Response to the Dana Schutz Controversy by Joe Lewis, Artist

ANNA, MAR 25TH, 9:39AM Hi Joe I hope you are well! This is Anna Salmeron from The Biennial Project. You entered work for our upcoming show - which we love. I am writing to you because I have been thinking about the controversy at the Whitney Biennial in NYC. I would like to put together a post of artists of color giving their thoughts related to this controversy. Would you be willing to write something on this subject? What do you think?

JOE, MAR 26TH, 1:42PM Joe Lewis accepted your request. I like the idea. Count me in. what are your next steps?

ANNA, MAR 26TH, 3:54PM Great!!! Write what you think, and send it to us with any info about how you would like us to introduce you and any links to your work that you would like to have included. Here are a couple of articles on the controversy:

HYPERALLERGIC: Protesters Block, Demand Removal of a Painting of Emmett Till at the Whitney Biennial

ARTNET: Social Media Erupts as the Art World Splits in Two Over Dana Schutz Controversy

JOE, MAR 27TH, 4:39PM The following thoughts crystallized for me after reading Brian Boucher’s balanced March 24, 2017 piece on the controversy, “Social Media Erupts as the Art World Splits in Two Over Dana Schutz Controversy,” and then scrolling down to read the Artnet piece that followed “Turkish Artist Zehra Doğan Sentenced to Prison for Painting of Kurdish Town Attack. Doğan has been given a sentence of 2 years and 10 months by a Turkish court. [ ARTNET: Turkish Artist Zehra Doğan Sentenced to Prison for Painting of Kurdish Town Attack  ]

How close are we to that?

I oppose censorship in all of its forms but am inclined to open conversation and dialog.

However, this doesn’t negate the fact that the non-artist-of-color enjoys access, place, and creative privilege.

But let’s not assume the worst characteristics of the oppression – erasure, and suppression.

Joe Lewis, Artist (I am uncomfortable attaching any additional info/images/website about my work to this statement because the issue is not about me. ) Regards, Joe

ANNA, MARCH 27TH, 8:46PM Wow, Joe, this is perfect and very thoughtful. Thanks so much.

Chat Conversation End

The Irish Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale 2017

by Anne Murray, for The Biennial Project

[Editor’s note: profoundly strong review of one of the most powerful exhibitions at the 2017 Venice Biennale, written by another member of The Biennial Project Gang in Venice, Anne Murray - whose own art is also a must see!]

“My broken bones shall be a weapon,

chaos is the bread I eat!”

clip_image002Photo of Jesse Jones’ installation by Anne Murray

With an impressive sense of dignity, profound understanding of the human condition, and in full knowledge of the challenge that women face in a rapidly morphing set of boundaries created through elusive and divisive judiciary systems in Ireland and abroad, Jesse Jones has created a meta world which challenges the legal system, where what we think and see implores us to react and evolve or suffer the vile subsistence living that will ensue in the storm of chaos unleashed in the form of women forced to take justice into their own hands.

Tremble, Tremble, curated by Tessa Giblin, is more than a pavilion, it is a space between, a space possessed by magic and where fears take shape in an unearthly form, as a human buried under the bog, preserved in flesh, but morphed, shape shifted into something beyond comprehension.

Here, women have an enormous tempest of power controlled only by the force of the black hole of the body of Olwen Fouéré, as a photon encircling and drawn into it only when encountered by the the Higgs boson particle, a weight that gives our thoughts as light mass, and thus, slows us down; we are trapped in this hole with her, as if time would stop or else become eternal, both one in the same.

clip_image004       Photo of Jesse Jones’ installation by Anne Murray

The performer, a witch pulling the strings of the legal system as if she could change all at the wave of a finger or by towing a cart filled with fallen furniture, is a challenge by her sheer size and demeanor alone, but her words haunt us. As the work unfolds, two gigantic curtains are heard moving along tracks and encircling us, portraits of the artist Jones’ mother’s arms photo-printed upon diaphanous black fabric curtains, they stop with the two hands cupped over an invisible orb, the implication is the Earth, our world in her hands. The arms as giant as Ozymandias disembodied, strong and alive with light. Later, when the curtains move again, each arm encircles a sculpture of a bone, perhaps the bones of the witch herself pulled from the preserving womb of the bog and wiped clean for this display - they suggest the power of potions, a talisman, and reliquaries.

