8 Sep

Jean-Luc Mylayne’s enormous colour photo prints show coloured or black voids with minimal intrusions of twigs or branches and comically tiny birds perched somewhere in the frame, making themselves the centre of attention despite their unambitious insignificance. Nice. I’d have these hanging on my wall if I had a bloody great wall going spare.

Nearby is the work of Rebecca Wood. Oh no, it’s small bits of metal stacked against other bits of metal again! That’ll teach you to demonstrate a sense of colour, space, wit and intelligence, you horrible competent photographer with your horrible competence!

Artists, especially British artists, please knock this kind of shit right off. IMMEDIATELY. Its says nothing to anybody about anything.  Somebody should stack Rebecca Wood against a wall and then stack real wood on top of her until she promises to actually make some art instead of just putting things against other things. There are more representatives of this tendency at the Biennale than I can be bothered to savage specifically, but in the Arsenale Carol Bove particularly deserves a bespoke kick in the bum with a pointed shoe for taking up so much space with her lovingly presented old crap, twisted metal and derivative Louise Bourgeois metal mesh fences. Louise Bourgeois didn’t make her work as a sneaky way of cleaning out her garden shed, ladies.


Fabian Marti’s MC Escher grotto in MDF is excitingly scaled and a nice piece of design, both inside and out. The actual art, not so much. The video playing within the jaggedly cubic, cave-like interior seems fairly random and unrelated to anything whatsoever (and boring), while the exterior is used as a perch for what look like giant, melted coffee mugs with zebra stripes. I have absolutely no idea what was meant to be going on here, the significance (if any) of it all, or what the intended connection was between the evening class ceramics failures, the playhouse and a fairly tedious video loop of palm trees. Why is any of this stuff here? Who knows or cares? I’m quite imaginative, but in this case I’ve got nothing.

I find it highly amusing that whoever wrote the wall text and guidebook also seems baffled, offering the plaintive (non) explanation that “Fabian Marti brings his fascination with synchronicity- the unlikely conjunction of two events that seems to reveal a latent connection- to La Biennale with [the two works described and the “atrium.]”

So, yeah, they don’t know what the hell he’s playing at, either. Stick to designing sets, Fab.


One of the British art scene’s current flavours of the month, Haroon Mirza, brings a similarly outstanding bit of set or production design to the service of a relatively perfunctory light and sound installation that takes about sixty seconds of your time to appreciate fully… which is fine. The whole booth, light and sound package is slick and pretty, and it generates a nice feeling of momentarily being somewhere confusingly futuristic. It’s a triumph of vague science fictional pointlessness.

As a sort of flashforward observation, I’ll note here that Mirza returns in the Giardini with a shoddy piece of work dignified with the description of “light installation,” one that sort of plays with the same basic elements and materials but utterly fails and looks like crap. Not that I necessarily blame him for grabbing every opportunity that’s offered to him at this international exhibition level, even if he fobs them off with second rate stuff.

The art world is fickle, Haroon. I’d get in there and keep on milking it while they’ll still let you, mate.

This specific example highlights a general theme of zero quality control, zero consistency (of tone, aesthetic, approach, subject, anything) that runs through the whole ‘Illuminations’ exhibition across both sites; good and bad (or cogent and irrelevant) work alike seems to have slipped in without anybody ever thinking to say, for example, “Haroon, quit while you’re ahead. You’ve got something nice in the Arsenale… that works, that’s in the bag, so why don’t you think again about this nonsense you’re putting in the Giardini?”

All artists need this kind of guidance sometimes. They’re not always the best or most clear-sighted judges of their own work because they’re too wrapped up in the making of it. If an artist is anything like me they usually think the latest thing they’ve done is the most exciting thing, but that isn’t always or necessarily the case with a bit of hindsight and a step back. When artists grow beyond anybody being willing (or brave enough) to say these things to them, that’s when they really turn into monsters fuelled purely by egotism and nonsense.

So where is the curator in all this? Did she pick the artists and their works by tearing Art Review into thousands of pieces and then emailing vague requests based on any legible fragments? Or by wearing a blindfold and pinning a tail on some kind of art donkey?






    […] I’ve seen this oxymoronic “interconnects things that are independent” gambit before when the curator or writer has apparently just thrown up their hands in despair at gaining any kind of intellectual traction with the material in front of them. Translated into plain English it usually means something like: “This exhibition is a total dog’s dinner and I can’t see any meaningful connection between the different things that are in it. Seriously, I’ve got nothing.” Another false notion commonly put forth in artbollocks apologias for lazy work is that simply putting unrelated objects in physical proximity to each other is sufficient to elevate them t…. […]


    […] And we have a fine example of the get-out clause (“without thematic or aesthetic reasoning”) for the whole thing being a visual and conceptual mess from which no particular thought or concept emerges. If your exhibition or show is “without thematic or aesthetic reasoning”, why does it need a curator at all and how can you claim to have curated it? Surely nobody curated it, or the artists collectively curated it themselves? Indeed, surely the very concept of a curator is redundant for a series of unrelated performances conceptualised and controlled by the artists themselves? (See also.) […]

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