Whistle Stop tour around the Venice Biennial from my/our memory*

4-7 October 2013, with Louise Scullion

Arrival from Edinburgh at Marco Polo, bus, vaporetto, check in Hotel la Meridiana at Lido.
Quick espresso, vaporetto, San Marco. Search for Scotland palazzo.

Scotland+Venice 2013
Corinne Sworn, Duncan Campbell, Hailey Tomkins
We had just arrived and made this our first trip, as true patriots. Took a while to find Palazzo Pisani, but I don’t mind, this is what makes Venice exciting to me. It’s all a kind of treasure hunt. A little sign led us to it, the sign was cute. Now, four flights up. I am glad I did not persuade my mum to come. She would have had to stay below. On arrival, big room, with attendants, habitat style tables with info. The palazzo is of a simple nature, and you wished you knew how it was inhabited in the past. When no art is in it. No more, no less. Hailey’s work paintings framed photos and coloured water bottles on the Parquet floor. Duncan, two films in b/w, one a finding, beautiful, African masks, just my thing, the other a film about dancers in order, almost military. Not sure about the presentation. It’s the same as next door Corinne’s, a film, interesting for an ex anthropologist like me, about a village In Peru where her anthropologist dad has visited some decades before, other work was a Glasgow Victorian tiled floor, not sure how they relate. Not sure how it all relates.
Judgement withheld.
Would have liked to have seen a show of just one of these artists, (Duncan Campbell, the Marker and Resnais film was great to see… the appropriation of others culture very apt in the Biennale context), as a whole though, the show was somewhat underwhelming. Scotland’s advertising was a bit dull, don’t think it would have pulled in many punters unless as patriotic as us (Irelands posters were really arresting and noticeable in all sorts of strange Venetian alleyways)

Hayley Tompkins' exhibition
Hayley Tompkins’ exhibition



Ariel Guzik
Large scale sound piece in amazing baroque church. Splendid venue. Good making use of it.
A contemporary architectural construction of timber and mirror was inserted into the vast church space to house Guzik’s 4m high(?) strung ‘machine’ which subsequently captured the acoustics of the building and amplified these into the space, two small monitors with earphones also in timber space. Mexico’s literature was very good, inventive graphics and enticed us in before we got there.

Aperol. Mi piage tanto. Bouquet of pepperoni on a vegetable stall. Tired, head back to Lido. Beer. Bed.


Great Britain
English Magic
Jeremy Deller
Great start of the day. This is and stays the best. London flint stones, car scrapyards and drawing say Iraq soldiers of Basra, of Tony Blair, of Kelly. Steelband music and birds of prey. Also some thoughts from William Morris. Best was the tea room, nice English tea. But what about all those water bottles. What about them? Is Italian water no good? At 40 cups per hour, this = 64 plastic bottles a day x 151 days of Biennial = 9646 or so bottles. Come on England!
C!!!! (Despite the excessive plastic bottles)
Mindful we saw this when fresh and not art jaded, also more able to appreciate the subtlety of native politics and humour never the less this was a damn fine show, sharp, witty and above all ambitious.

Jeremy Deller_Blair

Ai Wei Wei, Romuald Karamakar, Santu Mofokeng, Dayanita Singh.
Four artists, all of non German origin. Ai Wei Wei with his chairs from the Quing dynasty has had already a lot of furore in the press. Romuald’s work was very political, Santus work very interesting questioning ancestor ship. Dayanita -must have missed this. And all this in the French pavilion. Is trying to show how international you are becoming a bit desperate?
Ai Wei Wei’s work very memorable and a beautiful distilled visualisation of the changing stability of ideologies

Ravel Ravel Unravel
Anri Sala.
Loved this work. Love Ravel anyway. The idea of unravelling music is unique (to me). Simple but beautiful, simply beautiful.
Luxuriously installed (acres of pointy foam acoustic wall aggressively supervised by invigilator!) but a bit of a one liner?

Music for Silence
Shary Boyle
Large woman in white plaster. Changing light, first white then illuminated, then very colourful.
C!! L!!

