Politics vs. Imagination
The national pavilions, part II, with Federico Florian
My tour through the national pavilions goes on (see Part I). We have imagined it like an artistic dérive from the material to the immaterial, from the substantial to the ephemeral. But the word ‘material’ has not only to do with the physical consistency of things. The term denotes something concrete, actual and real – a type of pragmatic and exact knowledge. The accuracy of historical analysis as well as the pragmatism of political discourse can both be included into the realm of the ‘material’. On the contrary, the domain of the ‘immaterial’ embraces the mental drifts of an imaginative disposition – this airy territory hovers like a superstructure over reality. Several national pavilions in the Biennale reflect this dialectic between politics and imagination, history and fiction (an alternative way to conceive the material/immaterial antithesis). Some works on show explore the very structure of our own world; while others shape a parallel universe through a visionary attitude.
The German contribution – hosted in the French pavilion after a ‘switch’ of venues between the two countries – is part of the first group (the ‘material’ or rather the political side). The pavilion displays the works of four internationally renowned artists; among the others, powerful is the installation by Ai Weiwei, who assembled 886 three-legged wooden stools in a sprawling and enveloping structure – a critique to the industrial boom in China that has oppressed and alienated the single individual.
As expressions of the same historical-sociopolitical approach, I must mention the British Pavilion – a funny and refreshing inspection of ‘Britishness’ carried out by Jeremy Deller – and the Greek contribution – a three-channel video installation by Stefanos Tsivopoulos investigating the meaning of monetary value. Above all I loved the Lebanese Pavilion: it displays a film by the Beirut-based artist Akram Zaatari titled Letter to a Refusing Pilot. The video is inspired by an episode which occurred in the summer of 1982 during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon: that year an Israeli fighter pilot, refusing to carry out his commanders’ order to hit a public school in Saida, decided to drop the bombs in the sea. The video mixes historical references with the artist’s biography, political considerations with literary suggestions (the work starts with a framing of Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince): a delicate, dainty narration led in a masterly manner...
Richard Mosse, The Enclave, Pavilion of Ireland, particolari dell'Installazione, Fondaco Marcello, Calle Garzoni, San Marco 3415, 55th International Art Exhibition, Il Palazzo Enciclopedico, la Biennale di Venezia; Courtesy by la Biennale di Venezia / Photo by Italo Rondinella. image at top: Stefanos Tsivopoulos, History Zero, Greek Pavilion, 55th International Art Exhibition, Il Palazzo Enciclopedico, la Biennale di Venezia; Courtesy by la Biennale di Venezia / Photo by Italo Rondinella.