THE 58TH VENICE ART BIENNALE | BLURRING THE ‘LABELLING’ BOUNDARIES
There was a time when I felt very passionate about making the distinction between art and design. That design is art with the added element of functionality, without which I am unable to function creatively. That may to some extent still be true, but it can also be said that all art is design and all design is art (above a certain level).
One of the things I loved about this Biennale is that it smashed every ‘artist’ and ‘designer’ label. I saw crossovers from performance, to costume, to industrial design, to architecture, all merging into the world of art, becoming and being art. It was refreshing and reassuring for me in a sense, as it has helped me feel I can be myself now, even more than before. If I don’t feel I fit in the world of fashion, then I don’t have to, there may be a seat for me in the world of art, which is perhaps where I truly belong.
I think the most converging point in the Biennale that really highlighted this bridging of artists and designers from different areas of expertise, coming together and co-creating, was the Venice Pavilion in the Giardini. A three part gallery space comprised of a textile art based installation, an architectural installation and finally a film installation that came to life via the collaboration of an architect, a sculptor, a textile artist, a film director, a graphic designer and a composer (Stelios Kois Fabio Viale, Sidival Fila, Ferzan Ozpetek, Bureau Borsche and Giorgos Koumendakis respectively). Inspired by Venice, I found this incredibly exciting conceptually and as an approach to creating art. I feel this unleashes new possibilities for art and may be one of the directions art will be moving in.
The Turkish pavilion was interesting because it comprised of a spatial narrative defined by industrial design components such as railings and deconstructed chairs. The railings were designed with playful tweaks. Since railings have a functionality, I couldn’t help but see how conspicuous the crossover was here between art and design. In this instance the artist has worked in a very close manner to how you would normally see a designer work, and come up with some pretty innovative design as a result.
Similarly, in the Indian pavilion I saw the work of Shakuntala Kulkarni whose pieces were wearable designs / art work. One could label this as fashion or costumes, as well as art. The artist felt the context of the body was important, since photographs were displayed of the artist wearing her pieces in an urban context. I somehow felt the artist was choosing to have them photographed in this way to make them seem like they had more of a contemporary relevance than they really did. When seeing them displayed as objects void of a body, one could admire the incredibly level of craft taken to construct them and the inventive deconstructivist designing. They were beautiful. However, they lacked something of the now for me, and I felt the photographs were an attempt (by giving them various contemporary, spatial contexts) to give them an added value or meaning, which for me personally wasn’t coming across. If there was a contemporary based, topical concept behind these pieces, I didn’t get it. But I was delighted to see wearable design exhibited at the Biennale.
There was also a very interesting installation in the main Arsenale exhibition. As one proceeded through the Arsenale, one suddenly entered a space which felt the like the costume storage room or dressing room of a theatre or opera house or a film set. A monitor displayed an accompanying film. Then, completely randomly a tarot reader appeared (in corresponding dress to the whole display) and begun ‘interacting’ with the film and reading a tarot spread on the floor. So again, performance was a prominent part of the Biennale. Actors were part of the art work and were bringing the experiences to life, often by completing an installation that had a series of other components, together with the performance(s).