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A review of La Biennale di Venezia 2003 or the 50th Venice Biennial

From: RS
Category: Exhibitions
Date: 15 June 2003


Subtitled Dream and Conflicts The Dictatorship of the Viewer.

As with most authoritarian oligarchies that have rulel in the name of the masses (see market capitalism, state socialism, european fascism etc), the viewers never picked Bonami and the other high falutin clowns who created this jamboree, to represent them.

The dictatorship of the viewer turns out to be the patronising assumption that people prefer a whole load of crap (bits of hardboard, computers, typed out scribbled on notes, websites, video projections, stickers) to beautiful, wonderful, or truthful, art works. The premise is either that great art is too difficult to make so why bother, that great or good art is a ridiculous old fashioned idea so why bother, or worst of all that viewers can only like interactive junk that they could have made themselves if they had enough time to waste.

Let remember that this Biennale in this beautiful city of Venice, which is in itself a testament to human creativity, is meant to, does, represent the best or at least most of what is going on in the global art world. The Biennale shows what we are doing, what we can do.

And the results, the endless installations which satisfy only the context of the show, dismay even the afficianados (viewers are intelligent enough to unpick all the tired attempts to subvert cultural and institutional contexts, and they see the art works for what they are: that is nothing, that is worse than emptiness). People whose job is art, said without whispering, as the icecreams melted on their sunburnt arms, this Biennale is shit isn't it. Have you seen anything good? No.

Even artists with talent have failed. Chris Ofili vomits up his own opticality, green and red, green and red, we got it already, now move on, and do some surprising paintings. The big painting show, (all the usual name checks from Guston to Richter, to Hirst), shows why merely painting, the return to a technique, leads to as much to failure as all the rest.

Question: If all is bad, what is good? Try to remember when you felt or thought something significant when looking at art. That is near to being what good art is. Next time you're in Venice go see Veronese's "Feast at The House of Levi" at The Accademia Gallery( actually referenced in Fred Wilson's USA pavilion), consider why you like it more than so many other paintings of the same type. This shows that the useful faculty of judgement probably exists.

Now cry out for the democracy of the viewer, not the well dressed happy few telling the many that this junk is all that art is or can be or should be, but the shabby many, those without invites to parties, saying they want to be moved by the truth and beauty of great art. We, the viewers, expect to be insprired. We want more.

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