Brooklyn Rail: Venice Biennial: At a Glance, 2017POSTED
Wishing I had more time, on my last day I caught several pavilions outside the Giardini. Iraq’s Archaic was set in an exquisite old library in the Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti. Carefully installed in display cases and within the beautifully carved wooden shelves, the curators presented work from the 1950s, in which artists adapted modernism to non-western traditions. This provided a foundation for the work of eloquent younger Iraqi artists and a video by Mexico-based Francis Alÿs, who recently visited the war-torn land.
Running out of time, I raced over to Nigeria’s exhibition “How About Now?” in the Scholetta di Tiraoro e Battioro, site of the old guild of craftsmen who once fabricated the gold wires and golden leaves that adorned buildings. The Nigerian choreographer Qudus Onikeku impressed me with his performance video, We Almost Forgot (2016). Across Venice in the Santa Maria della Pieta, site of the Zimbabwe pavilion, I caught Dana Whabira’s eloquent but difficult to photograph minimal installation, Black Sunlight (2017). On the other side of the same building, I entered Mongolia’s “Lost in Tngri” exhibition, where Bolortuvshin Jargalsaikkhan’s video Nomad Spirit Project at the Tovkhon Monastery (2016) addressed his remote homeland being destroyed as it is raped of natural resources.
On the plane as I headed home, I thought about the artists whose work I saw. Most look beyond their horizon, whether they travel or not. I am grateful that each has given me access to new ways of seeing the world.