Yesterday we took a walk to the main area of the biennale and walk around a lot of the art. I had never been before and it was rather fascinating to see how the exhibits are set up. There was way, way too much art to take in the show in its entirely, so we viewed the main exhibit in the main hall and several of the other pieces in some of the individual countries’ pavilions. I have to admit, I find the very idea of separate country pavilions a little strange, as if to say that an artist always represents something essential about the country they come from, rather than a universal set of ideas. I guess this is mostly an artifact of the history of the biennale itself, and it’s evolution over time. For me, some of the most interesting work was in the German pavilion (in a show put together by France since they swapped pavilions this year). I also very much likes the Ai Weiwei piece in the French pavilion for its wonderful spacial quality (even if the over wrought explanation for its existence left me cold). The main exhibit “The Encyclopedic Palace” was to me a bit of a meandering mess (with a theme made a bit quaint and passé by the introduction of the internet), but there were a few artists within it who really struck me on their own merits. One of the biggest risks with shows like this is art/info overload. There is really just too much to take in and it diminishes some of the work that deserves more thoughtful viewing. (On the other hand, it probably elevates some work that deserves less viewing, so there you are.) At the end of the day I was rather beat as we had walked and walked and walked, both across Venice and back, and at the show. I hope today will be a bit more relaxing, but my friend Olaf is tending to treat this trip more as a project to accomplish rather than an easygoing set of possible experiences that may or may not happen. This is the German way, and I am along for the ride as the only American in the group. And I have been having a very good time with everyone, so I am not really complaining.
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