Czech Republic and Slovak Republic
Still the same place
Petra Feriancová SL, Zbyněk Baladrán
Loads of things: pigeon pictures, shells from below… Can’t remember which was which artist, or maybe they work together, should look this up.
Interesting film about layers of memory becoming sedimentary (one of many shows that referred to geology in the biennale shows we saw)

abstract speaking
Koki Tanaka
This one I really like. He would be one I need to seek out. Not sure if it is the best for the Biennial. But he could be good for me. Is it a he? Let’s assume. He undertakes a lot of walks, which always interest me. But he does other communal things, like a haircut with 5 hairdressers cutting at the same time. Early fun, really enjoyable, but a lot to read, lot to document, and this is why I am not sure if it lends itself to the Biennial. There is too much on, people don’t have time to read all this. Also the same old quest whether it is still an art work, if it happened in other places. Never mind, I like it. I will seek him out.
Find this sort of self-conscious chaos and over ‘curated’ type of installation really dull

Valentin Carron
can’t remember anything
Big metal snake wound in and out of room, black and white pictures on wall…?

Nordic pavilion
Falling Trees
Terike Haapoja
Trees with light bulbs giving energy. Reflective pool. Autopsy imagery of dead animals, cows, etc.
Wanted to like this more than I did…

Jesper Just
Missed the entrance. Thought the concrete was it. Sorry Jesper.

Room with broken sentence
Mark Manders
Lots of clay. Lots of fictive newspaper on the wall.
Really liked this show, works looked like they were made of wet unfired grey clay (but suspect they weren’t) sensitive sculptures, weights and balances, a rich and evolved visual language

Kreupelhout / Cripplewood
Berlinde de Bruyckere
A work called Kreupelhout, like cripple wood dedicated to a dead tree and the life within it. One big piece. Louise loved it.
Bit of a fan of this artist, not what I expected… darkened room, somewhat post apocalyptic, mournful, ambitious evolved work

Lara Almarcegui
Work based on a manmade island near Murano, made of Murano rubble and glass left overs. So it becomes all fairly colourful. Video about tit all. A great mass of building rubble based in exhibition room, sand, rubble, glass. Impressionante
Would have liked to have seen genuine rubble from reclaimed island


Vadim Zakharov
Only women are allowed to go into the main room with plastic umbrellas, as many coins fall on their head from the cupola high above. The money goes back into a bucket, pulled up by a man, and then by a money machine. Men are allowed to observe from the railings above.
Ambitious show, but felt rather manipulated, so stole one of the Danaë!

El arte urbane. Una estética de la subversion
no one artist
Lots about graffiti in Caracs. Can`t remember much
C! L0

Triple Point
Sara Sze.
Colourful and delicate work of all shapes, taking the globe circuit as a starting point. Last room devoted to the construction of boulders, which we later found also in the street. Louise found it a but messy, I found it fun like a playhouse, reminded me of battling with the children, must clear the mess room in my own house.
As a huge fan of boulders I really liked elements of this installation! Inventive and visually rich collections of objects and materials that take you on strange little on / off world journeys, would have liked a bit more editing though to really savour the perfect bits

Louise gets the coffee. Long queue. It’s cold. Thanks for the panini from la Meridiana.

The Workshop
Gilad Ratman
Workshop in pavilion, with loudspeakers. People having fun. But always same kind of people. Student types. The clay heads were displayed with the microphone and so was the sound. Poses interesting questions about ownership, etc. can a workshop be an artwork?
C!! L!!

Here art grows on trees
Simryn Gill
Wallpaper with lots of insect like drawings, one of it falling down. Guess this was not meant to be the case. Lots of circular found objects nailed to the wall, like washers. Huge metal bowl.
C! L!!

Imitation of Life
Mathias Poledna
Fun trick film in the making, bird and donkey and American singing in the making. But is it the right thing at the Biennial? Come on Austria.
I really liked this work, strange fusion between old world escapism and contemporary game fantasy worlds (with a nod and a wink to Studio Ghibli too?) the refrain in the song sings “are you foolin me?”

