Short essay on Venice Biennale experience – Summer 2015

Glimpse of Lightness : Venice Biennale 2015

Maggi - Drawing Machine

Marco Maggi – “Drawing Machine” – Uruguay Pavilion, Venice 2015

            How does art “happen”?  What is a work of art in an age of reproduction?  Who, where, what, and how are we in relation to composition, construction, collage, creation, craft… encountering “art” as a strange “zone of indistinction”, an “undecidable”[1], perhaps an interference, or intervention – at the renowned Venice Biennale 2015?  What lightness might we glimpse in such immersion, inundation, veritable floundering and bewilderment among “works of art” – the touted greats within the most prestigious cultural institution in the world.[2]

In a deep cleft of Agamben and Heidegger, physical and mental exhaustion, a set of European Graduate School students (which gratefully included myself) set out to engage “art” in the context of the famed Venice Biennale Exposition, assigned to look for “glimpses of lightness” – something “having little weight…alleviating…demonstrating ease or agility…mirth, levity…and a graceful slenderness”[3] OR – “lit brightly, illuminated, illuminating”.[4]  The day began hefty and hot with prospects of 89 national participations, 44 collateral events in the Giardina della Biennale plus an additional “more than 136 artists from 53 countries” at the Arsenale.[5]  We set out.

The 2015 Biennale was filled with many ambiguous / ambivalent / open works that, depending on the perspective of the observer, might be engaged with levity, mirth and playfulness or burdened by art-extraneous political, moral and conceptual communiqués and paraphernalia.  I found myself wondering if art was happening in such a context – a deluge and glut of politics, morality and economy.  I began looking at things curious if messages could be untangled, read past and through, passed by: emotional, commercial, personal, national, site-specific – querying – “what here is ‘being raised, set forth, set up’? (Heidegger).  ARTing: can we come to art through artists and artworks and exhibitions?[6]

Considering art as Riss – rift – an outline, sketch, drawing and marking setting into relief a “moment” or “space,” a new relation hard to distinguish, perhaps undecidable, opportunities of encounter with encountering-itself, being – itself – being, in relation to.  A passage.  Something beyond good and evil (ethics); beyond division, calculation and measure of perception (subject/object, this/that, here/there) (ontology); beyond narcissism (me/you, us/them, him/her) (epistemology); beyond laws and institutions and individuality (ours/theirs, who/what, when/where) and so on… Toward activation – activity + occurrence, an awareness, a-tension at/of/with/in NOW? [ultimate zone of indistinction and undecidability].  Play?  Lightness?  Resisting the urge to pronounce, proclaim, propose; swerving past strife, through strife – holding open? – Art…as Being…an open question?  Some undoing in its doing, some common toggling call to a present, re-present, encounter?  Are we able to tear up a world in an activity of mending, assembling and combining it (rift)?  To set up a world in an activity of revealing (veiling/unveiling) as a poet might do (oscillating signs) with a semiotic semantic, ex-hibit-ing, exposing, en-light-ening – making lines instead of following them, opening spaces rather than closing, becoming in difference to became?  I wondered what might result if we scrambled the sites/sights on some randomizing algorithm of names/nations/pavilions or scrambled the labels and ‘statements’ according to same.  To undo in order to Art.

So what rends?  What can tear through the amalgams and overlays we bring to each encounter with one another, with the world?  What might cause a rift to occur in my own perceptions, predispositions, cares, concerns, propensities?  Where do the potentialities lie?  What will bring me to the open?  Below are a few works I encountered in the heat and dust and exhaustion of 2015’s 56th La Biennale di Venezia that re-oriented me, turned me into at least two sides of a chasm, illuminated a seeing-space, a being-space for me – provided me with glimpses of lightness.

Blind Spot.”[7] The first work that woke me, intervened, destabilized and shifted my course was Blind Spot by Mykola Ridnyi (Ukraine) located in the Arsenale.  Working from the ophthalmologic  analysis of scotomas – areas of partial alterations or degenerated acuity in our normal fields of vision that are surrounded by normative and well-preserved views.  We all have them, aspects we never see clearly – biologically, culturally, psychologically and personally.  Scotoma is not a condition to be overcome, but to be aware of.  As I engaged the Biennale, I recognized that artists, nations, participants and audiences all live their existences with “Blind Spots.”  The effortful work to account for them only serves to expose further areas where “things disappear on us.”[8]  Accompanied by C-prints painted with various exemplars of scotomic affect, Ridnyi’s installation ripped an awareness into me that opened my emotional reactivity to nation-state pavilions and exhibits, artists compromises to culture and fame, my own dear lack of self-critique and clear-sightedness, and the ever open question of how and what we engage in our being-alive, relating, and “reading”/”seeing” the world.

Not far beyond “Blind Spot” resided Ricardo Brey’s “Every life is a fire (2009-ongoing,.”[9] intricate, redolent boxes opening out in glass cases – the layers, complex details and labyrinthine qualities of our coagulating, webbing construction of idiosyncratic interpretations of the world.  “The box is our head,” he notes, “the box is the cave… is the attic… is the memory and the world.” The boxes are an attempt to represent the intensifications of internal modes and their relationships in spatial terms; and what results is a “hermeneutics of the soul” that creates “a topography of the mind.” Articulated like a labyrinth or mandala, Brey considers the box-mind compound the “most metaphysical project” he has attempted, nothing less than “a workshop to produce the invisible” or “the countless” that is also “the way out and the jail.”[10]  The attempt to articulate the inarticulable, visualize the unseen, expose blind spots through elaborate archiving and representation and obsessive care and attention also ripped into my own desperate strivings for self-awareness, knowledge and authenticity.

