56TH VENICE BIENNALE
May 10th, 2015

There is a Rolls-Royce pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale – a gorgeous palazzo on the Grand Canal with a garden full of scented roses. Inside, British artist Isaac Julien is showing his equally fetching views of sparkling glacier caves in outermost Iceland. Visions of diamond-bright ice and cascading blue water flow across five film screens to the brimming-point of saturation, with the figure of the Spirit of Ecstasy cunningly worked into the swirl. These works could double as promos for the country as well as the luxury brand.

Down the canal, however, Julien is putting on a different front altogether in the official Giardini, staging a live reading of Das Kapital in its entirety in the Biennale’s new spoken-word venue, Arena. No doubt he can live with the preposterous contradictions involved. But the double act is emblematic of this 56th edition of the world’s grandest art event, which is nothing if not explicitly critical of capitalism, consumerism and filthy lucre while relying upon them all for its very lifeblood.

The big thematic show in the Italian pavilion, organised by the Biennale’s first African curator, Okwui Enwezor, is full of ladies in Louboutins picking their way nervously through an assault course of videos about global starvation, industrial pollution and the atrocious conditions of garment workers in developing countries. Whole galleries are given over to ecology and the arms trade. Coal sacks dangle like trade union banners from the walls to put us in mind of the decline in mining, and this year’s Golden Lion award goes to the Ghanaian artistEl Anatsui for his sumptuous hangings – large enough to cover palazzo facades – made out of flattened bottle tops woven together with fine copper wire; consumption transformed into beauty…

Writes Laura Cunning in The Observer

Link to the full article here / Link to The Guardian here



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