13 Sep

Your reward at the arse end of the Arsenale is Christian Marclay’s grossly overrated Youtube Supercut/massive copyright violation ‘The Clock’: another repeat offender from the British Art Show at the Hayward gallery. As in London, the room is populated with sheep doing their duty and spending the minimum amount of time that seems decent with this mandatory important piece of art before they move on gratefully, wondering what the hell all the fuss was about because it’s just like something off of Youtube.

Beyond this point countries like the United Arab Emirates, Croatia, Chile and the like are tacked on in a fairly perfunctory way like the appendices in an academic book that nobody ever reads. The insignificance of the work presented invites a swift exit and doesn’t speak well of whoever chose the artists. I’m fairly confident that all of these countries have better and more deserving artists than the ones shown at Venice, but that seems fairly irrelevant since at the moment curators seem to be selecting artists by blindfolding themselves and picking their names randomly out of hats.

Saudi Arabia’s effort by Shadia and Raja Alem is the only effort worth even commenting on, and then only because it’s so completely out of whack with everything else on show at the Biennale. ‘The Black Arch’ looks exactly like the bland but also faintly ominous corporate art you can see in any CBD anywhere in the world, and particularly in places like China or the Arabian Peninsula where they regularly fabricate pristinely dystopian new skyscraper districts out of nothing and feel a need to manufacture generic, pristine, dystopian corporate art to match. Maybe it’s meant to look like something a dodgy bank would commission for the cavernous, air-conditioned atrium of a thirty storey monster in Riyadh. Or something that the dodgy corporation in dozens of sci-fi films would commission for its evil headquarters to signify their evilness… actually both of those examples amount to roughly the same thing. It’s Robocop art.

An American woman standing near to me regards the sculpture sceptically. “I don’t get it,” she says to her companion, “Why is this here?”. Evidently she has been thinking along similar lines to my own. The Arabian assistant at the desk gives the American a filthy look of contempt and is probably imagining some Saudi-style retribution for art criticism that involves your hands being cut off.

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