If there are two pavilions at the Biennale that almost always leave me frustrated, its the Russian and Swiss pavilions.
There, I said it.
This year, due to the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has essentially been "expelled" from the Biennale. I'll be honest. I'm not sure how I feel about the world's embargo on Russia when it comes to art, culture and artists.
On the one hand, the nationalistic aspect of an event like the Biennale could be used for propaganda or other political goals.
But from a more human perspective, I would think that some dialogue is better than no dialogue.
Freezing a country like Russia out of the international community not only seems to worsen the daily lives of actual Russians, but doesn't it just give the Russian state an excuse not to bother interacting, negotiating and compromising with its international neighbours?
I don't know. But in any case the Russian pavilion was closed this year, and as such, I didn't have to grapple with a completely different artistic tradition and vocabulary.
And whatever time I would've spent in the pavilion I just added to nearby pavilions, including Switzerland.
Now don't get me started on Switzerland.
Aside from still coming to terms with the mad eighteen hour dash I had to make out of the country when my flight back from Geneva got cancelled (my friend made it back to Singapore before I made it back to Rome FYI), I'm not sure I've ever entered into the Swiss aesthetic.
I've even tried by visiting the cultural embassies here in Rome, looking at the work of artists in residence and almost always leaving wondering why its so dissatisfactory to me on a personal level.
Well that wasn't the case at the Biennale this year. No! This year they almost drew the gay gasp out of me.
Latifa Echakhch brings together the elements of fire and air as well as light and dark in this exhibition.
In doing so, she creates a spatial response to the architecture that she's working within. And that spatial response is also connected to the idea of time.
Moving across the Swiss pavilion's negative indoor/outdoor spaces, Echakhch basically undoes the "white cube" idea in a way that is way more fulfilling than has been done in the German and Spanish pavilions this year.
Littered throughout Echakhch's spaces are remnants. They're large, bulbous objects, but what are they? They look natural but it's not the natural world that has created (or destroyed them).
Are they made of straw? Or are they palm fronds? And if they are, where would a Swiss artist based in Switzerland find that kind of material?
Soon enough you realise you are in the middle of an equation, a timeline that you need to repiece to make sense of.
Moving in and out of darkness, you start to think what you're seeing, you're simply seeing in reverse. And that analytical voice in your subconscious is busy, busy, busy, trying to reconstruct what happened.
But it's only once you make it into the complete darkness and to the foot of the towering effergies that you understand you've reconnected to something pagan or shamanic. That there has been ritual at the centre of what has gone down.
And it's at that point where you turn away from the beauty of form and to towards the reconstructed narrative that you realise The Concert is an absolute revelation (and a redemption for the Swiss pavilion).
Artist: Latifa Echakhch
Curators: Alexandre Babel and Francesco Stocchi
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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