International curator José Roca talked at length about his experiences curating art bienials, festivals and events, in particular the http://www.bienalmercosul.art.br/ in Brazil 2011.
I was particularly struck by his passion and compassion for art as he talked about the selection process involved in staging a large event. He said he was anti comissioning artists to produce work for bienials, as he felt uncomfortable about placing restraints or parameters around artists. For the recent Mercosul Bienial whose theme was ‘inspired by the tensions between local and transnational territories, between political constructs and geographical circumstances, and the routes of circulation and exchange of symbolic capital. ‘ this was of heightened importance.
Travelling extensively in the regions involved, selectors met with artists and invited work which was relevant to the theme, rather than vice versa.
Also, commenting on the inclusion of a separate cinematic event for screening video art, Roca described his view on film art at bienials, saying that the sum of the hours of the works shown at other events would demand the visitor spending 7 days from dawn to dusk to see them all.
Considering this is unrealistic, and most visitors have a couple of days to see all works, he suggested that showing longer works in this context was insulting to the works. Better to invite shorter pieces to show alongside other works, and invite visitors to attend screenins where works could be viewed if they are longer.
This will exclude longer works from general presentations, but make works which are shown more accessible and more likely to be seen. Duration may be a parameter the selectors have to work with themselves rather than pass on to the artists…
the debate continues…
Rosella Biscotti, an Italian artist represented by Wilfreid Lentz Gallery, presented a simple work of two large sheets of lead placed on the ground. The work is called Fragile Beauty with troubled past, and is from The Bare Prison of Santo Stefano. Transported to the former prison island by hand, cut to fit the dimensions of one of the cells before being beaten by hand to take the imprints of the floor, the work speaks of extreme effort and confined space. The process was documented and forms part of the work.
The simplicity of the presentation and the earie sense of weight and toxisity captivated me for a whole 10 minutes, which is saying something for Frieze, which is a very hectic experience.
Light relief came in the form of Michael Landy’s credit card destroying machine and also by the much discussed boat presented as part of the Frieze projects, by Christian Janovski.
Presenting us with a luxury boat for sale on a stand, the visitor could choose to buy the boat for however many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and if you like, the artist would sign it, pushing the price up by £150000.
This commentary on the artist as a commodity and the theatre of the art fair seems razor sharp to me, but the irony seems to have missed many.
Outrage at the appropriation, the credit due to the manufacturers, and the audacity of the act seems to have rattled those who never liked Duchamps’ work in the first place.
Gabriel Kuri works with form, material and colour for the large peices in the main room of the gallery. Juxtaposing hard/soft, giant/shrunken, crafted/ready made, he produces works which are beguilingly simple, yet which jar on closer consideration.
In his largest installment, shelter, we are presented with a minimal palette of dark greys, muted match-head red and an almost medical turquoise. Then my eye moved to the tombstones leaning on the wall, heavy smooth granite with rounded corners, they are representations of sections of credit cards, and the groupings leading up against them are not figures, but giant matchsticks. The heads on them take on anthropomorphic qualities as they huddle together. There are strangely in scale in relation to the granite slabs, but this leaves us with the sense of having been shrunken.
Outside in the courtyard is ‘100%’ – 4 seemingly abstracted metal structures arranged in a line, each touching the next. The colours are saturated yet toned down, and as you move around the piece, your mind starts to assemble the parts, and it suddenly becomes clear that the four parts are quarters of a circle, approached from different sides, but sound and together.
The possibility of reassembly not yet carried out carries the work forwArd for me.