European artists taking part to the 57th Venice International Art Biennale, directed this year by Christine Macel, are on track to present their art creations in the tough Venetian art arena. The not-to-be-missed art event will run from May 13 to November 26, with the usual stressful and packed marathon of preview days.
This year, Phyllida Barlow has been selected by the British Council to represent UK in its historical pavilion located in the Giardini. Best known for her colossal sculptural projects, for over five decades Barlow has employed a distinctive vocabulary of inexpensive materials such as plywood, cardboard, plaster, cement, fabric and paint to create striking sculptures and bold and expansive installations that confront the relationship between objects and the space that surrounds them.
Drawing on memories of familiar objects from her surroundings, Barlow’s practice is grounded in an anti-monumental tradition characterised by her physical experience of handling materials in an expedient and direct way.
“It is an extraordinary privilege and honour to be invited to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale 2017,” said Barlow. “I am astonished, thrilled and, of course, hugely excited. It is going to be a remarkable experience to begin to consider the work for the imposing architecture of the British pavilion. I cannot imagine a more invigorating and wonderful challenge.”
On the French side, Xavier Veilhan’s “Merzbau musical” project will stand for France at the Venice art kermesse. The installation, with the two curators, Lionel Bovier and Christian Marclay, will make a play on volume and decor in the French Pavilion, inspired by the world of the recording studio.
Visitors will be able to discover exceptional musical instruments, some of which will be created for the occasion, and listen to musicians from all horizons, throughout the Venice Biennale. Born in 1963, Xavier Veilhan lives and works in Paris. His work, involving sculpture, painting, video, photography and installation, consists in taking hold of what is real, particularly in its biological and technical aspects, in archetypical, generic or prototypical forms, that question the worlds of historic and contemporary representation.
Crossing the Rhein River, artist Anne Imhof will “fight” for Germany while Susanne Pfeffer, director of the Museum Fridericianum in Kassel, will curate the pavilion. Born in 1978, the Frankfurt- and Paris-based artist is best known for works that explore the history of performance.
In 2015, her work Deal premiered at MoMA PS1. This year, her three-part work Angst received much acclaim across three separate venues: the Kunsthalle Basel, the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, and the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal as part of La Biennale de Montréal.
Last year she won the biennial Nationalgalerie Prize for Young Art. Since May, Imhof has been working on “a spatially as well as temporally expansive work” for the pavilion.
Up north, artists Nathaniel Mellors (1974, UK) and Erkka Nissinen (1975, Finland) will represent Finland with ‘The Aalto Natives’. Commissioned and produced by Frame Contemporary Art Finland, the exhibition is curated by Xander Karskens (1973, Netherlands), artistic director at Cobra Museum of Modern Art in Amstelveen.
Working collaboratively, the artists will transform the Pavilion of Finland (built in 1956 by architect Alvar Aalto) into an immersive, multimedia environment. The installation brings together sculptural elements, animatronics and video, which are synchronised in a dynamic choreography of dialogue and image.
The exhibition focuses on various clichés surrounding Finnish history and national identity for ‘The Aalto Natives’. Taking cues from archaeology, anthropology and science fiction, short video vignettes at the core of the installation re-imagine Finnish society through the eyes of a pair of outsider figures, represented by talking animatronic puppets which, in dialogue, present a lecture. The puppets introduce a series of fast-paced video vignettes on Finnish mythology, contemporary Finnish society and their vision for the future of Finland.
The duo is recognised for their absurd, irreverent and hilarious story-driven work. Their humorous approach belies a profound understanding of contemporary issues of morality and communication.