TEXT BY 撰文 x FION GUNN 菲昂·戈恩
EDITED BY 編輯 x MICHELLE YU 余小悅
TRANSLATED BY 翻譯 x ELAINE YU 余寧
I love the Venice biennale, the location, the huge numbers of participating artists, cultures, locations. I don’t mind being footsore and weary after a long day wandering from exhibition space to exhibition space. I don’t mind not liking a large number of the artworks I see and I don’t mind seeing individual shows curated by buffoons. What I do mind, terribly and painfully, to the point of wanting to stick pins in my eyes and shed someone’s blood, is visually illiterate smart arse curation infiltrating a whole biennale, shouting down individual voices and drowning out curatorial diversity.
Perversely, Massimiliiano Gioni, curator of the biennale included many more artists than in previous years (an impressive total of 150), so why accuse him of drowning out diversity? I do so because I feel that Gioni, sharply dressed and rising ‘inexorably’ to quote artreview.com curated the biennale as though he were kitting out a cool loft apartment in Manhattan, eager to impress, to maintain a slick, totally ‘academically appropriate’ decor. Control is the key for Gioni, listed as one of the eight top super-curators in the world – what does this even mean? Does he actually look at what’s going on out there in the wider world, beyond the universe of New York and the American Urban Empire?
“It (The Encyclopedic Palace，the 55th Venice Biennale) will zigzag across histories, covering 100 years of dreams and visions,” said Gioni, noting that 38 countries are represented. “A biennale can be pedagogical without being boring.”
He was wrong…the artworks felt as though they had been curated by a maniac librarian, catalogued according to medium and size, as though he had asked himself:
- why have a wall with 5 mediocre drawings when putting 500 of them on the same wall will be so impressive?
- why show one video screen when a bank of 100 screens will overwhelm the viewer even more?
- why not have an audio environment which is so deafening and unpleasant that people won’t spend too long in the huge space and won’t have time to see if the work is actually worth looking at?
I wouldn’t mind so much if there were a point to the unpleasantness – that after all, would give it meaning, would make the negative reaction worthwhile.
His predecessor Bice Curiger, one of only three women to have curated the Biennale did so with significantly greater finesse, engaged the viewers and reflected the diversity of the contemporary art world far more effectively.
Gioni remarked in the same interview “It [The Encyclopedic Palace] best reflects the giant scope of this international exhibition,” and “the impossibility of capturing the sheer enormity of the art world today.” More and more his curatorial revealed itself as repetitive, excluding, his underlying philosophy “being big = good” and the Encyclopedic Palace reflected nothing beyond its own navel.
Coline Milliard in her deferential critique of Gioni’s approach relates that “Rather than picking just one picture from Imran Qureshi’s Moderate Enlightenment series — which portrays contemporary characters using the ancient Mughal technique of miniature — Gioni has selected nine of them, the sheer critical mass enhancing their unsettling qualities.”
However, he didn’t manage to enhance anything, he made everything really difficult to look at, difficult to remember. In fact, he destroyed the impact of many really good artists’ work because he was unable to make good curatorial decisions.
It might sound harsh, but given the stranglehold that critics/academics/celebrities like him have on today’s artworld, I feel justified in levelling these criticisms. I have little sympathy with the privileged layer of super curators (none of whom is an artist or issue of a visual discipline) who currently dominate the presentation of art to the global general public. I’m not going to list them here, I don’t want to fuel the over-coverage which they already receive but, suffice it to say, that another one of the Super 8 – Okwui Enwezor , will curate the Venice Biennale in 2015. Maybe his background as a poet will give him a different perspective from Gioni’s into the curatorial process.
An artist who was featured in the 2013 Venice Biennale remarked:
“Gioni has a specific overview of what he wants, he has a thematic and that thematic has to be ‘muscled out’ made physical. And then he has these pairings, these special relationships between certain kinds of work and reactions he wants to provoke. So for instance, a work that I made with certain paintings and I really don’t share that view…”
I asked him how he found working with Gioni and he replied:
“For somebody to hold so many artists in his mind and to have only 6 months to curate a show from zero…I found it deeply fascinating to observe.”
He added worriedly, ‘in the best possible way of course and please don’t quote me on that because I might want to work with him again…”
Actually, I saw this show as a portrait of the curator and Gioni trying to grapple with his Catholicism or maybe his lapsed Catholicism, it was fascinating but I didn’t expect that. I expected the show to be an exploration but not an exploration of the curator’s psyche.
An abiding and convincing criticism of many ‘super curators’ is that these individuals are parachuted into environments where they are culturally insensitive and where they eat up resources which would be better spent or used in more ‘democratic’ ways. Using a theatrical metaphor it is as though they are the lead actors in a play who have to have their own spotlight always trained on them irrespective of anyone else acting on the stage (the other players remain in obscurity) and whether they have anything to say or not.
Personally, I would like to dismantle the critical sway of academic/art critic curators who have created a difficult, excluding space, from both the artists’ and the public’s perspective, strewn with obstacles to visual coherence, dialogue and engagement.
事與願違，西米利亞諾·吉奧尼（Massimiliiano Gioni），上一屆雙年展的策展人囊括了比前些年要多許多的藝術家（竟然有150個之多！），那麽為什麽說他抹殺多樣性呢？我認為吉奧尼，這位被《藝術評論（Artreview）》評為時尚的“無情”新星，策劃雙年展時仿佛在打造曼哈頓的一間時髦公寓一般，急功近利地維系華而不實、卻具“適當學術性”的裝飾。對於吉奧尼來說，控制是核心，他被列為世界八大超級策展人之一 ，這又意味著什麽？他在紐約與美國城市大帝國外到底是否向外面的世界觀察過，去了其他地方在發生什麽？
“《百科宮殿（The Encyclopedic Palace, the 55th Venice Biennale）》將探索蜿蜒的歷史，涵蓋百年的夢想和願景”，吉奧說，“雙年展可以是學究的，但也可以不乏味。”
如果這一切的令人不快是有目的的，我並不會如此在意 — 因為這樣的話便會有意義，使得負面反饋產生價值。
科琳•米麗德（Coline Milliard）在一篇恭維吉奧尼的評論中說道：“他不只挑選了一副伊姆蘭·庫雷希（Imran Qureshi）啟蒙運動系列的作品–用古老的莫臥兒微縮技術刻畫的當代人像–吉奧尼使用了九幅作品，這純粹的量化加強了它們令人不安的感覺。”