You have a lengthy period of performance and spectacle, participation from an ever growing number of countries and participants, and after the event, you are presented with statistical and budgetery information designed to strike us with wonder as to the scale of the spectacle.
Before, during and after, we rate the infrastructure, we rate how well organised the event was, and we congratulate ourselves on how inclusive it was on an international scale.
Collectively, we marvel at the sheer scale of everything.
But these arbitrary measures of success are the only way we can really gauge the significance of an event of this size, because, the sheer diversity of the events on offer and the output of the participants makes for a dizzying collage.
Just as there are those emotional, inspiring moments, and the moments of utter defeat and disappointment in the Olympics, the same is on offer at the Biennale. You can't necessarily say that the Biennale was brilliant, or that it was shit, or that it in effect offers up the best of what the contemporary art world has to offer, because it's a quilt; a patchwork of a lot of national and commercial interests and the product of a lot of curatorial input and artistic output, that is often bent to serve bigger agendas. It, like the Olympics, is full of significant and insignificant moments, and its the micro, rather than macro view, that means more in the end. At the end of the day (or two days in the case of the Biennale), a visitor might hope that they saw more things that inspired, challenged or moved them than they did things that simply annoyed, disappointed or worse, left no stain on their memories at all.
I spent two days at the Biennale; day one visiting the numerous pavillions at Giardini, and day two visiting the exhibits at Arsenale, which is a looser continuation of the Giardini set up.
What I saw often provoked me, good and bad, and such was the amount of work and participants on offer, that even after two solid days of visiting, I didn't see it all. You have to remember that beyond Giardini and Arsenale, Venice gives itself over to the Biennale, and there are also dozens of off location events and exhibits on offer, making it impossible to completely cover in two days. That said, I made a fist of it, and subsequent posts will explain my thoughts and my impressions at a micro level. ;)