The artist Jesse Jones worked with the performer Olwen Fouéré and composer Susan Stenger, forming a triangulation akin to the Morrigan or the infamous witches in Macbeth, who could see the future passing one eye to share with another. The sound is perfectly aligned, mysterious, startling and eerily haunting.

We see performance artist, Olwen Fouéré, a collaborator in Jones’ production, who taunts us from her position of power on a twenty or so foot projection screen, “Are you ready for chaos?” her voice challenges us. At first her shoulders thrust back, in a power stance, as advertised by those advising us on television and the internet to take this position to equal our stance in the presence of those who would oppress us in the work place, Fouéré floats down from the upper left hand corner of the screen, growing larger and filling the space as she emerges, a tall witch clothed in homespun clothes of some earlier epic. Her sheer height with her exaggerated perspective looking down on us, brings to mind the powerful dragon shapes of the Northern lights as seen hundreds of years ago and their mysterious movement across the night sky without explanation or constancy. She appears then across the room, another screen holds a close-up of her face, her wrinkled and ashen skin warns us of our own mortality. We see lips and hair and teeth.

I am reminded of a remark made by a board member of Chapter in Cardiff, about how a woman becomes invisible as she reaches middle age; in the work of Jesse Jones, the woman as witch, is not only visible, she is a deity standing over us casting spells with her defiant words.

clip_image006                                                       Photo of Jesse Jones’ installation by Anne Murray

Fouéré turns a podium in her hands in a toy-like fashion, her huge form emerging again on the screen, she picks it up and twists counter-clockwise around and around as to turn justice upside down and time backwards. She chants:

All that is has its other as above shall be below. Drink your wine and spoil the barrels. Your house in ruins at my feet. My broken bones shall be a weapon, chaos is the bread I eat. My broken bones shall be a weapon, chaos is the bread I eat.

Have you had enough yet, or do you still have time for chaos? Huh, more? I’ll be watching you. You won’t forget us, even if you try and sweeps us away.

In an archaic text projected on the wall one reads:

Whoever believes that any creature can be changed for the better or worse? And bring it to utter confusion. They could destroy the world for if it were so.

One remembers the works of the artist Annette Messager comparing the different roles of women in history - as the temptress and the trickster, but here the witch is somehow more than just a symbol - something visceral, dangerous and possibly more wise than one would like to know; it is as if all the projected fears of 800 hundred years of women’s history have given birth to the vile woman that each of us is secretly perceived to be, the monster that apparently many cultures think exists inside of us.

But, is she a monster, or a witch, or just old and wise and eating chaos in the same way a mother follows in the wake of a family and all its chaotic existence in daily life, picking up toys and clothes, and cleaning up? What exactly is Jones trying to tell us here, what does she want us to realize?

Tremble, Tremble, conjures up images of witches in a subliminal way, somehow the repetition immediately drawing out one’s memories of Macbeth and the three witches chanting. The title comes from a chant made by Italian women fighting for wages as housewives in the 1970’s, “Tremate, tremate, le streghe sono tornate! (Tremble, tremble, the witches have returned!)”.

This exhibition lives up to this immediate reference of our collective unconscious, connecting the Italian historic words of women protesting for their right to wages and women all over the world fighting for their rights in historic Women’s Marches that began in Washington, DC this past January 2017, and have spread in solidarity across the planet.

If you can, go see it and stay for all 27 minutes, it is worth every second and will stay with you until you decide what you are going to do to change the world, the legal system, and to fight for women’s rights, because women’s rights are everyone’s rights, we are your mothers, sisters, daughters, students, and we need you to stand up for us and eat the chaos before it eats you.

Article by Anne Murray

INTUITION at Palazzo Fortuny bv Coral Woodbury

[part of an ongoing series of reviews by Biennial Project Artists on their favorite things at the Venice Biennale 2017]

by Coral Woodbury, for The Biennial Project

“When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.”

- Kahlil Gibran

“When the body functions spontaneously, that is called instinct. When the soul functions spontaneously, that is called intuition.”

