The Swiss Pavilion was waiting for us near the entrance – with a typically extravagant and over-the-top installation by Thomas Hirschhorn, very aptly treating the theme of consumption, among many others, in Crystals of Resistance.
But even for Thomas Hirschhorn this installation was too much, especially in conjunction with the text, which was quite a drag to read. Combining images from violent conflicts with elements of mass cunsumerism, like cell phones, celebrity and gossip magazines, bottles, chairs, dolls, etc. along with natural symbols of healing and beauty, which were the crystals, we were shown how easily we get distracted from the real issues and tragedies of today by the false promises of things and stuff, but that there is also redemption….
Among the other pavilions that were remarkable (among the six that I managed to see) were the Egyptian, which was dedicated to the artist Ahmed Basiony killed by the Mubarak regime during the protests on Tahrir Square in Cairo, and the Romanian, which was remarkable for its absurdity.
The Egyptian pavilion featured footage of Basiony performing 30 Days of Running in Place, in which he recorded his movements with the help of sensors on his shoes. His use of technology in his practice is important to his role in the demonstrations, and ultimately records the last days of his life, which ended on January 28, 2011. Footage from his performance is juxtapopsed with the cell phone recording he made of the protests. The pavilion’s statement was strong and important, and moving – the way shows like these ought to be.
Unfortunately Romania disappointed with a sloppy and altogether seemingly improvised show featuring the work of the artist-duo Anetta Mona Chişa & Lucia Tkáčová and Ion Grigorescu, who is now in major demand. Anetta and Lucia spraypainted “subversive” texts about curatorial power and artist submission, as well as slogans about money and art in orange paint across the walls of the gallery, on top of the film projections by Ion Grigorescu, thereby completely eliminating his position. And to top it all off, there was absolutely no connection between the text and Grigorescu’s work – a childish rebellion…But against whom and what? Maybe a more convincing statement would have been to not participate.
The Illiminations show was huge and confusing – curatorially forced and unclear. One of the most interesting pieces, however, was Ryan Gadner’s 25 euro coin imagined in the year 2035, and calculated for inflation, placed discreetly, invisibly almost, on the concrete floor of a very large gallery.
I regret not seeing the Attack on the Chinese Pavilion in person, so instead I’m posting the video. It’s extremely funny, but it also raises the question of how it is possible that at such an international exhibition, the incarceration of one of the art world’s darlings, Ai Weiwei, seems to have been so easily pushed aside while the party continued undisturbed. It’s quite shameful.