Hélio Fervenza and Odires Mlászho .
Can’t remember. Sorry Brazil.
More looped materials, some innovative constructions using law encyclopaedias(?) arranged in architectural grids and strange snaking shapes!

Nothing between us
Vladimir Perić and Miloš Tomić
Loved that one. Milos video work was, just magical.
All around the idea of everyday sound and how it can make music, waking up his son, forks on the kitchen table; but what about his wife? She must get insane. The other one, Vladimir had a museum of childhood, the nicest of that one was a selection of nicely folded old camera bags which made animal faces and he called it ‘photo safari’. Very clever. Also walls of mickey mice and also one of many different razor blades (not sure about the childhood reference).
Both works really good, but Tomic film especially wonderful, funny, insightful, devotional… love of a child who seems to wake every morning with a smile not far away from his lips, and captures his father’s full attention!
C!!! L!!!

Treasures of Knowledge

I can hardly remember, something with sarcophaguses. Bit clumsy. No curator as far as I can see. Come on Egypt. Trust it.
C! L!

Venice Pavillion

Marya Kazoun, Mimmo Roselli, Marialuisa Tadei, Yiping Yin

Interestingly curated show about the silk way. However selection of artists a bit Hit and Miss. They came from the different stations of the silk way. The Chinese one had a tapestry on white silk in red, leaving the thread ends like a long path.
C!! L!!

Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More
Konrad Smoleński
Large bells sound, beautiful bells, lots of anticipation, at 4pm, only 3 times a day; but underwhelming; the neighbours complaint, I understand why. But still. Surely a good idea in the first place. Hence the grading.
Perfect moment feeling the vibration of these earthly bells vibrate on my chest and back
C!! L!!!

An immaterial retrospective of the Venice Biennale
Alexandra Pirici and Manuel Pelmuş.
Reinacting the Biennial throughout its history. Great idea focusing on the immaterial. Personally would have liked a bit of interpretation of what it was they were enacting at certain times. But that is just me. Otherwise great idea, as I said.
C!! L!!

History Zero
Stefanos Tsivopoulos
Now, this was a lovely video installation. An African man, I suppose an immigrant from subsaharan Africa, is looking for scrap metal. After his nightly journey, he looks into a bin, and what he finds was a bunch of flowers made of euro notes. He looks round and runs away. A man, who emerges to be an internally renown German artist arrives on his way to the gallery in Athens and he sees the trolley with the scrap. He takes it, it becomes the artwork, that a wealthy lady bought. She had forgotten that she had bought it, and so she makes the flowers of the money she had laid aside for the delivery, she puts the flowers in the bin…
There is also a wonderful interpretation all about the history and anthropology of money in the foyer of this pavilion.
Really enjoyed the background information about money (and have diligently documented for all the students I know whose work this is a central theme) the 3 films were very well done, brilliantly cyclical and used the three spaces wisely

Falling Trees
Antti Laitinen
Birches made from felled birches, fairly crude. More interesting a film about a installation of ice cubes made from the frozen lake.
Felt I’ve seen this work in every degree show over last decade

Time (Time) Time
Wifredo Díaz Valdéz
sorry closed.

To Breathe
Big queue, all day. Waiting in anticipation. Take shoes off. Then walk in, but nothing overwhelming, made better mirror experiences at the Oktoberfest in Munich as a child. Then queue for the dark room. OMG. Nice brochure, hence the rating.
We were given a brochure for Korea that made this a must see for us, but perhaps there was other work elsewhere? But actual pavilion install rather underwhelming, maybe Scotland were right to underplay their marketing?

vice versa

Can’t comment on this show, as we came in so late, that I just saw three rooms in a haste. Amazing work by an Austrian artist who painted the North Sea, but also the Alpensee. Or was it a Belgian artist. Yes it was. I think. Too hasty. Saw the bookshop, where I bought the catalogue.

6 pm. Get out.

sorry closed.
Never mind, find a great wee bar, with great big pizza run cola and verdure fritte.