- Shree Rajneesh

Peter Greenaway's installation at Palazzo Fortuny during the 1993 Venice Biennale left such an impression on me that the one thing I knew heading to Venice was that I would return to the Palazzo. Even in Venice this is a unique space, embodying faded and decaying grandeur while preserving the home and collections of Mariano Fortuny, an early twentieth-century stage, fashion, and lighting designer. So the house is a stage set of sorts, and one an artist like Greenaway knew how to animate eerily.

As it turned out, I was in time for the sixth and last collaboration of Axel Vervoordt, Belgian antiquarian, art dealer, interior designer and curator, and Daniela Ferretti, Director of Palazzo Fortuny. Intuition was absolutely worth the 25 year wait.


The exhibition explores “how intuition has, in some form, shaped art across geographies, cultures and generations. It [brings] together historic, modern and contemporary works related to the concept of intuition, dreams, telepathy, paranormal fantasy, meditation, creative power, hypnosis and inspiration.” It showcases work by anonymous ancient artists to iconic surrealists and modernists to El Anatsui and Marina Abromovich. The resulting show probes questions about the creative impulse, the subconscious origin of art making. You come to sense that the four floors of art are brought together as a devotional study, a deep research into an inexplicable yet ultimately knowable mystery. Within the palace walls are volumes of thought about this thing that is beyond thought. This thing that cannot be expressed in words.

Beyond words, but Vervoordt fully articulates it in vision and experience. Entering on the ground floor, most raw of the spaces, you are first confronted with Neolithic menhirs, powerful in their monumental quiet. Then you turn, and you see they are paired with a large Basquiat. In a flash of comprehension you sense the connections between these disparate works before you could ever start to formulate words about them. The entire show is like this: a dynamic dialogue of works speaking to each other, and you enter into this dialogue. Seemingly unrelated works create a humming


energy. If you are quiet you can attune yourself to this vibration. Juxtapositions and connections unfold across time, across geography, across culture, but unite in exploring this one overarching theme that connects humanity across all of its separations.

As you move up to the piano nobile, a violin sound installation resonates through the historic interior, creating an enchanting environment. It is a dim space, almost too dim to read the labels, but illuminated by irregular pulses of soft light from great domed fixtures overhead. These lights brighten in response to lightning hitting anywhere in Italy, connecting this interior space to the outside world, and your experience to others’. From the darkness of this floor you move up into light, the blacks give way to whites where airy rooms are filled with the light of Venice and work enlivened by light. Soft shades of damaged frescoes meld with the colors of paper, felt, and


canvas. Up another floor the walls are the color of terra cotta and the work there has an earthiness to its form and materials. A participatory installation invites visitors to roll balls from lumps of clay, leaving behind an embodied meditative moment, amassing collectively on a giant oval table. Each level of the show contains and is an example of exquisitely sensitive creation.

The sheer beauty of the works, independently and in harmony, set this show apart. There is a lot of brute and ugly art during the biennial, as there is brutality and ugliness in the world, but not here. The beauty is soothing and embracing; the silent conversations between the works, inspiring and exciting; the wholeness of the show is ethereal. Vervoordt’s final exhibition here cannot explain intuition, but it does engender a deep understanding of it, and a sparking of it in one’s own spirit.

Fortuny Palace info and tickets

Check out Coral’s beautiful work here:

The Taiwanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

by Barbara Jo Revelle

Ok, I’ll admit this up front. I’m wildly attracted to durational performance art. I do it myself sometimes. Not so long ago, as part of an art installation scrutinizing my father’s big game hunting practice, I walked continuously - eight hours a day, seven days a week, for two weeks - on a treadmill set up in a gallery. I stopped only to take pees. While I moved I edited 100+ hours of my father’s old hunting films and videos - mostly shots of him watching game from blinds, hanging cut up animal parts baits in trees, or posing with dead animals and the African natives who helped him track and kill them. This footage was projected onto the gallery walls in front of me as I walked and worked.

