Day #5 - Biennale wrap up

Having visited the two major venues of the Biennale in previous days, today we made our way to the larger public exhibitions located throughout the city.

We started off the morning by meeting long-time HUM supporters Mary and Jim Barr at the Luc Tuymans exhibition La Pelle, located at Palazzo Grassi. Curated by Caroline Bourgeois in collaboration with the artist, this is a large solo show, with paintings from the past 30 years, as well as a site specific work by Tuymans, located on the ground floor of the Palazzo.

Luc Tuymans' exhibition 'La Pelle' at Palazzo Grassi, Venice 2019.

Tuymans’s pastel, softened works oscillate between references of pop culture, such as the reality show Big Brother and the Disney studio, to depictions of atrocities from the Holocaust and Chernobyl disaster. This large exhibition offers an almost tense viewing to the audience, who are left unsure of how to approach the next work, pending either an unsettled or nostalgic experience.

Tuymans incorporates the entire Palazzo into his exhibition by including a large scale mosaic on the ground floor of the venue. The work references a German forced-labor camp, Schwarzheide, where prisoners would often write clandestine notes and tear them in strips, later to be reassembled so the full message could be passed.

Lunch with HUM friends Mary and Jim Barr.

Our highlight today was seeing Joan Jonas' show at Ocean Space, which was particularly resonant after the announcement was made that Lina Lapelyte, Vaiva Grainyte and Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė at the Lithuanian Pavilion won the Golden Lion with their operatic performance and indoor beach installation, warning of climate change. Choosing a topic that is not only pertinent to the city of Venice itself, but to all countries around the world, including New Zealand, renowned artist Joan Jonas places climate change at the center of her collateral exhibition during this year’s Biennale. Moving Off the Land is the result of three years of research in which Jonas has studied aquariums around the world, specifically off the coast of Jamaica, and is made up of a collection of video works projected into custom-built booths, expressive ink drawings of fish, stingrays and other sea creatures hanging throughout the space, mirrors leaning up against the walls, and handwritten copies of ocean-themed poems spaced around the site.

Joan Jonas' show 'Moving Off the Land' at Ocean Space, Venice 2019.

The multi-disciplinary exhibition is right at home in Ocean Space, an impressively-sized historic building, previously the Church of San Lorenzo, which has undergone extensive renovations to become a modern center for ocean advocacy and, at the time of visiting, was complemented by a live discussion 'Oceans in Transformation - Overfishing by Territorial Agency'.

In many of her video works either Jonas, her dog or students she has enlisted the help from playfully interact with various marine animals and the ocean itself: in Moving Off the Land II Jonas appears in front of a projection of a super-sized crayfish, appearing to mimic it’s movements and stroke it’s hard shell.

We managed to catch a few more national pavilions around the city today (Taiwan, Montenegro, where we bumped into former Director of Christchurch Art Gallery Jenny Harper, Portugal, Bulgaria) but are saving the pavilion of Lithuania for tomorrow morning as there were queues to get in today. We also visited the site-specific installation Elsewhen by Philippe Parreno at Louis Vuitton Foundation and the Luogo e Segni exhibition at Punta della Dogana, but we didn't have much to report on those.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres' work Untitled (Blood) 1992 in 'Luogo e Segni' exhibition at Punta della Dogana; 'Elsewhen' by Philippe Parreno at Louis Vuitton Foundation; 'Walking in Every Direction', a participatory performance by Hamish Fulton as part of Slow Salon Suisse at the Fine Arts Academy, Venice, 2019.

After a final-night spritz and cicchetti (nibbles), we headed over to the very far west point of Venice, where the last one of Dane Mitchell's tree stealth towers is located, at IUAV, the University of Venice. It's a lovely, quiet part of town, far from the tourist zones, and the tower is installed in the external garden of the main university building. Unfortunately we couldn't connect to the voice recording but we were pleased to find the final tree and in this way, complete our experience of Post hoc at the 58th Venice Biennale.

This is our last post, as we'll be heading to our various homes tomorrow, but stay tuned for our upcoming long-form essays and interviews over the duration of the Biennale!

Dane Mitchell, Post hoc at the IUAV University of Venice, Dorsoduro, Venice 2019.

All photos by Contemporary HUM.