Painting is conspicuous by its relative absence at the Biennale. What painting there is on offer is conspicuous for being totally crap. This omission is particularly and perversely weird given that the Central Pavilion has also been noted for being dominated by three absolutely massive Tintoretto paintings, at the loud insistence of curator Bice Curiger. Um, yeah, you like Tintoretto. Good for you. Still totally pointless, except perhaps as a way of fulfilling some stupid whim you had years ago when you were powerless and fantasising about being a famous curator.
Oh, I like David Lynch and raspberries, so I’m just going to put some pictures of them right here, OK?
Killer BOB’s your uncle, I’m a leading curator.
We could try (if we must) to talk about about the video work on show instead, but it’s hardly any easier. There is some in the Arsenale, but none really worth speaking of except for Emily Wardill’s. [Adopts disappointed head teacher voice]: We’d prefer to talk about you for the right reasons, Emily. She’s got form as well; she’s a repeat offender who also perpetrated some of the crappest moving image work in the excruciating and embarrassing British Art Show at the Hayward this summer.
The film she’s showing at the Arsenale is worse, a train wreck resulting from the head-on collision of pretentious bullshit and no sense of humour. As I’d already come to expect, the accompanying text smooths this failure over like an indulgent mother with phrases like “elliptical… aural hyperbole and slapstick acting… speaking their lines as if still learning to read.”
In other words it’s obvious to everyone with eyes and ears (even the apparently quality-blind Bice Curiger) that the performances are absolute sub-Am Dram shit and none of it makes sense, but unfortunately it’s the best Emily can do because she doesn’t know any proper actors who’ll work for nowt… or indeed anyone who can even read a line convincingly off an idiot board. Just cringingly bad and unwatchable, and not even in an unintentionally hilarious way.
That this crap was shown at the ICA during Ekow Eshun’s disastrous tenure as its Fifth columnist saboteur and universally loathed boss who jumped before he was pushed director (afterwards he failed upwards to the Arts Council) is a revealing detail. Maybe his infamous declaration that “performance art is over” was not an expression of arrogant, petulant narrow mindedness but was instead a futile attempt to deny the memory of seeing what passes for a performance in one of Emily Wardill’s films.