“There is no here here.” Venice Biennale 2013

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The following is a blog post I wrote as the final assignment for the first-year summer residency for IDSVA in Italy. It’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but also to point out the odd relationship we have with a work of art. Personally, I make no distinction between “low” and “high” art. For instance, ceramic ware can be beautiful as well as functional. Painting, on the other hand, aspires to be fine art, but there are plenty of examples of really awful paintings. Sincerity is a bad word these days. We don’t use it to refer to art any more because it sounds sentimental and old-fashioned. Instead, we have catch-words like “intentionality.” Obviously, the words don’t mean the same thing. Intentionality means, typically, that the artist is saying that what they are doing is “art.” If it’s a pile of trash, and they call it art, it’s art. Sincerity, though, to me means that the artist is striving not just for audacity (or perhaps not striving for it at all), but to create something meaningful, using their skill and intellect as well as they can. My post is an answer, to some extent, to the question “Is it art?” I am trying to be funny, but the following really did occur, and I was trying to accurately document my impressions and feelings.

Installation view of “Cripplewood”

At the Belgian pavilion after walking around the amazing “Cripplewood” tree installation, I walk through a doorway into an adjacent room and expect some kind of artistic experience, an encounter. But there is apparently nothing there in the murk. I have a feeling of dismay; I am disappointed. Then I am disappointed by my own disappointment. I have stepped into the abyss, taken the plunge, ready for adventure, with my biennale maps and catalogs in hand, like so many travel brochures for far away places, but there is no destination in this room. I have merely stepped into an empty room. My anticipation that something interesting might be there turns into self-consciousness as I meet the bored gaze of the guard, whose eyes seem to say, “there is no here here.” This peripheral room is purgatory.

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