The Starry Messenger
Bedwyr Williams
A reflection of the mosaic of the floor throughout. First a kind of telescope installation, with a transparent curtain mosaic in the background. Then you walk through 4m of darkness and then you reach the main installation, which was a beautifully crafted seating platform to watch a fun but chaotic film, which also was like a mosaic, and reflected the mosaic again. This was performed by the artist.
One of my favourite pavilions, it brilliantly responds to the marble context of Venice, I’ll never look at a terrazzo floor the same way again … squeezing the gulf between human and geological timespans. Williams style of writing reminds you of a young Alasdair Grey, surreal and ordinary gallop along at quite a lick, there was a lovely concertina leaflet available that tells a satellite story of the inhabitants of a strangely sensitive city… where people, buildings and pigeons are all mindful… a real gift to cherish!

Francesc Torres
The artist asked 8 unemployed people in Barcelona to identify one artwork they treasure, and then also one artwork they like in the MACBA, the main contemporary art museum there. This was then documented on film and photo and also in interview style text. A man from Senegal, a woman who was brought up in a children’s home, she loved a Snow White. A man who had a good job and lost it, he had a picture of Jesus with his late brothers head on. He was persuaded to hand over this image for the exhibition.
Interesting documentation but no real visual interpretation

Meet Camilla, young art historian at the Serra cafe. She has volunteered here, and knows lots of insider stories. She joins us for the morning.
Bought artichoque, carccofio seeds for next year in the garden. Also raddiccio.
It rains so much. Need to get an umbrella. From an Asian trader.

Portable Nation
Range of artists and environmentalists, etc.
A great venue, very run down but it fitted the artwork, which concentrated on telling the story of the Maldives and how they might disappear in a few years to come. Loved the bowl vases Witt the water looking thought to the opposite side of the canal. Well curated, really well.
C!! L!

In the Maledives
In the Maledives

several artists

About belief systems, then and now. Liked the one of corn on the cob, but would have been better if real and not plastic. Also one with charcoal wood. and then a room covered in sand, that looked nice with the colourful pictures. Interesting to see Christine Eugene curating a room with Colonel. An artist I worked with back in 2004 to test Scottishness. I met him at the Biennial then on a park bank.
C!! L!

It’s getting really wet now. I am molesting people with the spikes on my bright orange umbrella across the ponte piccoli.

San Marco

This is Not a Taiwan pavilion
Bernd Behr, Hsu Chia-Wei, Katherine Seda,+BATEZO MIKILU.
Theatrical piece of a devil dancer at night time, surrounded with atmospheric light. Louise got the script for it, which I thought it was part of the show. Silly me.
C!! L !!!

Piazza San Marco flooded, people walk on some kind of heightened cat walk. They have plastic envelopes over their shoes. Interesting, can’t find them to buy.

Quick coffee to keep us going.

The Enclave
Trevor Tweeten, Ben Frost.
Beautiful. Photos with infra red light technique, Eastern Congo, Kikuyus region, soldiers, men, women, boys, all in pink, a different type of war documentation, says the artist, a forgotten war, will it ever end, been nearby recently, bordering Uganda, Rwenzori mountains, all peace now, but not then, when there was peace here, not then, not then, all dark now, African music, by a small girl, all bright again, the artist sells his work for 4500 a print, money goes somewhere good. People there were wearing necklaces with paper beads.
– NT.
Memorable show, audiences hung about these spaces for ages! …Using a discontinued military film used to pic out enemy camouflage amongst miles of juggle landscape, the film turns all vegetation magenta pink, soldiers tensely pick their way through these landscape with Kalashnikov’s brushing the tips of Barbie pink ferns, Nature witnesses mans endeavors, a different take on war photography.

Ireland pavilion with gondola station
Ireland pavilion with gondola station

Gondola across the canale Grande. Sotto il ponte, sotto il ponte, di Rialto…
L: My first ever time in a Gondola! Have to take a picture to show my sister… but just as I suspected about 20 tourists have take our picture too!!! (Uncomfortable Scot out of comfort zone and At Ease in the World AustroGerman… forever preserved)

Welcome to Iraq
11 artists from Baghdad, Bassra and Kurdistan
Gondola across to the pavilion. Best one, carpet on floor, film about alcohol smugglers, on the Iranian Iraqi border, sitting on a plush canapé, bedroom rooms have furniture made of cardboard, there is even a tea room here, a real Arab tea room, Smuggling from Kurdistan to Iran, on donkeys, no on horse, great tea.
– NT
Great to see this work in the context of a Venetian house (like Pitenweem arts festival only grander!) Cartoon works sharply observed … Must share unique tea making technique with ‘Tea Jenny’ husband back home!