And finally, yet in retrospect to my Biennale’d day, an early return…Marco Maggi’s Global Myopia (Pencil + Paper) (Uruguay Pavilion) and, particularly, his piece at the entrance to the show: “Drawing Machine (nine possible starting points)” (image above).  Options.  Beginnings.  Openings.  In what direction will the “drawing” move?  From what emphases and characteristics?  What intricacies of our histories and culture, memories and desires, experiences and imaginations will direct the ensuing mark of us in relation to our world, ourselves, our perception, one another?  Maggi reports, powerfully, that “ the only subject of Global Myopia is drawing.”[11]  Lines begun – a movement, a glance, a word, a new distinction.  Rifts and rendings, gaps and site-specificities, we inscribe – blindly, collectively, collaboratively, actively and in elaborate idiosyncratic ways both laden and illuminating – glimpses of lightness outlining our crossings, traversals and conduct through All the World’s Futures.[12]

References

Agamben, G. (1993). The coming community. Minneapolis : Minneapolis :

Agamben, G. (1998). Homo sacer. Sovereign power and bare life. Stanford, Calif. : Stanford, Calif. :

Agamben, G. (1999a). Potentialities : collected essays in philosophy. Stanford, Calif. : Stanford, Calif. :

Agamben, G. (1999b). The man without content. Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, 1999.

Agamben, G. (2004). The open man and animal. Stanford, Calif. : Stanford, Calif. :

Blind spot – Mykola Ridnyi. (2015). Retrieved August 30, 2015, from http://www.mykolaridnyi.com/works/blind-spot

Every life is a fire. (2015). Retrieved August 30, 2015, from http://www.ricardobrey.com/every-life-is-a-fire.html

Every life is a fire. (n.d.). Retrieved August 30, 2015, from http://www.ricardobrey.com/every-life-is-a-fire.html

Heidegger, M., & Heidegger, M. (1977). Basic writings from Being and time (1927) to The task of thinking (1964) (1st ed). New York: Harper & Row.

Heimo Zobernig at the Austrian Pavilion, Venice Biennale / MOUSSE CONTEMPORARY ART MAGAZINE. (2015, May 13). Retrieved August 30, 2015, from http://moussemagazine.it/zobernig-austrian-venice-2015/

La Biennale di Venezia – Biennale Arte 2015: All The World’s Futures. (2015). Retrieved August 30, 2015, from http://www.labiennale.org/en/art/news/05-03.html

La Biennale di Venezia – History of the Venice Biennale. (2015). Retrieved August 30, 2015, from http://www.labiennale.org/en/biennale/history/

La Biennale di Venezia – Home. (2015). Retrieved August 30, 2015, from http://www.labiennale.org/en/Home.html

lightness, n.1. (2015). OED Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://www.oed.com.proxy.wichita.edu/view/Entry/108230

lightness, n.2. (2015). OED Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://www.oed.com.proxy.wichita.edu/view/Entry/108231

Welcome. (2015). Retrieved August 30, 2015, from http://www.marcomaggi.org/welcome/

 

[1] (Agamben, 1993, 1999a, 1999b)

[2] (“La Biennale di Venezia – History of the Venice Biennale,” 2015)

[3] (“lightness, n.1,” 2015)

[4] (“lightness, n.2,” 2015)

[5] (“La Biennale di Venezia – Biennale Arte 2015: All The World’s Futures,” 2015)

[6] (Heidegger & Heidegger, 1977)

[7] (“Blind spot – Mykola Ridnyi,” 2015)

[8] (“Blind spot – Mykola Ridnyi,” 2015)

[9] (“Welcome,” 2015)

[10] (“Every life is a fire,” 2015)

[11] (“Welcome,” 2015)

[12] (“La Biennale di Venezia – Biennale Arte 2015: All The World’s Futures,” 2015)


Librarian & Litterateur…

Makeover Day

I am not a scholar.  I know that now.

I am middle-aged.

I have pursued no discipline, field, or “area of knowledge” to its limits.

“Core literature.”

Librarian.  “Litterateur” (awful sound).  These.

Exploring fields: science, literature, philosophy, history, critical thought – through the “core literature” – the Canons of the Field.

Only so far.

Not to the ends.

What a novelist needs.  Knowledge a little beyond average, a little obsessive, a little “never satisfied.”

A librarian: able to discourse with “Scholars” in any field – enough terminology, vocabulary, “core knowledge.”

“Jack of all trades, king of none.”

Yes, that.

Librarian.  Litterateur.  (I don’t know what else to call it).

Me.

Degrees in Classical Music, Theology, Philosophy, Information Science, Art & Critical Thought.

It’s something.

But not “scholarship”.

Core Knowledge.

Trying to be human.

Trying to know what I need to know to be that.

Trying to be.


Secret 2

i want never to encounter work I wish to edit


A little secret

i hope all that goes into keeping me alive, is worth it


Wisdom

Ouroboros

“If there is any irreverence in my own work, I hope it is the irreverence I bear in mistrusting my own sincere self, which then sincerely mistrusts the irreverent me.  If there is a bottom to this, I think it is a life’s work”

-Mary Ruefle-


Education

egs

“You simply cannot learn and know at the same time,

and this is a frustration we all must bear.

-Mary Ruefle-


Findings

we are all one question, and the best answer seems to be love – a connection between things.

– Mary Ruefle –


James Elkins

Art Historian

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