I was trained as a photographer and filmmaker but there has often been at least a nod to durational performance in my own art projects. In the late 1970’s, more than half a lifetime ago, when I was just getting serious about art making and was traveling from San Francisco to Belize, I did a 91-day durational performance called Reading. The rules I gave myself included traveling only at night, reading the local newspaper from whatever town I woke in each day, and then spending whatever was left of the morning reading art theory. At noon I stopped reading and used the rest of the daylight hours trying to track down and photograph whatever was referenced in the news, using whatever strategy the theory readings had inspired. My “tracking” activities got me into all kinds of trouble, legal and otherwise. The resulting exhibition at the San Francisco Art Institute consisted of 91 columns of my daily photographs, a diaries, maps, the front pages of each newspaper and xeroxes of the art theory hung so that viewers could take each text off the wall and read it.

So, yeah. No big surprise that the artist I loved the most in all the dizzying array of projects and spectacles at the 2017 Venice Biennale was Tehching Hsieh in the Taiwanese pavilion. Hsieh is the quintessential endurance artist. In this exhibition “Doing Time” various documents, maps, charts, films, photos and artifacts evidenced two of his monumental ‘One Year Performances’. In one (Time Clock Piece, 1980-81) he clocked onto a worker’s time clock on the hour, EVERY hour, for the entire year. Talk about extreme measures, abjection, suffering, and survival through adversity? Wow! Each time he punched the time clock a movie camera shot a single frame. The film went by in about 6 minutes. You could see his hair grow and the effects of extreme sleep deprivation worsen, but mostly you just had to imagine what it might be like to do something that insane to your own body. Hsieh makes other endurance artists look like pleasure seekers by comparison.  Was this piece intended as a metaphor about labor? How selling your time cuts into one’s sense of self as a sentient being? Was this a politically inflected critique of routinized labor practices? Capitalism? Over the top masochism? WTF was this event? What did it mean to do something like this? By comparison, all this year’s other Venice sights paled (even Damien Hirst’s mind-boggling, two-museum embarrassment, even Roberto Cuoghi’s crazy Jesus-statue-factory in the Italian Pavilion.)



“Endurance art” AKA “durational performance art” arguably started in about 1971 with Chris Burden (who taught at UCLA and who had an office right next door to mine… who also famously had his hands nailed to the roof of a Volkswagen Beetle in an artwork he called “Transfixed”). Before any of this he did his MFA thesis by locking himself into a small school locker for five days and nights. In the locker above his he placed a five-gallon bottle of water to drink, attached to his locker with a hose. In the locker below him was another five-gallon bottle, initially empty. That’s all.

A bit later others did similar strange things in the name of art. In 1974 the German artist Joseph Beuys, wrapped in his signature felt, had himself delivered by ambulance to a NYC gallery and subsequently caged in with a wild coyote for seven days and nights.

Today there are many venues, shows, journals and whole conferences devoted to durational performances. Scores of artists have become famous and infamous doing them. In The House with the Ocean View (2003), Marina Abramović lived for 12 days without food or entertainment, in total silence, on a stage entirely open to the audience. Since that time she has done all kinds of similar pieces culminating in the Artist is Present, 2010, Museum of Modern Art, NY, where she sat opposite museum visitors for eight hours a day, without speaking, for a total of 750 hours. She and her one-time lover Ulay, after they decided their relationship had run its course, each walked the Great Wall of China starting from opposite ends. They met in the middle and hugged goodbye. Poetic way to end a relationship, right?

Sometimes this kind of duration performance activity is called “time based art” or “endurance art” but whatever you call it, I’m in love with it. Lately I’ve been trying to figure out WHY. I swim laps daily, do some open-water, charity, distance swims, and have always been interested in discipline, stoicism and the like, but I think it’s more than that. What I really love about this kind of work is the impulse to do art that is not about making money, artwork that comes from some instinct that is the opposite of the intent to make art for the market. So much of the art world these days (art fairs, auctions, galleries, etc.) has become the playground of status seeking new millionaires and billionaires. So when I encounter artists who define art as experience, something by which one might be transformed, opened up, changed … well, I get excited. I remember why I wanted to be an artist in the first place. Now that I’m old (I’ll be 71 in four days) and retired from teaching, I do a lot of wandering and drifting around galleries, art fairs and biennales. I notice what most attracts me is work that raises questions about time, life, being … work that has conceptual purity and maybe even physical extremity.

