The city of Venice is the third big stage for the Bienniale:
There are official country contributions of countries that don't have a pavilion in the Giardini park. This has historic reasons.
And there are the so called 'eventi collaterali' (collateral events).
I liked these country pavilions in the city the most:
The Ukrainian pavilion in the palazzo Papadopoli really surprised me: First, I was very sceptic, as Wladimir Klitschko curated the pavilion. Boxer and art curator is a rare combination. So I went there with great doubt - but it was one of the most beautiflul pavilions!
'Steppes of Dreamers' is the title of this show. Palazzo Papadopoli is the stage of the two artists Illya Chichkan (Ukranine) and Mihara Yasuhiro (Japan). In the first floor it is very dark and you hear a music that reminded me about Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut'. Two strange kinetic works by Mihara Yasuhiro do its misterious work. A model in golden roller skates rolls through the darkness and the artificial mist. You want to know: What is going on here? Has something strange happened?
It is really worth to find one's way to this rather hidden pavilion!
The same is true for the small Estonian pavilion: Kristina Norman questions the function of monuments and successfully challenges the media and the institutions of her country. She says: 'I am interested in the relationship between memory and history in the construction of national and state identity.'
In 2007 the Estonian government removed the 'Bronze Soldier' monument from a prominent place in its capital, Tallinn, to a remote military cemetery. For the Estonian majority it was a symbol of Soviet occupation (when they were a minority in the Soviet Union). For the Russian minority in Estonia it is a symbol of their identity. Two nights of rioting were following.
Kristina Norman made an identical copy of the 'Bronze Soldier', painted it gold and put it in the first place of the original monument. Government officials then removed her soldier and took her with them. Afterwards she got the soldier back and was released. There was heavy criticism of her performance by Estonian media.
It is a good sign that the official contribution of Estonia is her 'After-War' project. She documents the important phases by video projections and shows also her 'Golden Soldier'.
I think this is one of the best contributions of this Biennale!
Not very far away is the Slovenian pavilion featuring Miha Štrukelj. In his exhibition 'x=0 / y=0 Interference in Process' he plays with and explores the construction of media images. His means of research are painting, drawing and Lego brick objects.
The Taiwanese pavilion focused a lot on the issues of immigrants and identity: Chien-Chi Chang photographed illegal Chinese immigrants living in New York's Chinatown and their relatives at home.
Cheng-Ta Yu is a younger artist (born 1983), who explores in his video works language structure: In 'Ventriloquists: Liang Mei-Lan and Emily Sue' he puzzles the two immigrant women from the Philippines by the use of Mandarin, Taiwanese and English. In 'Ventriloquists: Introduction' of 2008 he lurks behind foreigners like a ventriloquist getting them to imitate his Mandarin.
Despite its currently difficult political situation the Republic of Gaboon is one of the first time participants to the Biennale. Gaboon born artist Owanto has a one woman show. She does traffic type signs of 'good' (rather traditional) values (family values, getting babies, ...). Then she puts them into various places of the world (London, Gaboon, ...) like regular traffic signs.
It is quite evident that the current economic crisis is also a crisis of values. I just don't think that traditional values are the right answer for everyone.
Of course there were also country off-site country pavilions, I did not like at all: Like Hamid Reza Avishi for the official Iranian contribution. His sculpture 'Dialogue among Civilizations' looked like a bronze of the 1920s...
I know there are far better Iranian artists - for instants Sarah Rahbar.
Besides the country contributions distributed over the city there are also the collateral events ('eventi collaterali') by cultural institutions who are not part of a country's official participation.
Estonian pavilion at Palazzo Malipiero, San Marco 3079
Iranian pavilion at Palazzo Malipiero, San Marco 3198,
Republic of Gaboon's pavilion at Telecom Italia Future Centre
Taiwanese pavilion at Palazzo delle Prigioni, San Marco 4209
Ukrainian pavilion at Palazzo Papadopoli, San Polo 1364
Read more about the collateral events
How can you argue against the good values brought foreward by African artist Owanto?
I think it is clear that the incredible greed of the West caused this big economic crisis.
I like to see answers to our problems coming from other people - like Africans!