together. Ever since the Middle Ages, the sphere has helped to combine reason with instinct, rationality with spirituality and for several years now, Oksana Mas has been working to reclaiming the sphere. She sees it as a geometric shape holding within itself, a principle of universal oneness. The artist began this thought process through the Ukrainian folk custom of decorated eggs covered in traditional Ukrainian designs to celebrate Easter. She decided to give blank spherical wooden eggs to inmates in women’s penitentiaries, intellectuals and people working in various fields from forty-two different countries, asking them to paint them. 

The installation, titled "Post-vs.-Proto-Renaissance" is a section of her monumental work composed of 3.640,000 wooden eggs. The iconographic reference for the work are the Van Eyck brothers, who painted "The gardens of paradise," on the famous Ghent Altar Piece. The eggs form a mosaic in which the ancient and the modern merge into an image embracing the "stories of sins" and "dreams of redemption"... "hope", and "a yearning for purity". Depending on your distance from the work, it breaks down into a digital file of pixels, each egg representing a dramatic mix of destiny and mankind. Contemplating the work of Oksana Mas brings with it an inspiration for renewal.

The 54th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 
The Danish Pavilion  
Freedom of Speech - A Curated Group Exhibition features 18 international artists of different generations from 12 countries. 13  installations and works commissioned specially for the exhibition.
Danish Artist Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen
"The Artist's Song"  2007
photo: Lasse Bak Mejlvang

The Danish Pavilion will host an international group exhibition, curated by Katerina Gregos, which will explore the very timely and complex issue of freedom of speech. The question of freedom of speech is one that is being increasingly contested in light of transformations taking place globally, both in authoritarian regimes and in democracies, where civil liberties seem to be increasingly under threat. Apart from the fact that it relates to Denmark specifically, it is also highly relevant in relation to much of what is happening in many countries in the world today, from: press intimidation and censorship in Russia; to Google's issues in China; current events in North Africa; changes to media law in Hungary; and other factors such as increased surveillance everywhere, and highly charged debates about the limits of freedom of speech in several European countries, such as the Netherlands. The notions of freedom of speech and freedom of artistic expression also are interrelated with, freedom of the press, government censorship and self-censorship, plus all sorts of judicial, legal, lifestyle and human rights issues. The exhibition in the Danish Pavilion aims to shine a light on the issue of freedom of speech. Denmark has been at the forefront of the public debate, but it has also suffered the so-called 'trauma of free speech,' making it even more appropriate to use the Danish Pavilion this summer as a springboard for debate on this issue. 

The 54th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia starts in previews on June 1, 2011, with aa Gala Opening on June 3 and will open to the public from June 4 through November 27, 2011.  A list of all nations participating in this year's fair is at the end of this issue. Information Sources: the Venice Biannale's official website; E-Flux press releases for each national Pavilion featured; and the web sites of the national pavilions.

Continental Breakfast:
Croissants, Confiture and Rich Dark Coffee

After thinking about Europe for a week, I found myself craving a "Continental Breakfast" of croissants, confiture and dark coffee. We all know what croissants are and what European roast coffee looks like, but some of you might not know that Jam in French is 'la confiture', Jelly is 'la gelée' and preserves are 'les conserves'.

What are America's options for a good Continental Breakfast?
Many coffee shops, breakfast specialty restaurants and hotel restaurants offer very good bakery made croissants and Starbucks has set the standard for good dark coffee so high, even McDonald's sells a good strong cup of coffee these days. Also your local larger grocery chain sells croissants in their bakery departments and Starbucks and European bold coffee beans and ground coffee to take home. The Pillsbury Crescent Rolls are an American fast food version which Americans were raised on but I am certain crescent rolls would upset most people from France where they take their Croissants seriously. (In Paris if you see a straight Croissant it was made using butter, if the one you select is curved it was made using margarine. This is a French law specifying this distinction.)

Recently I found another option that is much more "Continental"! Williams-Sonoma has contracted with French pastry chef Jean-Yves Charon to premake croissants in the French tradition, laboriously folding and cutting the croissants by hand, rolling, packing, freezing and shipping them fresh to your doorstep. They come in Plain, Mini Plain, with Chocolate Chunks inside, and Chocolate Croissants with Chocolate Chunks. Keep them in your freezer, when ready to indulge, let the frozen croissants rise for 9 hours (overnight) in your kitchen. In the morning bake and enjoy the real thing from France! Jean-Yves Charon also offers to ship to you Apple & Cherry Turnovers, Sticky Buns, Morning Buns and petite versions of these pastries at the site. The company recommends that once at their web site, click on the Catalog Quick Shop link (under Shop at the bottom of the page) and enter the item 47-4276309 to go directly to to Jean-Yves Charon's croissants. The Williams-Sonoma toll free number is (800) 541.2233.

For a good cup of rich European coffee, most coffee lovers would recommend a French Press Pot available everywhere these days (add 4 well rounded tablespoons of regular grind, dark roast coffee) add boiling water and press. Or try the new single cup coffee brewing machines with a selection of coffee strengths from very strong espresso to mild - success guaranteed!
A French favorite,
Bonne Maman Raspberry Preserves,
is available at most of America's local supermarkets
 and is usually less expensive in the US, than it is in France.

So now it is up to you. Stock up for a Sunday in the near future: order your croissants and bake; brew some rich coffee in your press pot; have some real butter and raspberry preserves ready to dab on the warm croissants with your silver butter spreader; buy a New York Times Sunday edition and Enjoy a "Continental Breakfast" while reading the paper. This is my idea of the good life and it's available to everyone with a just a little bit of planning.

Until Later,

ARTSnFOOD, All rights reserved. Concept & Original Text © Copyright 2011 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. Images © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees.
The 54th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 
This years Biennale is titled ILLUMInations 
The Biennial will take place in June and was organized by the art historian and critic Bice Curiger:
- Preview: 1-2-3 June 2011 
- Official Opening: 3 June 2011 
- Opening to the public: 4 June > 27 November 2011
List of Pavilions 2011 Venice Biennale:

ALBANIA Geopathies

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