For me, no other artist, not Abramović or Burden or even Emma Sulkowicz, the controversial student-artist who dragged a fifty pound mattress all over Columbia’s campus to make a point about rape, has made work with anything like the power, poetic reach or disturbing resonance of Tehching Hsieh’s high-stakes performances.


In the second one-year performance (“Outdoor Piece”) featured at the Taiwanese pavilion, work made in 1981/82, Hsieh took deprivation and resourcefulness to a whole new level.  In that project he remained outside for a year without taking shelter of any kind (no cars, no trains, no tents). He did this in the streets of NYC in a year that was one of the coldest winters in history. The documents of his performance, photos of him crouching against a wall or sleeping near a fire in a trashcan, just show him surviving. You get to see only what he wore, what he carried, his sleeping bag, his backpack, how dirty and ‘unkempt’ he became. All the ingenuity, stoicism, and empty time on his hands is just implied, and there are only traces, haunting indexes, to answer the questions that arise in the viewer’s mind when contemplating the work. How did he feed himself? What did he think about? What did he DO all day? See? Was he afraid? In pain? How did he manage not to freeze to death? Did cops harass him? Was this event a Zen Buddhist influenced meditation? A metaphor?  For what? Was he happy? Radically forlorn? Was the work about homelessness in a political sense? About fear of being incarcerated?  Since Hsieh was an illegal immigrant at the time he did the project, and was not granted amnesty until 1988, his act of living by his wits in a big city, with only what he could carry on his back, resonates even more strongly in these heartless post-Brexit/Trump times, given the crisis faced by an estimated 65 million refugees in the world at this moment.


Hsieh did three other yearlong performances, five in all.  His first, in 1978, consisted of him locking himself in a cage and not speaking, reading, watching TV or writing for a year. Later he and Linda Montano performed a collaboration whereby an eight-foot length of rope bound the two artists to each other 24 hours a day for another whole year (from July 4, 1983 to July 3, 1984). One of the rules was that they could not touch each other.

Lastly, in 1985-86, Hsieh did a yearlong performance with the single rule that he would stop making, seeing, reading about, talking about, or listening to anything about art. Now on the surface of it, a gesture like this might seem anticlimactic, but if you think about how intense had been his other four “one year performances”, doesn’t this art-free year just amplify the questions raised by all his prior practices and experiments? How is ‘art’ like -  and unlike -  ‘life’? What should one do with one’s time on earth?  What IS time? How is freedom related to entrapment? What IS freedom?

Additionally, since Hsieh, by the time he did this art-free year performance, had become “a well-known name” (read famous!) in the New York art scene, his fifth yearlong performance seems to be about becoming invisible again. I can’t think of a more radical way to challenge the commodification of art then to stop not only buying it, but to stop seeing it, talking about it, reading about it and making it. Keep in mind that the definition of commodification is the transformation of goods, services, ideas (and not least people) into objects of trade. Are artists - are people - turned into objects by selling their labor to the marketplace? For me Hsieh’s last one-year performance “No Art Piece” is about these root questions.

(Barbara Jo Revelle is an artist and educator living in Gainesville Florida. She is Professor Emeritus and former Director of the School of Art and Art History at the University of Florida.)

[EDITOR’S NOTE – She is also just the coolest, smartest, most  insanely fun and talented individual imaginable, and we are so damned lucky that she’s willing to run with us.]

What We Saw, What We Liked–Part One by Anna Salmeron

The gang of Exceptionally Cool Biennial Project Artists that have just returned from our exhilarating trip to Venice for the press preview week of the Venice Biennale have each agreed to write for you about one exhibit that they really liked - proving that we artists can use our words too (sometimes anyway!). Here's What We Saw, What We Liked - Part One.

