Aleksandra Mir

Notes from a Novice in Venice

By Lily Simonson, New York, June 2009

Making Worlds
7 June – 22 November 2009
Internazionale d'Arte - La Biennale di Venezia, Venice

...In a corner of Venice’s 13th-century shipbuilding complex-cum-contemporary art exhibition space called the Arsenale, attendees of the 53rd International Art Exhibition swarm around an unruly stack of boxes, each overflowing with postcards. Squinting in the dim light, you see that the postcards are all glowing shiny blue with "VENEZIA” splashed across each image in various colorful fonts. As you look closer, it becomes clear that the photographs are not pictures of “Venezia” at all. Some depict oil rigs, others capture waterfalls, and still others display joyful whitewater rafters. There are, in fact, 1 million postcards available for exhibition-goers to take away over the next 6 months. Polish artist Aleksandra Mir chose 100 images by searching stock photography services for images of water. Mir’s own website states that water operates in this piece as a metaphor for globalization. Since the installation also includes a “real Poste Italiane mailbox” and purchasable stamps, viewers can mail the works to anywhere in the world.

In the context of this year’s Biennale theme, 'Making Worlds,' and my own experience as a newcomer to Venice, I see Mir’s creation of 13 tons of fake postcards as a metaphor for the artist’s role as a creator of new realities, and as a messenger between fact and fantasy. Stock photographs strive to tap directly into our collective imaginations, with images that are at once versatile and specific. Souvenirs such as postcards are more than just photographs; they reify our most personal and extraordinary memories and emotions, in turn allowing us to share them with others. Meanwhile, isn’t artmaking almost always about manifesting imagination in reality, and ultimately blurring the line between the two? Mir’s installation achieves all of that...