The Venice Biennale in two hours

Photo Credit: Derek Knight Yin Xiuzhen (China), Nowhere to Land 2012, from central exhibition May You Live in Interesting Times 58th Venice Biennale, 2019

Photo Credit: Derek Knight
Yin Xiuzhen (China), Nowhere to Land 2012, from central exhibition May You Live in Interesting Times 58th Venice Biennale, 2019

How does one do justice to a massive contemporary art exhibit in just two hours? Derek Knight, Associate Professor of Visual Arts at Brock University did just that at his illustrated exhibit Venice Biennale, 2019: Break Glass in Case of Emergency. This lecture was a recollection of Knight’s time in Italy at the Venice Biennale, featuring his favourite pieces from the exhibit.

The Venice Biennale featured Ralph Rugoff’s curated show May You Live In Interesting Times, which runs May 11 to November 24, 2019. This show was an ode to contemporary art, in mediums from painting to technologically produced pieces to short films. Knight notes that the Venice Biennale is truly a milestone for contemporary art.

“Over the last number of years I’ve attended the Venice Biennale, which is probably one of the more important overviews of contemporary art,” he said.

Knight presented the lecture to share some of the Venice Biennale’s world renowned art to St. Catharines.

“What I am doing here is attempting to evaluate this art and assess the experience that I had in Venice last July,” said Knight.

Knight highlighted the importance of contemporary art in relation to current world events. The pieces featured during the lecture tackled issues such a violence, technological advances, immigration and more.

The use of technology as an art form was contrasted with traditional art mediums like carving marble. Knight drew attention to this contrast and how it reflected the way technology interacts with the natural world. The technological piece “Data-Verse 2” was by Ryoji Ikeda and the marble sculpture, “Untitled”, was by Andreas Lolis.

The Christoph Büchel work that Knight featured was chilling, it was an empty ship hull that had sunk in 2015 while carrying hundreds of refugees. The hull had been retrieved off the coast of Libya to then be displayed at the Venice Biennale. Knight discussed this piece as an expression of the experience of immigrants while posing questions as to what makes this ship hull a piece of art.

After delving into technology and immigration, Knight let violence take the forefront of his lecture, featuring pieces from Jill Mulleady, Lawrence Abdul Hamdan and Teresa Margolles. Knight noted that pieces that tackle topics like gang violence and border wars, are why contemporary art is important to help understand the world around us.

Continuing with the theme of violence, Knight closed the lecture off by discussing some of the most momentous pieces he viewed during his time in Italy: Christian Marclay’s “Scream”, “48 War Movies” and “The Clock”. 48 War Movies was a composition of 48 movies playing over each other and Knight says it was an extremely overwhelming and intriguing piece that he spent a lot of time viewing to fully appreciate.

“What I hope to do is to bring a kind of perspective to an event which is of a significant magnitude when we think about the opportunity to find so much art within one place, in other words the premise of Venice Biennale is that you have many curators that are curating exhibitions with many, many different artists,” said Knight. “What I hope to show at least, with what one can do in one hour, is at least give a sense of the dynamic, versatile aspect of contemporary art.”

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