The exterior of the Central Pavilion, at a rare sunny moment on the opening week. 

Jun 05 2013

Field Trip: Venice Biennale, Giardini

by HG Masters

Miniature, Obsessive, Hyper-Repetitve: Views of the Giardini 

The other half of the Venice Biennale takes place not far from the Arsenale at a palatial leafy park called the Giardini, created in the early 19th century by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. “The Encyclopedic Palace,” curated by Massimiliano Gioni, continued in the Central Pavilion, while 30 countries have buildings of their own in which to exhibit their selected artist or a group exhibition. Of the non-Europe countries, there are permanent buildings for Israel, Japan, Korea and Australia—as well as Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and Egypt. The rest of participating countries, who do not get a space within the Arsenale itself, must rent locations around the city.

Interior of the Central Pavilion, with drawings by the polymath Rudolf Steiner on the far wall, sculptures by Walter Pichler in the foreground. The three figures on the floor are “interpreters” in a piece by Tino Sehgal, which variously featured beat-boxing and dancing by a cast of young and older figures. 

A collection of model buildings owned by Oliver Croy and Oliver Elser, which they found in a junk shop in 1993. The 387 models were apparently the creations of the Austrian insurance clerk Peter Fritz, from the 1950s and ’60s.

Anonymously created tantric drawings from Rajasthan. The ovoid form is known as the “Siva Linga” that radiates energy. 

Shinro Ohtake’s collection of scrapbooks, created since 1977, now number more than 60, often with more than 700 pages of wild collage in a single volume. 

Guo Fengyi’s scroll drawings were part of her Qigong practice to alleviate her arthritis. From 1989 until her death in 2010, she created these intricate drawings using ink and ballpoint pens, depicting figures from Chinese mythology. 

Eva Kotátková’s three-dimensional collage, comprising wire sculptures and excerpted images. 

Individual miniature works from Imran Qureshi’s well-known series “Immoderate Enlightenment” (2006–09), showing modern activities in a traditional Mughal painting style. 

The Japan Pavilion hosted the socially engaged projects of Koki Tanaka; here a poster in the underside of the pavilion. 

The interior of the Japan Pavilion was filled with videos and documents from Tanaka’s projects. 

Germany and France traded buildings in the Giardini this year; and Germany selected several non-German artists, including Ai Weiwei, who filled the main space with “Bang” (2010–13), comprised of 886 antique stools. 

Next door to Japan, the Korea Pavilion was given over to Kimsooja’s installation “To Breathe: Botari” which, rain or shine, required people to remove their shoes outside, and then wait in line for a few seconds alone in an anechoic (noiseless) chamber. 

Looking in through the translucent film that Kimsooja used to coat the windows of the Korea Pavilion, refracting light onto the space and the mirrored floors. 

In the Australia Pavilion, which is due for demolition and redesign after the end of this biennial, Simryn Gill had a section of the roof removed, exposing her works to the elements. Here, she pasted words torn from 144 books onto 12 large white panels in “Let Go, Lets Go” (2013). 

Simryn Gill’s “Half Moon Shine” (2013), a mild steel hemisphere, was already collecting water in its basin on the opening days. 

Gill’s “Naught” (2010– ) series are what she describes as “objects in the shape of zero found on walks.” She hands them, or pastes them to walls, or makes them into something like necklaces. 

The US Pavilion was given over to the intricate, architectural interventions by Sarah Sze. Here the exterior of the neoclassical building, dotted, decorated in scaffolding, rocks and balancing forms. 

Ever-photogenic, Sze’s works are like little universes constructed from provisional materials. Here, “Triple Point (Planetarium)” (2013). 

At the Israel Pavilion, Gilad Ratman’s videos featured sculptures with microphones embedded in their mouths as performers shouted, moaned and wailed on them. 

HG Masters is editor-at-large of ArtAsiaPacific and is based in Istanbul.