The Nordic Pavilion hosts the work of artists from Finland, Norway and Sweden. This year, the focus is on the performative character of the exhibits. Starting right at the entrance with It would be nice to do something political by Toril Goksøyr and Camilla Martens, where a black man is cleaning non-stop the glass window of the pavilion throughout the biennial. An "ironic commentary on the correctness in acting politically as an artist."

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Inside, the visitor becomes the performer. With his interactive dart board installation --I, the world, things, life, Swedish artist Jacob Dahlgren invites the audience to grab plastic arrows and throw them at the black and yellow dartboard. By doing so, the public is constantly modifying the artist's work.

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Helsinki-based artist Adel Abidin has set up a little travel agency ABIDIN TRAVELS that caters for those who'd fancy vacation trips to Baghdad.

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You are greeted by a sarcastic animated commercial, advertising a special offer for a holiday in Baghdad. The video gives you all the information you need to make the most of your hols: the cars you can rent tend to be of the military types; museums are closed, but that doesn't really matter as most of their content was looted anyway; you're advised to carry around candles or a torch with extra batteries, for the times when electricity is unavailable; you are advised to stay at a hotel of the lowest possible quality (the posh ones are targeted by Fundamentalist Muslims, or the National Forces), etc.

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If the adventure tempts you, a computer is at hand to book your fly (you can also do it online.)

In a darker tiny room, another video monitor shows real images of the life that Iraqis are living in Iraq. The sound is covered by the voice of an American woman welcoming visitors, and American soldiers singing and playing instruments in one of Saddam’s palaces during Fourth of July. There are also brochures and posters to take away with you.

Just outside the pavilion, Liberté, by Lars Ramberg, functions both as a piece of art and public toilets. 3 unisex and self-cleaning toilets coming from the streets of Paris were painted in red, white and blue with the inscriptions «Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité».

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They didn't work when i was there but here's what is supposed to happen: Inside the toilets, three different radio programs broadcast historical speeches; Charles De Gaulle, King Haakon VII, Franklin Roosevelt, etc accompanied by national hymns from Norway, France and USA.

My images of the pavilion.

More Baghdad: Cherry Blossoms, Shadows From Another Place - Baghdad <> San Francisco, Baghdad in Brooklyn, What I Did Last Summer, Vantage, a game about war causalities.

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Morrinho means 'little hill' in Portuguese and alludes to the shantytowns, or favela, located on the hills surrounding Rio de Janeiro.

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In 1998, kids built up a miniature reproduction of their favela (Pereirão, perched above the upper class Laranjeiras neighbourhood) using bricks and other materials left-over from building their own house. The model covers 300 square meters, and is inhabited by scavenged toys (plastic cars, little figurines carrying AK-47s or a ball, etc.) which are used to re-create scenes of everyday life in a favela: from dance events to clashes between gang members.

Morrinho is so true-to-life that it was mistaken for a war plan. “The police told us to take it down,? explains Paulo Vitor. “They thought it was a model being used by the traffickers to plan invasions of other morros (slums). "

(via)

Fame came to Morrinho in 2001 when filmmaker Fábio Gavião put together a documentary about the mini favela. Since then portions of the brick favela have traveled all over the world, the latest stop is at the Giardini of the Venice Biennale.

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A Morrinho NGO has been created to contribute to the social and economical development of the region and surrounding area. The organisation is carrying out 3 projects: TV Morrinho, independent productions and contracted productions; Morrinho Turism, guided tours of the Morrinho model and exhibition Morrinho, showing a replica model in a smaller scale in other cities.

The NGO also plans to offer workshops to provide professional skills for the residence of the "Pereirão" community. These workshops focus on areas such as audiovisual, art education, Brazillian culture, Youth and Citizenship and others.

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The favela reappears at the Arsenale in the work of photographer Paula Trope who documented the project together with the children of Morrinho. She made pin-hole cameras out of tin cans and handed them to the boys so that they could take pictures.

Bonus: a Morrinho video re-enacting a demonstration after a drug dealer is killed. With a stack of dominos playing the role of 4kg of cocaine. (via Daddy Types.)

My images on flickr.

Related: Modular favela structure.

This edition of the Venice Biennale confirmed once again that the Chinese do know what appeals to Westeners. Curator and critic Hou Hanru has invited female artists -Cao Fei, Yin Xiuzhen, Kan Xuan and Shen Yuan- to create site specific works in the spectacular petrol warehouse and in the Vergini Gardens.

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Actually that warehouse is so spectacular that you almost forget about the artworks exhibited there. Yin Xiuzhen managed to compete with the space by hanging 100 missiles, each of them shaped like TV tower and wrapped in knitted fabric, above the petrol containers (in the original project, the huge containers were covered with textiles as well.) There is an unmissable contrast between the feminine, crafty and soft texture of the textile and the masculine (the most appropriate word is "phallic") shape of the TV towers-turned-weapons which perfectly befits the traces of war and blood that the visitor can detect in the former armory.

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I briefly blogged two of the artist's previous works: International Flight, a seven-metre-long replica aeroplane, and the Portable Cities, a series which uses dirty clothes and discarded materials Xiuzhen finds in the cities she visits to create 3D models of those cities. For another of her previous works, Fashion Terrorism, she turned old pieces of clothing into soft replica of items which cannot be brought on planes (pistols, knives, axes, etc.). She then packed the items in her suitcase and traveled from Beijing to Germany, going through customs and security searches.

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Fashion Terrorism

The most talked about work is Cao Fei's exploration of the online world (yawn!) Second Life. Let me just point to New World Notes where Wagner James Au had the artist talk about her project. And to a second interview of Cao Fei at Art Fag City.

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Although the work wasn't part of the show, i can't resist posting another image and link to Cao's Cosplayer series.

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Cosplayers: Golden Fighter

Kan Xuan's contribution to the pavilion are 2 video works, the first one is a fascinating animation of a Buddhist sculpture and the other stars a naked girl dancing on a pedestal in the back of a garden. Meanwhile Shen Yuan's giant bits of baby milk bottles and accessories are scattered all over the garden.

My images.

Just had a look at my posts on the Biennale di Venezia and realized that i have mostly highlighted some rather dark projects. However, the event is far from being uniformly bleak and depressing. Here's a first example: the pavilion of the Republic of Korea, one of the most successful crowd-pleasers.

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The pavilion features the first solo show of Lee Hyungkoo whose work has been extensively blogged but as not many comments went beyond the "coolness factor" of the artist's work, the exhibition provided me with a good opportunity to have a better look at his images and sculptures.

Titled The Homo Species, the show presents two bodies of works: The Objectuals and Animatus.

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Enlarging My Right Hand with Gauntlet 1 and Altering Facial Features with Device-H5

The Objectuals deals with the "undersized Asian men" - a stereotype which the artist had to face while studying in the USA. Using optical devices he visually magnifies a part of (for example his Helmets transform particular features of his face) or the entire body.

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Detail of the HK LAB - CPR laboratory

Instead of displaying only pictures of the resulting transformations, the pavilion shows the various instruments either conveniently gathered and waiting to be used in a cold and brightly-lit clinic which might evoke a torture chamber or worn by a pseudo surgeon (Hyungkoo Lee himself either working in his "HK LAB - CPR" or walking in the empty Venice streets and sipping a coffee* through a built-in straw) in a video. Hyungkoo Lee proposes a provisional answer to the post-human issues, which encompass health and beauty, power and violence, sexuality and race, technology and simulation, with his own sharp and original interpretation.

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In Animatus series, the artist blends Hollywood cartoons and archaeology by reconstructing the skeletons of famous characters. There are only two "fossils" of such skeletons (a tiny mouse and a big Felis Catus that represent Tom & Jerry) in the pavilion, the rest is a museum-like display of pseudo-archaeological tools, drawings and findings meticulously ordered to simulate a long, precise and scientific reconstruction of the bodies.

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The work of Hyungkoo Lee is regarded as the result of performances since his own body is the starting point of his work. In this sense, the staged laboratory is a kind of mobile studio for his work. As his laboratory and performance in the exhibition reveals the bases of his work and at the same time shading illusions on the boundary between art and pseudo-science, he conjures up an ironical authenticity in a quasi-pseudo mode.

Weblogart has a video of the pavilion.

* i wonder how much he was charged for the coffee.

My pics from the Korean Pavilion.
Related: Venice Architecture Biennale: the Korean Pavilion.

