VENICE, Arsenale, June 7

Camille Henrot, video, at the Arsenale, Venice

Massimiliano Gioni’s curated exhibition,“The Encyclopedic Palace”, continues at the Arsenale, along with the presentation of additional national pavilions. As mentioned previously, French artist, Camille Henrot, won the prize for best emerging young artist. Her video at the Arsenale exemplifies Gioni’s thesis concerning the quest for universal knowledge. The piece is a mesmerizing compendium of images and information drawn from biology, anthropology, philosophy, religion and literature. She attempts to capture the genesis of everything, recounted in a male voice that intermittently sounds like poetry, chanting or scientific dogma.

Ryan Trecartin, video, at the Arsenale, Venice

Video is the dominant mode of image delivery throughout the show. Ryan Trecartin has an effective installation with multiple video screens set in a sculptural environment. Others videos of interest were by Steve McQueen, Neil Beloufa, Ed Atkins, Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, and Yuri Ancarani, to mention a few.

Zhang Xiaotao, animated video, Chinese Pavilion, Arsenale

Videos and mixed media sculpture, Latin American Pavilion, Arsenale

There were more videos than one could watch in an afternoon so they need to captivate immediately to gain attention. The animated work of Chinese artist, Zhang Xiaotao is particularly compelling. He is showing three video works created over five years in the Chinese Pavilion. The Latin American Pavilion was a combination of many videos by artists from different countries surrounding object sculpture.

Phyllida Barlow, mixed media sculpture, Arsenale, Venice

Matthew Monahan, bronze sculpture, Arsenale, Venice

Abstract and representational sculpture was present throughout the Gioni exhibition. Of note is work by British artist, Phyllida Barlow, made of foam, cement, sand, plastic and paint. I am also a fan of the imaginative, bronze sculpture of Los Angeles-based artist, Matthew Monahan.


In addition to the Giardini and the Arsenale, many collateral shows are taking place around the city of Venice. One I was keenly anticipating is Ai Weiwei’s installation describing his brutal incarceration in Beijing. He had reported that guards never left his side. To see inside his metal constructions, the viewer must stand on a box, staring down from above or peer through bars from the side of the sculptures. The viewer becomes the witness. The presentation within the Chiesa di S. Antonin makes the work even more poignant.

Ai Weiwei, sculpture interior, Chiesa di S. Antonin, Venice

Ai Weiwei, sculpture interior, Chiesa di S. Antonin, Venice

Outside the exhibition, the warm Mediterranean sun and the breeze off the Venice canals provided welcome respite from the challenging thoughts of the day. A chilled Prosecco and a few crostini beckoned in the late afternoon.

The Grand Canal from Academia Bridge, 6:30 pm

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