The volume of art on display in Venice as part of the 56th edition of La Biennale di Venezia is overwhelming, and it becomes increasingly difficult to absorb. Based in two venues at the Giardini and the Arsenale, the Biennale and its collateral events spill over across the whole city and surrounding islands.
There's so much going on at the huge Arsenale exhibition, but Steve Mcqueen's piece Ashes (see the artist discussing its background here) and Mika Rottenberg's NoNoseKnows (in the NYT here) were mesmerising.
Amongst the national pavilions at the Giardini, I really enjoyed the Canadian pavilion (video here), part of which involved the reconstruction of a Québécois-style dépanneur and for me a surreal moment of time-travel back to holidays spent in Quebec as a child. The Korean (video) and Nordic Countries (video) pavilions also stood out to me.
The sense of 'art overload' is heightened by the visuals of the city itself and the fact that so many of the exhibition venues, from the various palazzi to national pavilions in the Giardini, are themselves presences which demand contemplation. Some exhibitions work in harmony with their settings or even use them to enhance their content, while others seem to exist in uneasy tension with them.
An exhibition that I thought made excellent use of a potentially overpowering setting was Simon Denny for New Zealand's Secret Power at the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana. I also found Graham Fagen's sound/video piece for Scotland + Venice worked in harmony with the beauty of the Palazzo Fontana to create a compelling space.
From contemporary and historical fine art to tourist snapshots, Venice is a city all ready so full of images (and in some way made up of them) that it's hard to know what I can possibly add...