All about the art


Today was all about the art in Venice, we are here for the biennale, after all. Well, that and the beautiful architecture of the city itself. We first went to the contemporary art show Prima Materia at the Punta della Dogana. The show itself held several very interesting pieces, but my absolute favorite was something not properly understood to be part of the show itself, and that was the spectacular renovation of the museum by Tadao Ando. The museum is a gorgeous zen masterpiece.  Several of the works in the show were really thought provoking, like those by Roman Opalka, or Loris Gréaud, which were two of my favorites.

We next attended an exhibit called When Attitudes Become Formwhich was an odd recreation of a 1969 exhibit from the Bern Kunsthalle inside an 18th century structure in Venice (Ca’ Corner della Regina). They went so far as to recreate the walls and floor of the Kunsthalle inside this building and mount the exhibit in this recreated space within a space. It made for an odd pastiche and I initially hated the concept (and I am still a little dubious about the pretension of the show), but came to find it pretty fascinating on several levels. For one, much of the art was stuff we had learned about in Architecture school many years ago, and here were recreations of these things in their “original” setting (at least in juxtaposition to each other). For another, much of the work was made in materials (such as fat) that would purposely decay and wash away with time, and these pieces were recreated for the exhibit. Thirdly, all of this “outsider” art is now insider art, and in the intervening years one can see both the influence of the work spread out through the culture, and the power (cultural and economic) of these outsiders, who are now almost without fail part of the establishment they were trying to overthrow. That very power is represented and made solid in the (partial) vanity of this recreation.

We next visited the Palazzo Grassi for the Rudolf Stingel exhibit, which I found almost wholly without merit and either a huge creative failing or just plain aimless and annoying masterbation by the artist. We also stopped at a couple of pavilions for the countries of Bosnia and Montenegro, the second of which I found to be really lovely spacial constructions.

By the end of the day I was pretty beat and came back to the apartment for a rest. We head to dinner at a thankfully close-by restaurant at 9…

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Which way is up?


One of the great things about working on a variety of projects is the opportunity it gives me to confront various ideas. On one such project I had decided on a world map background for the site, and dutifully started researching various graphic styles that I would use for it. My client approved one direction with time zone demarcations and then asked if I could use a Peters projection instead of the more common Mercator projection.

I had been familiar with the Peters projection for some time, but since it isn’t in heavy usage, I had all but forgotten about it. And just about all of the map examples I found were Mercator. My client hails from the San Francisco Bay Area (where I myself lived for many years) and so it gave me a lefty chuckle of recognition that he was asking for this map projection. That is because the Peters map is far more socially “just” than the Mercator. Why is this so, you may wonder? Because the Mercator map vastly benefits the northern (and colonizing) hemisphere over the southern one. While the map doesn’t correct for the orientation of the planet (why is Alaska where it is near the top instead of Australia, for example), it does correct for the size distortions (Africa is roughly 14 times larger than Greenland, for example, although you would never know that to look at the Mercator). This begins to present a more accurate and equitable way for the inhabitants of the world to picture themselves. For a wonderful summing up of these concepts, check out this great clip from an old “West Wing” episode: