Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Perks of the Civil Service

Response to the Pavilion has been immense.

The Guest book is filled with just the most lovely comments, and some very random sketches.

We also waiting in anticipation for Da Wu's performance art piece with his metal chairs and banana tree trunks.

The massive posters outside the Palazzo, with the Singapore emblem has been a bit of a smash. I have had a couple of requests for a poster. The editor for the times, who came to visit yesterday, praised the subtlety of it, and how it held aspects of all the art being exhibited.

I think my favorite comment from the guest book would be ' Big up the Singapore Massive!! Supercali Represent!!.'

And here are a few others:

'so beautiful and interesting and inciting the viewer to understand what the artist is getting across. This was one of my best experiences of the whole Biennale!'

' Is the best pavilion of the Venice Biennale, everything is usually the same for me, however,in this exhibit, each does it and each contains a new world to be opened. Thank you. '

' Beautiful and thought with LOVE!!!"

' One of the most affecting exhibits of contemporary art I have ever seen. Thank you, artists, Thank you!'

' Beautiful exhibition, beyond cutting edge, but with class.'

'Erotic, moving, tragic!.'

'Spontaneous, very intriguing to the eyes. Full of suprises!! Worth seeing and talking to others about. You are all very good!.'

It's great being at the receiving end of things.

Monday, June 25, 2007

non capisca

The card bowl of the pavilion is filled with the most brilliant contacts.

An editor from Time magazine

a few dozen artists/curators

lots of gallery owners

and a very very fet.. fit man.. who i plan to steal the card of- for purely decorative purposes.

My Italian has been developing pretty superbly as of late. However, I seem to get a mental block with the guy who runs the cafe downstairs. He keeps giving me little glasses of wine during my lunch break..sadly all our conversations are bordering on the stale..due to my sudden loss of all foreign language capabilities. Bit of a conundrum im in.

Marco.. the security guard has offered to take us to the mainland for a bit of an Italian shake-down...a club basically. The only club I have been to in Venice was this tiny place called piccolo-mondo. It is about the size of an average kitchen. The drinks are ridiculously over-priced. And the music is Hip Hop from my high school days (which wasn't too long ago come to think of it). There are also lots of aged Italian Casanova's with questionable dance moves and gaggle's of american girls who gyrate to each others frequent yells of 'hell yeah'. Pretty banging.

Would definitely recommend it..with the help of a bottle of rum.. or something of equal potency.

The Pavilion is always a bit dead on a monday. We get a few artsy ones. And a lot of lost looking tourists.

In a fit of boredom.. Joel has devoured an entire loaf of bread...oh.. and half a bottle of nutella.

Closing time.. must be off..

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hay Cosas Que Pasan Mas Veces Que Todo El Tiempo

Absolutely loving the Mexican pavilion.

Well the building it is housed in really does it for me. Its in a Medieval Palazzo, absolutely stunning. When I have the time, I'll collect some pictures of the place. (To the right is a picture from the artists website of one of the installations from the Biennale which he showcased in Mexico.)

Plus the Mexcian pavilion party, which included a load of tequila and cerveza was not that bad either.

Here is a picture of it.. and of a few mates bobbing/lurching around the dance floor.

They had a Mexican DJ/visual artist who played a pretty awesome mix of electro house, topped off with a lot of wicked mexican percussion beats.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is a bit of a legend. He has managed to use robotics, computerized sensors and video installations to really connect the viewer with the art.

One of the installations consisted of a hundred incandescent lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling. You are then meant to hold a sensor which reads your heartbeat. Apon releasing the sensor..all the lightbulbs din.. and the first lightbulb directly in front of you starts to glow to your recorded heartbeat.. then the second person holds the sensor. The process sis repeated and your heartbeat moves on to the second lightbulb..and the second persons heartbeat appears on the first light bulb. I hope this all makes sense.

What you then realize is that your are standing in a room filled with a 100 different people's heartbeats, glowing at their own individual paces. It is wondrous.

When I heard about the pavilion. I dismissed it as a pseudo theme-park..something gadgety and 'cool' rather than holding any depth- similar to The Millenium Dome in London. Rafael manages to humanize that it is not something that only a mechanical engineer or technician would understand or appreciate.

In another is able to pick up different radio frequencies ranging from taxi dispatch networks, wireless phones, short-wave radio's..etc.. with their shadow. So the larger your shadow is ..the louder the sound...and the smaller your shadow is.. the softer the sound.

Many people won't consider this Art. But as I said before.. Contemporary Art really has no limits. Yes, there is a fair amount of rubbish being produced.. However, it is always amazing to stumble apon something unique, which leaves you buzzing and thinking after.

As to the Singapore Pavilion.. no complaints yet. I do get the occasional ratty tourist complaining about the lack of loo roll. But that's about it really.

Shades of Light

It has to be said. Joel is a far superior picture taker than I am.

This one is pretty wicked. Its the reflection of Palazzo Ducale on the water. Palazzo Ducale can be found in Piazza San Marco, and was the seat of the government of Venice for centuries, and the home of the Doge (the elected ruler of Venice).

From what I can remember from past art history classes. The palace is known to be a superb example of Venetian Gothic architecture. Gothic architecture in Italy definitely has its own special twist if you compare it to the quite stoic yet monumental examples of gothic architecture in England and France. Italian Gothic is incredibly camp. It looks more like a glorified christmas cake, rather than the typical austere moody facade of Gothic churches found in the rest of Europe. And on a very silly note.. i love how Palazzo Ducale exterior is pink. I think thats due to a mixing of white limestone and pink marble. The Palazzo touches a chord in me.. must be due to some failed childhood fantasy of living in a pink palace. I think the closest i got to that was painting some cardboard boxes neon pink, to house my growing collection of Barbie's.

Moving on...for trivia sakes, Palazzo Ducale also holds the world's largest painting done on canvas by Tintoretto, titled Paradise. Big-it-Up.

The next picture is of an abandoned Venetian apartment Joel stumbled upon during a morning walk.

Don't really know the history of this one.

Could do with new paint

Maybe.. a new wall.

a few people. And a table. Carpets?

And whilst I am at would be the perfect place to house some dismembered lifestock by Damien Hirst.

Or maybe Pete Doherty, cracked out in the corner.

Now that would be a interesting installation.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

have a dip

Here are some BRILLIANT pictures taken by yours truly. me.

The blurred and over-exposed bits.. were ALL done on purpose.

Ah, here is quite a beautiful composition of Sophie And Gigi's behinds walking down the steps of the Palazzo (palace). They are probably the two most resourceful and vigilant interns the National Arts Council have ever come by.

To their left.. looking very dashing, is Luca. Luca is the Venice agent. So if anything goes wrong, we call him. Luca has been pretty stressed for the past week or so. But I did catch him in Campo Santa Margerita..two nights ago..clutching a big birra.. with a bigger smile on his face.

To the right is Tara T (not me). Manager in the Visual Arts Department at the NAC. And to her right is.. the man.. the legend.. Joel. Joel..BTW.. has a really wicked collection of smart shirts.

Notice the elegant baroque interiors.. countered by the gothic exteriors of the Palazzo. The Design of the building is a bit of a mix of different era's.. centuries.. but it all works. Pretty marvelously.

Here is a picture of Jason Lim (in the dark blue).. a few hours after the official opening.. feeling pretty chuffed about his smashed chandelier.

The visuals which were captured on tape.. and is now being played on repeat on four different t.v. screens in the room.. are pretty intense.

Forgive the bad photography.

I just wanted to provide a few pictures to give those interested a feel of what the Singaporean Pavilion was all about.

to the left is a nifty picture by Joel Yuen.. of two little men furiously paddling away on a gondola.

Note: his brilliant use of sepia toned color effects.

I love how the normal mode of public transport in Venice is by Vaporetto.. which is essentially a big boat. It is quite fun.. and there are many panic attacks to be had on this not so cheap mode of transport.

Its going to be very strange having to come back to the real world. I haven't seen a car, bicycle or motorbike in about three weeks.

Due to the very bad reception.. the only TV show available is BBC world and sometimes (if lucky) some dodgy pay for porn channel. I don't usually watch that much tv.. let alone the news. Newspaper's or my MAC background.. which contains an RSS feed of the New York Times headlines.. are the only things that keep me updated with the jiggle of our planet. Nevertheless, I was shocked after watching the news. It is ridiculous how impartiality is blatantly ignored on broadcasted news channels.

So.. I have given up on BBC world.. and have found amusement through Italian radio-stations.

Quite a funny thing happened today. Da Wu tried to toast bread in the micro-wave. ( our flat lacks lots of basic amenities.. so we have been improvising.. for survival). Well as it turns out.. the bread started to burn. He got soo nervous about it.. and just left the charred bread in the microwave.
The flat is smelling a bit funky these days.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wine for Openings

Here is a mega quick update on the things happening in this floating city..

the pavilion drunk.. got thrown out a few days ago. He ended up passing out in Zul's Sound Dome. The main issue was that he was starting to stink up the room... It was all a bit ridiculous.

The massive posters for the Singapore Pavilion have FINALLY been put up around the building. We were getting lots of complaints from sweaty art enthusiasts who couldn't find the pavilion. Hopefully, that will subside.

Id like everyone to know that I have fully ignored my wheat and dairy allergy- and have made it my birthright to ingest as much pasta, pizza, cheese and gelato, that i can get my hands on. Im turning into a heifer. The prospect of an Italian lover is looking pretty.. slim.

Also.. I dont really know what to do with the Bulgarian Wine. There is about two boxes of wine the Bulgarian Pavilion gave to the Singapore Pavilion. It is actually part of the Bulgarian art work ' Wine for Openings'.. the artist grew his own grapes in his own vineyard, stepped on it, bottled it, and gave it out to everyone. Its a bit like Manzoni, where he canned his feces and sold it off to some museums (really amusing seeing as some of the cans exploded due to festering gases). Well the wine is tamer version of that. Unfortunately, despite all his hard work (we assume), the wine is pretty rancid. Tastes like vinegar. No one wants it. Might just chuck it into the grand canal.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

into the deep

Soo.. its been a pretty hectic week.
The Singapore Pavilion averages 300 visitors per day.. which is brilliant yet stressful.
I find myself running around and trying to stop people from picking up pieces of broken porcelain from Jason's chandelier. It is absolutely ridiculous. And there is also the odd idiot who tries to jump around in the sound dome.

Oh and we also have the token pavilion drunk. I plan to learn his name at some-point.. but he has proven to be the most devoted of all the visitors. His morning itinerary goes like this.. a twenty minute survey of the exhibit.. and a 15 minute wash in the bathrooms. Can't bare to kick him out.. I think he genuinely loves the space. And the free toilet facilities.

Joel Smoel.. partner in crime and marvelioso docent is away today.. showing The minister for health, SMS Balaji around the Arsenale.

I had my play date with the minister, his wife and a few MICA girls yesterday. It was rather exhausting. Mr Balaji is a machine. He insisted on seeing all 30 pavilions at the Giardini. Was very impressed by his stamina.. and slightly overwhelmed from just too much visual stimulation- fried the surviving braincells not already taken by the chianti.

The Giardini is a funny place. The ground is covered with gravel and many of the Pavilions look like Mausoleums. Bordering on ostentatious...well not nearly as bad as the massive Cruise Liners docked on the Grand Canal a few yards away. However, the area is cool, lined with stunning trees and generally quite green. Some of the Pavilions were built when the Biennale first started in the 19th Century, and others were built more recently. Each one tries to echo the character of the individual country. Hungary with its almost Byzantine like exterior.. and Israel tucked right next to the American Pavilion.

The International Herald Tribune reviewed this years Biennale as subtle bordering on bland. Seeing as I don't have any past experiences with the VBiennale to cross reference with. I am going to make my own review of the Giardini experience.

The Italian Pavilion, which was curated by Robert Storr was interesting. Interesting in the sense that it was a brilliant introduction to few dozen artists I had never been exposed to. However, some bits of the exhibit seemed more like an Art Gallery rather than a curated show for an Arts Festival. All in all a tad bit lifeless. But I guess that is one of the underlying factors to the Venice Biennale, a platform for artists to garner more buyers...which sort of tarnishes the altruistic reasons to this exhibition..but at the end of the day.. an artists has to eat.. especially the good ones.

Robert Storr's theme of, 'think with the senses and feel with the mind' was a bit weak-in my personal opinion. I understand what he wanted to get at.. the union of the mind and body through using art as a catalyst. Nevertheless, I fully enjoyed most of what I saw- As individual pieces rather than journey through a story made by the curator. Some of the video's sort of threw me off.. but i did love Tabaimo's piece which showed these giant hands filling up a dolls house- then scratching the walls away due to some insatiable itch..showing some sort of human body within the 'bones' of this house.

I was blown away by Sigmar Polke.. and this is not due to all the hype surrounding his work... I genuinely loved how his all his pieces have this dark, moody metallic sheen to it. The methodology involved to get that effect is absolutely fascinating. Like an alchemist, Polke experimented by mixing numerous metals and chemicals just for the color produced by the oxidization of the metals on the canvas. In regards to the paintings in the Pavilion, he was partial to using arsenic to bring out the colors in them. Just too wicked for words.

I was disappointed by Louise Bourgeois painting. I am a big fan of her sculptures.... but this particular painting which, consisted of a tight group of individual squares of canvas filled with criss-crossing blue lines.. with two random figures placed in the middle - stirred nothing in me.

Sol Le Witt's two works were detailed and beautiful.. as was this artist I can't remember the name of.. who is from the Congo. Damn.. will get back on that one.

As to the French pavilion.. I had a blast in it. Growing up with a mother who works in the profession of empowering and healing women (she is a obstetrician) I have always been attracted to things promoting the feminist ideal (spice girls.. loved it.. the female eunuch.. just bought the book). The echibit was based on reactions of a 100 different women to a break-up letter that Sophie Calle (the artists) received.. it was brilliant. The exhibit consisted of videos of the reactions.. or drafts of the newly interpreted letter hung on the wall. There was an Indian Carnatic dancer, a crossword setter who re-worded it, a parrot that eat it, a marks woman who shot it.. a therapist.. a judge.. and the list continues. It was all pretty amusing- and received a ton of giggles. The exhibit has the potentiality of making a few men uncomfortable..but it was in essence a celebration of diversity and individuality (and maybe a undisguised 'screw you' to the man who broke up with Calle). I don't think the Singaporean delegation were too impressed- which is understandable. The range of Contemporary Art is pretty much limitless.. and it takes a lot of imagination and 'lubing' of the logical mind to fully appreciate the impact or meaning to whatever is presented.

David Altmejd work for the Canadian Pavilion was like walking into a surrealistic lucid dream. Distorted yet fantastic glittering birds, shards of mirror, mushroom, bears, trees..bizarre contraptions.. and a mix of dreamy colors rising from the floor (i think the medium for that was plasticine) was a complete visual treat. Altmejd was trying to convey the disjointedness and artificiality of society, through his installation. Gothic-esque and brilliant. The Dali enthusiast in me was pleased.

The British Pavilion and German Pavilion.. in a word.. was shit. It was apparent that tracy emin did no work for the British Pavilion. It was a retrospective of her older works.. smacked in the space. Her stylishly nailed bundle of sticks was the only vaguely interesting thing in there. The rest of her works looked like kiddy sketches of naughty body parts... and the usual self-obsessed blabber of the various injustices she had faced in her life. Nothing new and as usual-incredibly uninspiring. As for the German pavilion.. Isa Genzken exhibit called Oil.. based on the future of petrodollars.. was vague and pretty random. With nooses hanging from the ceilings..gremlin like things with space masks.. and a collection of random suitcases. It was hard to grasp what she was trying to convey.

The Russian Pavilion.. was WICKED. One of my favorites. It was all based on media and technology.. and its adverse effect on us. The Animated- Film of a bunch of half naked teenagers prodding each other with knives was nothing special..maybe a bit weird and nonsensical. Nevertheless, it was one of the only pavilions where the curatorial theme echoed throughout all the works.

Romania's pavilion was also impressive.. they obviously didn't spend much money on it (seeing as it was called Low-Budget Monuments).. but there was this Moody Eastern European gravitas to the works, which appealed to me. The Polish Pavilion was cleverly done. It was this de-constructed framework of a building within the building of the pavilion.

I haven't seen Arsenale yet.. but I would not rate the Biennale as bland. Contemporary Art is The New World to me.. and a lot of what I have seen has been pretty fresh and out-there. Its exciting yet the only thing sagging is the feeling that one is strolling through an art gallery instead of a pavilion. Don't they have other events like Art Basel to appease the itchy buyer?

Ok enough with this pavilion blabber.

The coolest thing of this week was Da Wu making my hand a part of his installation. He has recorded me rolling rice off a banana leaf. You can't see my face in the video.. however the chipped neon pink nail-polish (and the brown hand..i guess) is a big give away.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


The first week in Venice has been nothing but exciting. I have always held the notion that Venice was a just small cluster of islands..sprinkled with canals, homely Italian restaurants and just a handful of ornate buildings where one could take a lazy gondola ride through. Well, as it turns out, Venice is a cluster of rather big islands filled with thousands of the most beautiful and ornate buildings you would ever see, immense yachts floating around the Grand canal, a few hundred Gondola's blasting out accordion music from built in sound systems..and most importantly the biggest art exhibition in the world going on for its 52nd time, The Venice Biennale. Boom. It was quite overwhelming- to say the least. I am interning in paradise for the lovers of the aesthetic. Who could ask for anything better?

Arriving at Palazzo Franchetti was a bit of a mission.. seeing as I am the quintessential Singaporean-where walking long distances is a massive task. Nevertheless, the walk was well worth the moans (and a sprained ankle) seeing as the Palazzo turned out to be absolutely magnificent.

Palazzo Franchetti is a 15th century building situated next to the Accademia Bridge, that is quite a popular area in Venice. This is due to being one of the few bridges linking the popular area of San Marco to a neighbouring island . Palazzo Franchetti immediately jumps out at you, due to its quiet yellow facade, beautifully maintained private garden, ornate metal gates, and gothic stone venetian lions looking down at you from the second floor. As you enter the building, one is immediatly blown away by the stunning Baroque interiors, corinthien columns inlaid with peach colored marble, grand marble staircases, immense windows looking over the grand canal and delicate pastel colored fresco's on the ceilings.

It would be hard to get bored of this place.. no..what i meant was.. palace.

What impressed me the most (and i am not saying this since they are technically my bosses) is how Lindy (the curator) and the artists integrated their works with the details of the palazzo. The exhibition space in the Palazzo is basically ten rooms with deep red colored walls. Each room, except for Zul's Sound Dome, contained chandeliers. A visitor commented to me a few days ago, that an inferior artists work would be overpowered by the ornateness of the palazzo. However, this was not the case, for the ideaologies and beauty of the art was accentuate by the Palazzo. It was a brilliant fusion, which left a lot of people impressed.

The Pavilion launch was extremely exciting. Before the launch, one could cut the tension with a knife. Nevertheless, it turned out to be an absolute success, thanks to lots of Prosecco..great works.. and some symbolic iconoclasm. Jason's chandelier, Just Dharma, which symbolized the Buddhist ideals of hope- and the subsequent loss of it, through the smashing of it during the pavilion opening- really got the party started. It was a powerful introduction to what the exhibition held. All very dramatic and fabulous.

On the whole, the response to the art work has been amazing. I don't think many people expect the art coming out of Singapore to hold much weight (for reasons i would never know!).. and despite their presumptions..a lot of the visitors come out amazed and impressed. Its a great feeling to see, especially when I am Singaporean, and have seen the steps leading up the Biennale due to a previous internship in the National Arts Council. This newly developed patriotism, which is odd for my flaming liberal tendencies, showed itself a couple of days ago. A woman got annoyed by the fact that she could not receive a catalogue (through no fault of our own..Italian customs wont let it through), so she declared Singapore 'Inefficient'. Man oh man, that really elicited quite the response from me.

Manning the pavilion has been a really insightful experience. For instance, a long discussion I had with an English visitor, who related the entire exhibit to a principle from Aristotle, in regards to existence.

Joel, my intern partner in crime, and prodigious photographer, has really enjoyed the docent aspect to the internship. Taking gaggle's of school girls around the exhibit for a thorough explanation of the works.

Ah well..

Seeing as I am currently lacking a few cerebral capabilities due to an excessive amount of coffee, ciggerettes and nocciola gelato.. i should take the responsible step and stop writing.

Till tomorrow...
the city calls!