The 54th Venice Biennale opened last weekend with its largest edition yet, boasting a record 89 national participants (find a comprehensive list of artists here). Early buzz surrounded some of the most politically freighted work seen in recent years. Before opening, the Biennale was already dealing with issues of censorship after the president of Azerbaijan had a couple of sculptures he called "insulting to Islam" curtained off.
Miami's own Antonia Wright and Ruben Millares are visiting Venice for the Biennale. For the next two weeks, they'll be sending home their snaps and opinions on the trends and most eye-catching works scattered across the "City of Bridges," which is expected to draw some of the world's leading political figures such as Israel's Shimon Perez and Argentina's Christina Fernandez Kirchner in town along with battalions of curators, artists, collectors and museum honchos to scope exhibits at the Giardini and Arsenale. Check out Wright and Millares's three picks from the Biennale so far, which include overturned tanks, racing baby photos, and dystopian mannequins.
Allora and Calzadilla's Gloria
"This is one of the pieces from Allora and Calzadilla, the artists representing America. They have Olympic runners wearing a USA T-shirt running on a treadmill on an upside-down tank. It is an amazing piece and much more political than the other shows. The picture was taken at the preview at the Giardini," Wright says.
"You enter the Switzerland Pavilion through a hallway lined with crystallizing televisions and cell phones taped to plastic chairs. The ceilings and walls are lined in silver with opaque lit crystal protrusions and portals to the outside world. It's claustrophobia as you duck and turn bombarded by images of war on discarded televisions fingering iPhone like slideshows. A series of hollowed women mannequins grow crystals from within. Broken glass wall tops and foiled machines," Millares notes.
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Christian Boltanski's Chance
"Christian Boltanski constructs an all consuming scaffolding cage where humans become the insignificant animals trapped in the maze. A photographic scroll of baby pictures winds throughout the space up and down around sharp turns like a newspaper print shop gone wild. Mass production. The viewer cannot help but look all around his cage while more babies are born than people are dying. Two large number counters are found in two peripheral rooms; one in red counting world deaths, one in green counting births much faster. "Is this the last time?" Speak the chairs surrounding the Pavilion," Millares informs.