The national pavilions.
An artistic dérive from the material to the immaterial with Federico Florian
'Visions of spell sometimes emerge from the lagoon like ghosts dripping endless melancholy.’ These are the words that the well-known Italian art critic Antonio Morassi once used to describe the impressionistic views of Venice by Francesco Guardi – the great 18th century painter (and also Giambattista Tiepolo’s brother-in-law). Morassi’s description does justice to the evanescent, ghostly quality of Guardi’s paintings; there, Venice seems to disappear in a tangle of colors and vaporized forms. I think about Guardi while I’m standing in front of a bar’s window in Piazza San Marco – I can glimpse on the glass the reflection of the square’s trembling lights over the wet pavement (a rainy Venice is the setting of these Biennale opening days). As never before, the city appears to me as a dreamy marine creature (if you look at it on a map, its shape resembles that of a huge whale), devoid of substance and consistency. Immaterial like the glare that I can see on the café window.
But defining Venice ‘immaterial’ is a kind of paradox. It’s a lagoon city, born from a reclaimed land – a thick stone conglomerate settled on an invisible skeleton of concrete and wooden poles. Just think of the multitude of churches and palaces spread on its small urban surface – that makes it one of the most ‘material’ city in the world. Venice is an in-between place: it rises amidst the sea and the land, is made of rock and water, and looks like it's vanishing and monumental at the same time.
In a way, the national pavilions at the Giardini and the Arsenale are crossed by the same ‘in-between disposition’. As the city itself, the artworks on show swing between the poles of materiality and immateriality, the substantial and the ephemeral. For that reason we can imagine the tour through the pavilions as a route towards a progressive artistic dematerialization – a loss of physical substance that runs over the city too, like in a Venetian view by Francesco Guardi...
Berlinde De Bruyckere, Kreupelhout-Cripplewood, Material vs. immaterial, stone vs. water, Belgian Pavilion, 55th International Art Exhibition, Il Palazzo Enciclopedico, la Biennale di Venezia; Photo: Italo Rondinella / Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia. image at top: Gilad Ratman, The Workshop, Israeli Pavilion, 55th International Art Exhibition, Il Palazzo Enciclopedico, la Biennale di Venezia; © Photo by Italo Rondinella, Courtesy by la Biennale di Venezia.