On my return to Falmouth after reading week, I only had one day to pack up my things before I headed off travelling again - this time to Venice - with a group of fellow first and second year Fine Art students. Our trip to Venice was to see the 56th International Art Exhibition 'All the World’s Futures', curated by Okwui Enwezor and organised by la Biennale di Venezia.
The work we saw was made by over 136 artists from 53 countries throughout the world. Each country had representative artists who exhibited their work in the pavilions in the Giardini della Biennale, at the Arsenale, and dotted around Venice. Sort of like an art Eurovision but a slightly more cultural event...
The entire city was thriving despite it being off-season; full of art students, locals and avid art aficionados all rushing to witness the Biennale before it closes for the year on the 22nd of November. We arrived at our little hotel in Venice in the early hours of Tuesday morning after 17 hours of travelling - thanks to us Cornish students living in the middle of nowhere and flight delays caused by the London fog.
After a long sleep which resulted in most of us missing breakfast, we woke and set out to explore the city whilst on the way to pick up our tickets for the exhibition from our tutors. The location of which we were to collect these tickets, however, puzzled our sleep-deprived, disorientated minds... We got quite lost.
That said, wandering around the maze-like city was a dream. The architecture and the beauty of the buildings surrounding us looked so different in the daylight than they had when we'd arrived in Venice just 8 hours earlier, in the darkness. When we finally located our tutors, we sat down for food and large glasses of wine to rejuvenate ourselves before we entered the Arsenale building for such a large scale exhibition that none of us were prepared for...
What I didn't realise before I entered the exhibition on that first day in Venice is that this year it was curated to pose the difficult question of what our future as inhabitants of this world holds. On reflection, the question seems to be answered well through the sinister artwork curated and exhibited.
Entering the Arsenale, five neon signs by Bruce Nauman flash with brutal words including 'death,' 'pain' and 'war', which also light the installation pieces by Adel Abdessemed assembled in the centre of the room; a series of upturned machetes stuck into the floor, suggestive of menacing weapons and remains of a war scene.
Artist Monica Bonvicini arranged bunches of chainsaws, covered them with black polyurethane and hung them from the ceiling to drip; the textures created were reminiscent of thickening, darkened blood. Mechanical and rusty machines are dotted around on the floors and walls throughout the gallery spaces and industrial, harsh shapes are prevalent themes in most of the works.
Further into the exhibition, the path taken by an AK47 bullet is preserved through a block of ice, looking as if it is tearing through the frozen water; highlighting the incredibly violent force of a bullet's trajectory.
Seen below is the work of the Vietnamese-American multimedia artist Tiffany Chung who creates intricate, delicate paintings on paper. These pieces are infographics conveying statistics in regard to the wars and refugees all over the world.
The exhibition seems to answer the question quite easily - that all of our world is currently consumed by war and violence and that the future of the planet we inhabit is a shared responsibility.
The exhibition informs the viewer of how shockingly violent a place our world has become. In only the past few days from the tragedies in Paris we have been sadly reminded of that fact: the world is an increasingly fragile and unjust place.
Being so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work we were faced with and the heaviness of it all, we made our excuses and found a little place to sit and have another few glasses (or rather, in this case, plastic cups) of wine. Quite coincidentally, our tutors always managed to walk past and spot our little Venice group when we were either sitting down and eating, drinking wine, or both. Completely coincidental, not that we were having frequent wine stops at all...
We finished the day looking around the last few bits of pieces of work in the Arsenale then headed back to the hotel to have a little power nap before dinner. We had to practically drag the boys out of their beds (boys will be boys) but we ended up having a lovely night in a restaurant where we filled our bellies with wine and beautiful Italian food. Post-meal we headed over to a friend's apartment for a little while and then went back to the hotel to get some well-deserved rest before another full day of arty shenanigans (and wine).