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Posted 11.01.16

Fine Art students review their trip to the Venice Biennale 2015

By Sarah Packer

Chiharu Shiotat at the Venice Biennale 2015.

As part of our BA (Hons) Fine Art programme, students visited Venice, Italy for the 2015 Venice Biennale – one of the most important international contemporary art exhibitions – and the chance to explore what many have said to be the most beautiful and art historically rich site in the world.

From sculptures constructed of knives to traditional chinese craft, second year students Vesislava Zheleva and Louise Riou-Djukic reviewed the Biennale titled ‘All the World’s Futures’ through letters to each other after their visit in November.

Vesislava to Louise:

Dear Louise, I am writing to you about my visit to the Venice Biennale. It was amazing that we got to go as part of the BA (Hons) Fine Art programme here at the college. I was equally curious and excited as to what we would see.

Our first stop was to the Giardini that housed the main international pavilions. Although we are all students on the same course, we are interested in many different things.

The Venice Biennale as an art event is so diverse, everyone finds their own way that is interesting or relevant to them. I was keen to see as much as I could, especially looking out for looking for artists’ videos and films.  

Francesco Ruiz at the Venice Biennale

Some other pavilions used the opportunity of displaying work to explore the country's success and cultural significance, as China's pavilion did mixing culture and politics. My first day finished with the exhibition in the curated Central Pavilion - ‘All the World's Futures’ which was the overriding title of the Biennale this year.

The Venice Biennale as an art event is so diverse, everyone finds their own way that is interesting or relevant to them. I was keen to see as much as I could, especially looking out for looking for artists’ videos and films. — Vesislava Zhelava.

As much as I tried, there was no way I could see all of the artworks in the Biennale, in fact shortly after the group gathered at the Venice airport to leave, and we were talking about what we saw, I found out that I had missed a lot more than I thought – a whole floor from one of the pavilions!

I am so glad that I had the chance to be in Venice for the Biennale. From the work I did see, I tried to understand and take part in it, like tearing the pages of Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige ‘Latent images’ works.

It is not easy to shorten the whole experience in a single letter. For real, this trip was an adventure that has left a remarkable trace which will continue to shape our perception of art.

Louise to Vesislava:

Dear Vesi, I'm not sure that a letter would be enough to tell you everything I think about the Biennale, and in a way it's consistent with the idea that two days are not enough to see everything.

Even if you focused on one venue, it would probably have taken more than a week to have a look at every single piece and appreciate the whole experience. And I know that in a way you may be disappointed that you hadn't seen everything.

Ibrahim Mahama at Venice Biennale 2015.

But maybe it's a good thing that we didn't get to see the whole of it. It leaves some mystery and some magic to it. It also leaves some hope, as well. Hope, indeed, because when you think about the title, ‘All the World's Futures’ and you look at the artwork and at the themes, the sight isn't the most positive.

The first things you see when you enter the Arsenale show is not only the beauty of the venue, but it's also sculptures made out of knives by Abdel Abdessemed and scary neon messages by Bruce Nauman saying ‘Eat/Death’.

The opportunity was great and I think we can both agree on that. I think it's actually rather inspiring seeing the variety of nationality, artworks, medias, cultures and styles in the biennale, it kind of tells us that anyone could go there. — Louise Riou-Djukic

Continuing in the show you come across beautiful sculptures by Monica Bonvicini made out of chainsaws dipped in black paint. Even in the Pavilions, I felt that an idea of violence, decay and war was very present, for example with the work of Fiona Hall in the Australian Pavilion in the Giardini, ‘Wrong Way Time’, or the big tank-animal in the Indonesian Pavilion, ‘Voyage Trokomod’.

This was not the only idea though. Some works were more positive, or a bit nostalgic, looking at the past to build the future, keeping the tradition in mind like the work of Qiu Zhijie in the Arsenale show, using the delicacy of traditional chinese crafts.

Bruce Nauman

At the same time, I really enjoyed the Canadian and the Latvian pavilions (BGL’s ‘Canadassimo’ and ‘Armpit’ by Katrīna Neiburga and Andris Eglītis respectively). I don't know if you had the same feeling about those, but I felt that they were trying to make new and creative things with the past and the everyday.

I'm trying to find what really stood out for me, and I think it was people's reactions. I know that I've appreciated some of the artworks more because of someone's reaction to it.

People being shocked by Sarah Lucas' work, the truncated female form, and people not noticing the French Pavilions moving tree by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot (I really think this is one of my favourites), people wondering whether or not they are allowed to step on the blue granular sand in the Kosovo's pavilion.

The opportunity was great and I think we can both agree on that. I think it's actually rather inspiring seeing the variety of nationality, artworks, medias, cultures and styles in the biennale, it kind of tells us that anyone could go there.


Photos by Vesislava Zheleva and Louise Riou-Djukic.

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