An Irish Presence

ANNE MULLEE REPORTS ON THE CONTRIBUTION OF IRISH ARTISTS AND CURATORS AT THE 57TH VENICE BIENNALE.

Many of the reviews of curator Christine Macel’s ambitious handling of her two huge, artist-centered ‘Viva Arte Viva!’ exhibitions at La Biennale di Venezia have drawn less than fulsome praise, with critics variously citing too many weak works, not enough diversity and flabby contextualisation, among other criticisms. Of course, the 57th Biennale is far more than a sum of these parts. Perhaps reflecting the increasingly globalised art world, this year sees the inclusion of new pavilions from first-time participants Antigua and Barbuda, Kiribati and Nigeria. As more countries are invited to participate in the event, reflections on nationhood are becoming an increasingly common trope. Virtual utopian state NSK hosts Turkish artist Ahmet Öğüt, who has worked with young refugees to run a live passport office, where I secured an NSK State Passport (nskstate.com). In contrast, the southern part of the globe is represented in Venice by the Antarctic Pavilion, which is not so much an imagined state as a state of enquiry. Instigated by Russian artist and biennale stalwart Alexander Pononmarev, the pavilion provides a platform to showcase artworks and projects by various invited artists who participated in the first Antarctic Biennale – a 12-day artistic research expedition undertaken in March 2017 with 100 participants aboard the research vessel Akademik Ioffe.

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You Are Seeing Things

RAYNE BOOTH INTERVIEWS BARBARA WAGNER AND BENJAMIN DE BURCA ABOUT THEIR PARTICIPATION IN THE 2016 SAO PAOLO BIENNIAL.

The 32nd São Paulo Biennial took place in Parque Ibirapuera, a rare green space in the centre of the vast and expansive city of São Paulo. The collaborative practice of Irish artist Benjamin De Búrca and Brazilian artist Bárbara Wagner featured among the biennial’s 81 participating artists. The title of the biennial, ‘Incerteza Viva’ or ‘Live Uncertainty’, echoed recent remarks by Brazil’s new president Michel Temer, who stated recently that the years of uncertainty experienced under a Socialist Party government had come to an end. The biennial strongly emphasised ecological and social issues, while a huge educational programme of school visits, tours and special events attempted to bridge the distance between the concerns of the art world and those who inhabit the city’s boundless favelas and low income suburbs.

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Semi Colonials

The closing event for ‘Eva 2016: Still (the) Barbarians’ was the culmination of one the most well received Eva exhibitions in recent years. Reflecting the scope and complexity of the biennial itself, the presentations and discussions were diverse and ambitious, representing a range of both Irish and international offerings on postcolonial discourse. Curator Koyo Kouoh began by introducing Alan Phelan’s “counterfactual” film Our Kind (2016), which imagines a future for Roger Casement had he not been executed in 1916.

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