Aleksandra Mir

Dispatch from the Venice Biennale!

By Kyle Van Horn, Philadelphia, June 2009

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

Save the fact that the Biennale’s overall graphic identity is exquisite, replete with a variable-edition cover on the catalog and a minimal, angular, and varied series of ‘logos’, the Biennale has precious few pieces of particular print-interest. Overall, as is to be expected, the exhibition is heavy on installation and video work. A gallery of paintings or drawings is the exception, not the norm. Perhaps this is why the few print pieces stand out so prominently.

This year’s exhibition theme Fare Mondi (”Making Worlds”) is very present in the exhibited work. Walking into the Italian Pavilion at the entrance to the Giardini, the first piece in the exhibition is an untitled installation by Wade Guyton and Kelley Walker. From the exhibition: “Guyton/Walker’s collaborative work, which often draws on the legacy of Pop Art, at times combines conventions of art and design. Their contribution to the Venice Biennale combines painterly and technologically meditated expressions and includes canvases, printed sheet rock, and other objects.”

Utilizing the crates the work was shipped in as a setting and structure for the installation, the exhibition combines silkscreen, inkjet, and hand painting on drywall and canvas. The canvases are displayed standing on paint cans as though in process in the studio, and the cans themselves display more of the printed patterns found on the flat surfaces.

Little silkscreen seems evident, but the process of inkjet printing on gypsum board is fascinating to me, even showcasing over-spray along the finished edges of the board, as if they were too-small sheets being fed through some massive desktop inkjet.

The imagery itself is heavily manipulated digitally, with many layers of color and pattern. It seems to reference Warhol and Lichtenstein explicitly, with additional references to work by Gerhard Richter and others.

Another piece of interest is Venezia by Aleksandra Mir, displayed in the Arsenale. This very fun interactive installation consists of a stack of boxes, each full of approximately 1000 postcards, free for the taking, of Venezia. A cursory glance only registers as travel postcards, but one quickly realizes that none of the images displayed on the postcards are remotely Venetian.

All culled from Getty Images, the very ‘touristy’ images quickly reveal open prairie, snow-capped mountains, lush valleys, surfers catching a wave, and a quaint New England coast, as well as popular travel destinations including the Golden Gate Bridge, London Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, and what appears to be South America, Northern Africa, Ireland, and more.

All display the word VENEZIA or VENIZIA in an image-appropriate font and style, some displaying distinctive Italian characteristics like the tri-color text, the Red-White-Green of the Italian Flag. The reverse of the postcards includes only the Artist’s information, the source of the photograph, and a number (001 – 100), counting the number of different series produced. The cards are free for the taking and 100% usable.

Useful: sure. Accurate: no. Funny: YES. The piece is also a poignant look at tourism, commercialism, and the fact that 99% of Biennale attendees are non-native international travelers, many of whom skip off from here to Berlin to attend Art Basel and points north, before heading back to New York City, Tokyo, London, et al.

Wade Guyton Born in Hammond, USA in 1972. Kelley Walker born in Columbus, USA, in 1969.
Live and work in New York, USA.

Wade Guyton and Kelley Walker’s collaborative debut took place in New York in 2005. In their installations the artists incorporate an array of artistic mediums, including painting, sculpture, and print media; their works are often created through process-oriented appropriations and digital manipulations, and frequently deploy recycled everyday objects. Their work, which often draws on the legacy of Pop Art, at times combines conventions of art and design. Previously having referred to both Andy Warhol and Fischli & Weiss, the artists likewise draw sustenance from their individual practices. Their collaborative work is, however, markedly different what they create by themselves (sic). In fact, “create” may not be the right term: their collaborative practice may better be described as being rooted in filtering rather than defining images and objects. Extending the notions informing their collaboration to the objects themselves, one can see each artwork self-reflexively questioning its own status as art. Their contribution to the Venice Biennale combines painterly and technologically mediated expressions and includes canvases, printed sheet rock, and other objects — hung on the walls and placed throughout the gallery–featuring images of bananas and coconuts. Both the nature of their collaborative practice and their output reveal a more intricate view of the role of the artist, as well as how the concepts of authorship, authenticity, and identity function within the systems their work addresses.

Aleksandra Mir
Born in Lubin Poland, in 1967. Lives and works in Palermo IT.

The visitor has the fundamental role of activating Aleksandra Mir’s VENEZIA (all places contain all others) (2009). And of extending the works’ confines beyond the exhibition space> A million free postcards, which may be immediately written on, can be posted, after purchasing a stamp, in a fully operational letter-box. One hundred places characterized by the presence of water substitute for traditional images of Venice, through the word “Venezia” has been printed in a disorienting way over the new landscapes. The artist appropriates and redefines the means and strategies of the tourist industry, freeing the city of its stereotyped images to create a new geographical entity. In the same way that the water of the city lagoon is part of a continuous global cycle of exchange, the postcards will be circulated by the public to every part of the world as mementos and evocations of the non-standartdized experience. The artist hopes that one day, perhaps in a hundred years, one of these pictures will end up on the stall of an antiques dealer on the banks of the Seine. By printing a million copies, Mir transforms the ephemeral nature of the postcard into a powerful medium, able to amplify the meaning of the artwork across time and space. The improvisatory, performance-based nature of her art encourages not only public participation but also trust in unpredictable encounters.