Thinking on an international scale can be daunting.
I have been trying to imagine a world before religion which must of course be a world without man but how long was man around first, as religion in some form seems to have been something that emerged very early in our development.

When I think about snowball earth and the coming of the forests I do think globally. Those seeds growing and spreading.

Cross pollination. No borders.

I have been working on adding the fern embryos to the iceberg landscape.

1308 Fern Collagraphs

I made some relief plates of the ferns from cardboard and gave them a bit of texture with acrylic medium and carborundum.

Then I gave them a coat of shellac to give them a bit of strength.

1308 Precursor in progress

I am using them to give a background texture to the fern images.

I will then screen print on top of these to add detail.

What was so great about visiting the Venice Biennale this year was that I found so many of the artists I really like were showing there.
Alfredo Jaar makes work that hits you bodily. I can still feel the power of his work I saw in Brighton years ago about the photo journalist Kevin Carter.

The Sound of Silence, tells the story of one photograph taken in Sudan 1993. You sit in a dark space and the story is told in simple sentences, on a black screen.

Alfredo Jaar 'The Sound of Silence'

Alfredo Jaar ‘The Sound of Silence’

The photograph is shown briefly before a blinding flash of light scores into your retina.

You are left blinking in the afterglow. I can still feel the sadness.

Kevin Carter’s suicide at just 33 is so poignant, he had just seen too much suffering to cope with his own problems.

Should you intervene?  Lucy Kirkwood’s play Chimerica also addresses this issue. On the Headlong website is a link to a bbc interview with war photographer Don McCullin who discusses how ‘ there came a natural limit to looking at what others can’t bear to see.’

In Venice Alfredo Jaar looked at the Giardini and its political and economic posturing of pavilions built before the second world war. He then made a model of the Giardini which gets submerged underwater – we see it disappear into obscurity then emerge, green and dripping only to vanish again.

Alfrdo Jaar 'Venezia, Venezia'

Alfredo Jaar ‘Venezia, Venezia’

It might signify the highs and lows of economic powers but of course being in Venice the water rising is a very real threat.

The whole idea of a national pavilion in the art world is questioned now that artists work internationally, moving and exhibiting around the world.

France and Germany have swapped pavilions and to push the international crossover further Ai Weiwei is showing along with 3 other non-German artists in the German Pavilion.

Ai Wei Wei 'Bang'
Ai Wei Wei ‘Bang’

BANG is an expanding,  rhizomatic structure made from the once ubiquitous wooden stool which has now been superseded in China by manufactured models in metal and plastic.  These simple objects that hold the traces of their life in the patina of years, are part of the cultural identity of a nation being lost to globalisation, just as the individual is swallowed up and forced to conform.

Gilad Ratman for Israel also wanted to question the national boundaries that such a setting as the Biennale constructs and he also made work about  transgressing boundaries.

We see a group of people making their way though underground passages, crawling and dragging themselves through the earth.

Gilad Ratman 'The Workshop'

Gilad Ratman ‘The Workshop’

Eventually they emerge into the light from a hole in the ground straight into the gallery space.

Gilad Ratman 'The Workshop'

Gilad Ratman ‘The Workshop’

Underground there are no borders.

Gilad Ratman 'The Workshop'

Gilad Ratman ‘The Workshop’

Once in the gallery each member of the group begins to sculpt a self portrait in clay.

Like a birth, some new body is forged and given voice.

Joana Vasconcelos also looks at the journey, navigation and passage.

Joana Vasconcelos 'Trafaria Praia'

Joana Vasconcelos ‘Trafaria Praia’

Addressing common themes that Lisbon and Venice share she created a floating pavilion – well a boat.

It has a gift shop and art books, cultural history and then in the depths you can climb down into a dark and warm space, soft and feminine and full of wonder.

Joana Vasconcelos

Joana Vasconcelos

Reduced to basic sensory levels of pleasure like a baby in the womb, soft dark warmth, gentle undulation.

The Instituto Italo-Latino Americano a forum for cultural exchange between Europe and Latin America  is all about how cross fertilization can impact cultural identity.

The cavernous pavilion is scented with spice.

Latin American Institute

Latin American Institute

I loved the animation ‘Los Andes’ by Cristóbal León & Joaquín Cociña.

A primal spirit possess an office causing drawings to appear on the wall and plants to emerge from the furniture.

Latin American Institute

Latin American Institute

The spirit appears in the form of a giant growing in size and then crumpling away.

Leon & Cocina Loa Andes

Leon & Cocina Los Andes

Jasmina Cibic for Slovenia looked at how national identity is portrayed and guided by the state into what is acceptable.

Her project ‘For Our Economy and Culture’  looks at art as a token of national identity and how the integrity of the art commissioned for public arenas may be compromised by institutional hierarchies intent on influencing its presentation..

Jasmina Cibic 'For Our Economy and Culture'

Jasmina Cibic ‘For Our Economy and Culture’

Art by committee.

The Pavilion is lined with wallpaper depicting a beetle which has become endangered because of its ideologically charged name – Anophthalmus hitleri.

Anophthalmus hitleri

Anophthalmus hitleri

The beetle which is only found in caves in Slovenia could have been a national cause celebre were it not for it being named by a fascist species collector.

