Resident artist duo, Webb-Ellis, have just returned from the preview week of Venice Biennale. Assisted by an a-n ‘Go and See’ bursary, they made the 2,418 mile round trip (from Scarborough to Venice and back) over land. This writing and video is their response:
“Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”
Ray Bradbury| Fahrenheit 451
On the 1,209 mile, 4 day journey to Venice over land, the idea of having a child was only one of the subjects we discussed. But the aura of that question, the excitement and fear and churning of inner waters, managed to pervade our whole experience of the Venice Biennale.
All the World’s Futures
A costly breakdown (the second of our trip) meant that for the 9 days we were in Venice, our base was at a large Ford garage in a strip mall on the outskirts of a mainland city. Luckily, we were only 5 minutes from a train station, and each morning of the preview period at 7am we caught the train into Venice and walked for an hour across the city.
To our Press Room breakfast briefing. Press Room: Investigating news creation through expanded acts of visual reportage.
‘Identify the peg’
Conversation focused on the contradictions at the heart of the biennale- the role of art as commodity- the super yachts- capitalism. The group’s shared sorrow and rage at the UK election result heightened the sense of political unrest.
“All you can do is glean information from the tiniest fragments. Trying to see everything makes you ill” @mikestubbs
Good advice. But hard to follow in a tide of pressing bodies all intent on seeing the next amazing thing.
Unintentionally experiencing the work through the screen of someone else’s iPhone, it is hard not to feel that the biennale is more about consumption than fascination- realisation over contemplation.
The long walk through the biennale is a physical and perceptual journey in itself. Miles of walking, looking at maps, looking at art, walking again. A modern pilgrimage (or penance?!).
Death and fear and darkness abound. The faces of the whole world grimace with concern for the future.
This sensory overload produces double exposures so that it is hard to remember where one work ended and another began. What we understand is up to us.
Do we envision the future of A Whole World? Sliced up into nation-states. A world too complex to see anything from one definitive viewpoint, or believe any one telling of the story.
On the homeward journey, the fundamental uncertainty and chaos of the world is only one of the subjects we discuss.
We find hope in the small moments where mystery overwhelms.
The expression of sensations too subtle for words.
Artist’s work in the video, in order of appearance:
Karolina Magnusson-Murray | Performance for INFR’ACTION VENEZIA
Graham Fagen | Palazzo Fontana
Marco Biagini | High Visibility Burqa
Filip Markiewicz | Grand Duchy of Paradiso Luxembourg
Fazil Najafov | Beyond the line
John Court | Performance for INFR’ACTION VENEZIA
Wangechi Mutu | The End of Carrying All
Fiona Hall | Wrong way time