Iraq pavillion
Iraq pavilion
Tea at Iraq pavilion
Tea at Iraq pavilion


Katrín Sigurdardóttir
A bit off piste, but well worth it; a pretty run down open air place where the artist has made a new floor in Venetian mosaic style.
– T
Beautiful drawing in this cool to the touch mosaic work, greys and whites like ash and ice come together, cultured and evolved design covering over temporary (chipboard) façade.

Steel- Life, Still-Life
Norayr Kasper
Referred to factor workers in Armenia. Very nice photographic work on silk.
Big clumsy ferrous metal stands brilliantly contrast with the delicate silk prints they present, make me think of Carlo Scarpa (saw the Olivetti shop in San Marco’s Square.. first ever time I’ve seen a real Carlo Scarpa building in the flesh!)

alley ways, canale grande.

Between the Sky and the Earth
Kata Mijatović
Work about dreams, you cold write you dream in here. A blog of dreams, but only the one from sleeps.
– NT
Life’s too short to have to listen to other folks dreams…L0

steps up, steps down.

Encyclopaedic City
Edson Chaga fancy pavilion, with loads of icons and amazing faience dishes too. Amidst this the from Luanda in big stacks. Upstairs further work, mail paintings.
– NT
C!! L!

The Monument to a Monument
Mykola Ridnyi, Hamlet Zinkoskyi, Zhanna Kadyrova’s.
Zhanna made this monument to a monument that was quite I Teesside, just to any more. then there was Mykolav who made a film of a to be dismantled monument to Lenin and Stalin.
Also an installation by Hamlet of drawings, many of them in tiny matchboxes.
– NT
Using very modest materials (A4 paper, biro pens, matchbox frames) an amazing array of intense drawings are presented… money scarce students back home would particularly appreciate this

Love me Love me not
Several artists.
A feast to the topic of ornaments. They had quite a few artists there. The ones I can remember were when you entered this fierce red installation of sofas and carpets, etc. quite intense, but fun. Then you had upstairs a massive series of round gilded frames with weddings and other photos of family and communal life in it, also a room with beautiful prints on Perspex, and then this projection against random appearing wire, but what came out was actually really nice ornamental shadows. One of this is worked only with a camera.
C!!! L!!

Image Think
Irena Lagator Pejovic
Installation with golden wires and string music.

Central Asian pavilion
Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, kasachstan and Krygyzstan.
A bright place with a key work, a just like structure but in form of a tunnel, with basketry and white cloth; then a whole wall of drawings of the smallest little men, must have taken years to do that ; film about two women which r playing a string instrument.
C!!! L!!

Find San Marco.

La Perversión de lo clásico: Anarquía de los relatos
several artists
sorry closed. again.

Louise needs to shop. See Olivetti shop with its furniture. More pizza, too tired to read the menu. Thanks there is vino rosso. Off to the Lido and our lovely La Meridiana.

Exhausted but happy. Write up time.

L: Thank God Claudia was navigating I wouldn’t have found half of these venues, great opportunity to see so much work, alas no time to do the Arsenale, but feel refuelled…. And what an amazing city!

* this account is purely taken from my/our memory (apart from name of artist and exhibition). No more no less. No reference material was consulted. It was more an exercise to find out, how much of the art one can take in 2.5 days, the average time curators spend in Venice during the Biennial.

Coding: Louise and I allowed ourselves to rate the exhibitions from 1-3 from our spontaneous memories. On exceptions we gave a Zero. On other exceptions we gave bonus exclamation mark.
During the intensive search for art across the countries across Venice, I became more and more interested in the notion of hospitality in art. Hence some of the coding.

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