The official Chinese representative Simon Ma had been to the rainforest of Southern China and come back to a life in the city that now was too grey.

He had been inspired by the dramatic landscape, the colours of the forest and the magnificent height of the trees.

Feeling overwhelmed by the power of these colossal living forms he was aware of how deep the roots much reach to support such heights which in turn made him think about the scale of the cities sprouting up all over China

and the need for people to also have roots.

Simon Ma

Simon Ma

His oversized rain drop sculptures gave a good photo opportunity against the dramatic architecture of an ancient palazzo.

Simon Ma

Simon Ma

Simon Ma

Simon Ma

These plastic raindrops were left over form a performance piece.

At the Manchester International Festival Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack and film maker Adam Curtis got together to create a new kind of media experience combining film and music on a mega scale.

The result of their collaboration tells the story of a new system of power that has risen up in the modern world to manage and control us. It is a fake, but enchanting world which we all live in today – but which has also become a new kind of prison that prevents us moving forward into the future.

Massive Attack v Adam Curtis

Massive Attack v Adam Curtis

So many ideas are set off by this ‘gilm’ as they called it. I was spellbound by the scale, the decibels vibrating through my chest, the wonderful eclectic music set, the pure voice of Elizabeth Fraser and the stream of images – my era in soundbites. There were mixed reviews but I loved it. It wasn’t all news but there was a lot of things I didn’t know about –  Russian Punk Yegor Letov for instance though whether the story we were spun was actually true or not I can’t quite work out. The history is mapped out in personal stories such as the tragic case of Pauline Boty who died at 28 after she refused cancer treatments that would have harmed her unborn daughter.

Pauline Boty

1308 MIF 2

The daughter, Katy ‘Boty’ Goodwin went on to study at the California Institute of the Arts, Walt Disney’s idealist art college, but she became obsessed with her appearance, developed an eating disorder, took heroin and died.

The Japanese gambler Akio Kashiwagi known as ‘The Warrior’ got into a row with Donald Trump’s casino when his system finally failed and he left owing 10 million dollars. Trump never got the money however as the gambler was stabbed to death with a samurai sword before the debts were paid.

Risk management.

1308 MIF

Lots more info about this and other ideas of Adam Curtis can be found on his blog

Mayfield Depot

Mayfield Depot

After a chilling look at the recent past and the nature of control and illusion the crowd is channeled through a subterranean world under intense spotlight to the ferocious barking of the guard’s dog.

Mayfield Depot

Mayfield Depot

Despite the dystopian exit route we were left with the message that now it’s up to us to change the world.

Artist Maria Cristina Finucci is having a go.

There are huge patches of rubbish floating in seas around the world like islands and so to bring something tangible to the debate she has got the U.N. culture agency UNESCO  to grant the “Garbage Patch State” symbolic statehood. This brings them onto the world stage. They are a global problem.

These “garbage patches” are areas of high marine debris concentrated in the North Pacific Ocean, the exact size and content of which are hard to define.

The patches are mostly invisible to the naked eye as the debris – chiefly plastic – breaks down over time, without ever fully disappearing.

In Venice there was an immersive installation using plastic bottle tops to highlight the problem.

Maria Cristina Finucci 'Garbage Patch State'

Maria Cristina Finucci ‘Garbage Patch State’

Every time you throw away a bottle top you are part of the problem.

She is hoping to give direction for good behaviour rather than an apocalyptic message.

In the Emergency Pavilion, a multinational event took on the topic ‘Rebuilding Utopia.’

40 years have gone by without us realizing it.

This exhibition will be a game, what happened during
the last forty years? What worked, what didn’t, what
appeared and what disappeared? When did the world
begin to change? Was it 1973 or 1989? When did
“imagination in power” die, was it in ‘68 or 2012?
Or was it on the first of January, 2013?
Jota Castro ' Here comes the rain again'

Jota Castro ‘ Here comes the rain again’

It didn’t really offer much optimism for a better world it felt full of sadness and lost hopes.

However, these artists from all parts of the world are thinking about a better world, and how art can contribute to imagining such a world.

Emergency Pavilion - Rebuilding Utopia

Emergency Pavilion – Rebuilding Utopia

During the early 60’s when Pauline Boty was studying at the RCA and involved in the anti capiltalist students movements of the time she followed the ideas of the german political theorist Herbert Marcuse.

A year after her death he gave a speech titled “The End of Utopia”. Marcuse said he didn’t mean that utopia was impossible but now we had the technical and scientific means to achieve what had only once been dreamed of, utopia was a real possibility no longer an imagined idea. Poverty and hunger could be solved.

I’m not sure that anyone any longer believes utopia is a real possibility certainly not on a global scale. Even Jesus said there will be poor always.

We have to try though.

Adam Curtis encourages us to look to the future and to think about what sort of a world we want to live in. Our origins are important too.
How much changes how much we learn is debatable.
Pauline Boty is posthumously going to have retrospective of her paintings this year – the show is to be called Pauline Boty: Pop artist and Woman
I suppose that has to be taken in the context of history.
Pauline Boty 'Colour Her Gone'

Pauline Boty ‘Colour Her Gone’

Advertisements