Unfortunately, it is a fact: I am not in Venice.
So, unable to attend the opening of the world’s oldest and grandest international exhibition of contemporary art, I have been following the news (and the gossip!) very closely in the newspapers and on social media. I must admit I could not help but feel a tad jealous of all those peeps there “on business”… especially the ones who had the chance to pillow-fight at Maurizio Cattelan’s Toilet Paper Mag Party. Duh!
The winner of this 57th edition is the German artist and choreographer Anne Imhof.
Last week, upon the Biennale’s opening, the Art World went completely crazy for Imhof’s work: after the press conference last Wednesday, the queue was absolutely unbelievable and people apparently went kinda nuts, so badly they wanted in.
Ms. Imhof was awarded the Golden Lion for best national participation, which is given to the strongest of the 85 exhibitions mounted in pavilions in the Giardini della Biennale and across Venice.
Imhof’s performances are complex, intimate studies in movement, gesture, and action, mostly silent and tending to span several hours. The works accumulate as a private corporeal lexicon shared by a small group of performers clad in athleisure gear – often the artist’s friends and peers – and have even incorporated animals. People at the German Pavillon are kindly greeted by two barking Doberman dogs behind a fence, and – once inside – they are forced to walk over a glass floor covering the whole surface of the pavilion.
“Underneath the glass, a series of objects has been arranged in clusters: a leather mattress, cuffs, spoons, chains, and bottles of liquids of dubious nature. The whole thing looked like remnants from a scene straight out of the cult Berlin film Christiane F gone S&M.”
— Lorena Muñoz-Alonso, artnet
Body language is a key component in Imhof’s pieces, and she incorporates that in a fierce, witty way which leaves the spectator wondering and questioning himself. The performance, which boasts a soundtrack of monastic chanting and screaming, speaks of power, inclusion, and exclusion. Borders and voyeurism. Intimacy, apathy and public (over)exposure through social media and whatnot. The whole performance has been Instagrammed hundreds of times already, despite the fact that it gets grim and uneasy at times.