I knew Jenny Holzer as the artist whose light light projections sex up the facade of the Palazzo Madama or Palazzo Carignano each Winter in Turin. I was therefore quite surprised to see how different and politically–charged her contribution to the Biennale is.

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Protect, Protect, 2007

Her work in Venice is one of the many that the artistic director of the Biennale, American critic and curator Robert Storr, had selected to remind us of the values that his country has always stood for but has also more than once betrayed in the past few years.

Holzer's Redaction works (redaction in this case means to edit and or black out text before publication) are enlarged, painted version of declassified government and military material obtained from the American National Security Archive, including issues of prisoner/detainee abuse in Guantánamo Bay and other detention camps, and the ongoing tragedies of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. You can rest your eyes on cold autopsy reports (the "manner of death" of some prisoners being disturbingly registered by doctors from the Armed Services Institute of Pathology, as "Homicide.?) and witness statements given to the FBI.

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Homicide

As the title of the series suggests, parts of the texts are censored. But all those dark or blank rectangles that hide words have the effect of grabbing your attention. The documents let understand that the treatment reserved to some prisoners included heads wrapped in duct tape, whacked with phone books, low voltage electrocution, hooding, the use of drugs, suspensions, shackling and gagging, ligature injuries and pierced lungs (via.)

And suddenly small painted words remind you of those awful images that you had almost forgotten about because they are not making the headlines anymore...

More about the series of paintings in The Phoenix and Big, Red & Shiny. My pictures and better ones from the Cheim & Read Gallery and Sprueth & Magers gallery.

0aaxel2.jpgMore Venice coverage. Most of the biennale takes place at the Giardini or at the Arsenale. Then there are pavilions scattered around the historical centre to ensure that you won't visit the city without getting lost once or twice.

I've been countless times to Venice and have given up trying to figure out how all those tiny curvaceous streets might correspond to what i see on the map. I just ask passersby, they are always nice and helpful. Which is the biggest mystery of Venice to me. How do they manage not to be annoyed by silly tourists like me who keep asking their way?

Been quite an adventure to locate the Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel (seems that this 15th century gothic marvel is for sale) but i couldn't afford not to go as it is hosting the Mexican Pavilion, the only one which presents new media art (at least the only one i had heard of).

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Frequency and Volume

It's not any kind of media art either. The installations are by one of the discipline's most respected practitioners: Rafael Lozano Hemmer. There are brand new pieces and some good old works as well. At this point i feel like i should just go to the other room and finish my Rebus book, leaving you with this really charming (how could you not love to learn new expressions such as "biting your poncho"?) and interesting video of Lozano Hemmer's presenting his works at the Tate in London. He explains better than my words would, the sources of his inspiration, the way he tries to create complex behaviour similar to organic systems, how important it is to misuse technologies (in particular the always more sophisticated and often embedded with prejudice technologies of surveillance) in a critical and poetic way.

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Wavefunction

Now just a few words to tell about two of Lozano'Hemmer's latest pieces. The first greets you when you enter the first room. Rows of 50 white Eames molded plastic chairs, mounted on electromechanical pistons move up and down in a sensual way. The work, which premiered in Venice, is called Wavefunction. As unveiled on the screen visible in the adjacent room, the movements are controlled by a computer surveillance system and respond to the presence of the public by creating waves that propagate over the exhibition room. One person approaching the chairs will trigger a wave, more people around the chairs will create waves that interfere with each other.

Movie.

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Pulse Room

The other new work is Pulse Room which turns the heartbeats of the visitors into light flashes shown by incandescent light bulbs. Visitors have to grab the same kind of interface that you find at the gym on the cardio training machines and which measures your pulse. The first person who enter the room lights a first bulb, it will flicker according to their heartbeat, a second person light another bulb and so on. When i arrived there were dozens of bulbs on and an old man. you could see he was very tempted, he just wanted to try but was wondering whether "that thing would send him an electroshock or something?"

Movie.

The exhibition is curated by Príamo Lozada and Bárbara Perea. Lozada was one of Latin America's most active media art curators. He passed away on the 13th of June as a result of a tragic accident in Venice. The museum where he worked, the Laboratorio Arte Alameda, is now making a documentation centre that will have his name to honour him.

More details about the show. More videos of the artist's installations.
I took a few images but the ones on the exhibition website are much better and there are plenty of videos as well.

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