Perhaps the Biennale anticipated something when it picked the theme for 2019 ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’. We certainly do in Britain with politics that seem to change by the hour and, today, sadly the Biennale is closed and Venice is flooded following the highest water levels in 50 years while, in Yorkshire and Derbyshire in the UK, communities continue to struggle with the results of flooding and there have been wildfires raging in California and in Australia. Is nature trying to tell us something?
Among the highlights of the Biennale, which I visited only last week, were the public sculptures, some seen along the Grand Canal and around the Lagoon, such as Bruno Catalono’s enigmatic shadowy ‘Travellers’; others in the Arsenale including American artist Beverly Pepper’s ‘Todi Columns’ and other sculptures in her exhibition ‘Art in the Open’ which includes photographs of her work by Gianfranco Gorgoni and Lorenzo Quinn’s immense pairs of hands clasped together in his powerful installation ‘Building Bridges’ which he describes as sending a message of world unity and peace to encourage nations to build bridges between each other, rather than walls, and to encourage dialogue rather than conflict – undoubtedly one of the highlights of this year’s Biennale. Also making an impact were Argentinian artist Thomas Saraceno with his natural, mystical ‘Aero(s)cene: When breath becomes air’ blending into the clouds and Turkish artist Halil Altindere with ‘Neverland’, a perfect Palladian pavilion that is only façade deep and is held up with scaffolding, all set against the backcloth of the industrial architecture of the Arsenale and sculptural historic elements such as the magnificent Armstrong Mitchell crane.
Let’s hope that Venice and the other areas affected by current natural catastrophes recover soon, but we do need to focus on preventing them in future. Less talk – more action!