Image from Swoon
It's the Venice Biennale again, the celebrity and champagne studded art fair, where it's not clear whether the parties or the art are what's on show. Each country has a pavilion on the shores of the magical city, and each pavilion features a famous artist.
Floating along the shores will be a fleet of three intricately hand crafted vessels, The Swimming Cities of Serenissima . Designed by the artists' group SWOON, the boats are built from salvaged materials, including modified Mercedes car motors and assorted recycled pieces. Venice is a floating city that shouldn't exist and you could say the same thing about this mystical creation.
Image from Swoon
Last seen in New York City in 2008, Swoon is a community of artists that comes together for special projects such as this. The 3 boats have travelled from the coast of Slovenia down to Venice, with a crew of artists and friends.
But they don't consider this a strictly environmental project, saying that "as a rule, our crew-members are well-intentioned, live lives of relatively small footprints, and that we do our best to promote lifestyles of the future. However, we would be the first to admit that Swimming Cities as it currently exists, is neither sustainable, nor an energy-efficient operation."
Other artists who may also not consider themselves strictly environmental include the famous American Robert Rauschenberg. His "Gluts" series is made up of scraps and bits of old chairs, car pieces, exhaust pipes, radiator grills, motors and pieces of metal, all gathered from a local junkyard near his home in Florida. He made these into a series of sculptures. Commenting on the title of the works he said: "It's a time of glut. Greed is rampant. I'm just exposing it, trying to wake people up. I simply want to present people with their ruins. I think of the Gluts as souvenirs without nostalgia. What they are really meant to do is give people an experience of looking at everything in terms of what its many possibilities might be."
Spaniard Jorge Otero-Pailos sees beauty in the pollution of Venice. His work, The Ethics of Dust, examines the world's pollution by using cutting-edge technology. with special materials, he scientifically removed and preserved the dust settled on a wall of the historic Doge's Palace. Then he has mounted that fabric and hung it. He hopes that viewers will see it "as a large-scale abstraction before identifying the compositional crud and the subtle imprint of wall features, such as the mortar between the stones."
The Czech Slovak pavilion features Roman Ondák. He has simply allowed the gardens growing around the building to grow right through his pavilion so that the building becomes meaningless. He has planted trees and shrubs on either side of a path that runs through the space. It is just an open box, with doors removed at either end, which visitors walk through, apparently "uncertain of beginning, middle or indeed of the art itself, of what is inside and what is out." Definitely this project has the smallest possible environmental footprint as the gardens will be used to restore the grounds around them after a summer's worth of crowds have done their damage.
In contrast, Italian Lara Favaretto had constructed a swamp that is all mud and watery plants. The Italian artist has described it as "a treasure trove of empty tombs", memorialising the dead, including a Dutch artist who was lost at sea and the chess champion Bobby Fischer. Always strange and never dull, the show is on until November.
Image from designboom
Graphic artists Shepard Fairey, of the Obama poster fame, is also in Venice with a series of 3 murals in support of a restoration campaign for SMS venice, an organisation dedicated to preserving the architectural heritage of the city. :: Venice Biennale