The 2015 Venice Biennale was a circus whose chief clowns were called exclusivity, power, status and wealth, all of whom ran amok in the world’s most beautiful city.
As ever, with any biennale, there were gems – considered thinking, socially engaged practise, playful responses – to be found in the melee. My favourite was the controversial, but considered, Iceland pavilion – a working mosque built by Christoph Büchel. At the time of writing, the political import of this piece sees it closed to the public.
One moment I keep harking back to is a brief conversation with Peter Bazalgette, chair of Arts Council England. I was lucky enough to bump into Peter at Doug Fishbone’s crazy golf course. During our chat – which lasted no more than two minutes – Peter and I discussed the role of art in creating more empathy in the world at large. More than anything else, this is my driving motive, and I often struggle with how to use my skills as a creative to do so. How can art create a world where we are more empathetic – not only to each other, but to the other species we co-exist with? Despite the appointment of Okwui Enwezor as director of this year’s biennale, and a theme grandiosely titled All The World’s Futures, it seemed to me as though this mainstay of the global arts calendar is more concerned with the sustainability of the bubble of the art world, than it is in considering the fragility of the bubble we call Planet Earth, and the part we all play in ensuring the sustainability of other species upon it.
Here’s a snapshot taken by Louise Clements at the rather excellently curated Iranian pavilion. It was taken with a phone which was made by exploiting cheap labour, and plundering swindling natural resources. All of our choices and actions are laced with paradox and complexity; a fact which artist Lindsey Seers reflects upon, as she considers her participation in the Biennale in this enjoyable and reflective blog post.