One hundred and twenty artists gathered under the umbrella of one of the most provocative and attention-grabbing art exhibitions in the world – the Venice Biennale. VIVA ARTE VIVA is the title of the 57th International Art Exhibition curated by Christine Macel and organized by La Biennale di Venezia. The show does exactly what it is supposed to do; the visitors and critics are left feeling shocked, intrigued, terrified, elated, depressed, awkward, out of their comfort zone and pondering the different views on life that are presented in such striking manners. From casual and subtle to outright shocking and even disturbing, artists take the visitor through a trance of emotions that is packed with ups and downs, lefts and rights. Mesmerizing fountains, intricate tapestries, Brazilian rainforest tribesmen, free visas, and Pinocchio who commits a brutally explicit rape with his growing nose; these are just some of the notable moments from the main international exhibition. But what was the one artwork which had everyone talking, elbowing each other and pushing around to get in? Which artist blew everyone else out of the water and snagged the Golden Lion award? Who is Anne Imhof and what is Faust all about?
The huge front door of the German pavilion, built in the Nazi era, was blocked off. An installed raised glass floor reveals a leather collar, bottles of hand sanitizer and a few other unassuming objects. Then you start seeing there’s actually people crawling just underneath the elevated glass floor on which you’re carefully treading with utter unease. Some are just sitting there, motionless, almost lifeless, while others are slowly moving about in not so natural motions. All the while an industrial/black metal musical score is blaring all around with a thin woman slow-motion headbanging to it. As if the whole scene weren’t unsettling enough, you come to realize the performers are not constricted to the area below the glass floor, they are also among the crowds around you, right next to you. People wearing black clothing are lunging themselves at you, or more specifically their bodies. You don’t get a sensation of a person being inside the body which is unnaturally flailing its limbs and swaying to and fro, it is merely a body, and it feels like nothing human is controlling its movements, there is nothing human left. Around the room, outside, you see huge wire fences with barking dogs and an occasional body in black sitting on top of the fence. Every performer seems to be there for a specific reason, yet there is an undeniable sense of absence and randomness in every part of this performance.
So, what is the intended message behind the weary cast of millennial-aged/dressed dancers who act like mindless drones still figuring out their motor skills? What is the occasional monastic chanting, screaming, and barking of Dobermans soundtrack to? Is it really an award-winning art performance worthy of endless praise by the critics and audience alike? Or is it an over-the-top display of augmented social issues which only pertain the art show set? As it should be with all art, the answer must be found in the individual experience. Whether you see it as an eye-opening artwork, presenting the body as a vessel of capitalism, dancing around many other social issues in a unique and thought-provoking way; or simply a bunch of millenials trying to shock us all into a conversation, Anne Imhof’s Faust should be experienced before judged. Imhof’s performances were described as “meditations on contemporary power structures”, and that they are, in more ways than one.
Take a peek at Faust courtesy of Vernissage TV.