I’m in Venice attending my first-ever Biennale. It was a bit disconcerting at first to be in a room full of familiar faces in a totally unfamiliar city: the Irish contingency was strong this year, with a surprising amount of Irish artists and art professionals making the trip. Around every corner I seemed to run into someone I know.
The vernissage, which lasted from Wednesday to Saturday, is over now, and the rounds of openings and parties have stopped, leaving more time to actually go and see the art. I’m still not finished looking at everything. Daniel Birnbaum’s curated exhibitions at the Arsenale and the Giardini are both epic, and when coupled with the national pavilions at the Giardini, it can be very easy to quickly suffer from ‘snowblindness’ after seeing so much in such quick succession.
My favorite offerings at the giardini were the Nordic, Canadian and Dutch pavilions, but the queues made it difficult to see everything, so I missed France and the USA. I have so far had more success in really engaging with work in the outlying pavilions. It might take a whole day to see three of four pavilions, but for me this is a much more satisfying experience. On Saturday I visited the Scottish, Mexican and Latvian shows (work by Martin Boyce, Teresa Margolles and Miks Mitreviks respectively) and, despite intense foot pain (causing me to do what I’ve coined the ‘Venice shuffle’) from the miles of walking through warrens of narrow streets, these are so far my top three shows that I have seen here. I can’t figure out if I liked them so much because they are good, or because I was so grateful for finally finding the venues after hours of being lost. I am leaning towards the former. These three exhibitions wil certainly stay with me for a long time to come. I will write more about them upon my return.
Now I’m off to see the Icelandic pavillion, and bracing myself for getting pleasantly lost in this wonderful city along the way.