RUSSIAN PAVILION, by Charlene Liska

"No two people see the same Biennale, given the several thousand exhibits. Venice is momentary, fragmentary, a hope of chance sights that will hold fast in memory," says Laura Cumming of The Observer. So, stuck in my memory along with a handful of other exhibits (notably several wonderful uses of water and sound) is the Russian pavilion's ‘Theatrum Orbis,’ which references the first modern atlas. With the ambitious aim of spanning the world, the show features three separate pieces on 3 levels, by Grisha Bruskin, Recycle Group, and Sasha Pirogova. Of the three, I was particularly blown away by 'Scene Change' by Grisha Bruskin. It's a marvel of what you can do with black and white, what worlds it can span, how much more expressive and emotionally challenging it can be than ordinary color. In a darkened, domed space, white statues, some archaic, some surreal and futuristic, ring the walls, alternately harshly illuminated in raking light and plunged into darkness. Projected over and above the statues is a richly black and white animation of marching automatons, beginning with one individual, increasing to a horde, ultimately swarmed by fanciful airborne devices.  Sound builds from a low murmur  to shouts, roars, engine noises, finally to an hypnotic din. Are these multitudes contemporary freedom-fighters? Fascist brigades? Futuristic automatons? It is a deafening, mysterious, and sinister tour de force. In 'Scene Change', per Bruskin, "there is no movement whatsoever, be it from old to new, from primitive to complex, or from worse to better". What I love about this piece, with its great beauty and visceral allure that simultaneously attract and repel, is that it is also a sly reminder that such aesthetic thrills can cut both ways between sublime swoon, innocent enthusiasm ("Go team!"), and Riefenstahl-like enchantment. It's very old, but it's all still in there.


FINNISH PAVILION by Wayne Chisnall

photo by Satu Nurmio / Yle

Re-imagining Finish society, and its stereotypes, through the eyes of two terraforming higher beings (Gen and Atum), Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen provide the comedic highlight of this year's Venice Biennale. Unlike many a video installation, where three minutes can feel like three hours, their almost an hour-long piece, The Aalto Natives, leaves you wanting more. Much of this is down to the fact that the video element of the installation (there's also a delightful animatronics element) follows a traditional, if somewhat odd ball, narrative. Occupying a space somewhere between The Mighty Boosh, The Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy, and a demented version of The Muppet Show, Mellors' and Nissinen's satirical sci-fi fairy tale will leave you smiling long after you've forgotten the majority of what's on offer at Venice Biennale 2017.





Rebounding from the political tone of recent Biennals, curator Christine Macel titled the 57th iteration "Viva Arte Viva," remarking, "It’s about art by artists for artists." But the show has always been about what artists want to say to each other and to the world. Jana Želibská’s installation at the Czech/Slovak Pavilion in Giardini speaks plainly about reflection and hope in the face of imminent political and ecological cataclysm.

Entering her pavilion one detours around a container jammed with flotsam. Inside, an array of luminous swans rests placidly on neat islets of coiled rope, backed by a projection of restless waves.

Like so many other voices here celebrating the art that makes us human, Želibská defines apocalypse as "a revealing of mysteries that brings a radical change in the ordering of the world," as she puts it. But her title, Swan Song Now, amid the continuing exodus of Venetian locals from their sinking ship, speaks more loudly, less hopefully.




Can the old and the new live together? Should tradition or the familiar have to make way for progress and the uncertainty that comes with it? Addressing current global sociopolitical issues (with a backdrop of ongoing refugee crises, rising nationalistic and partisan politics, and the economic issues of Greece and the EU at large) the work deals with the anguish and confusion of individuals and social groups when called upon to address similar dilemmas. Presenting viewers with the arguments, the onus is on action. With a classic yet efficient plan, artist George Rivas turns the Greek pavilion into an allegory of today’s scientific, geopolitic and demographic issues with a clear allusion to migratory flows.

Part of a collection of interactive pieces presented at the Biennale, George Drivas’ Laboratory of Dilemmas draws on the structure of ancient Greek drama and is presented on screens and as audio through an installation divided into three parts: the Upper Level, the Lower Level/Labyrinth and the Screening Room. The narrative and installation are based on Aeschylus’ theatre play Iketides (Suppliant Women), written between 463 and 464 BC and the first known literary text to reflect on the issues of a persecuted group of people seeking asylum.

The Suppliants, having left Egypt to avoid marrying their first cousins, arrive in city of Argos and seek asylum from its King. The King’s dilemma is central to the play: CONTINUE READING HERE



photo by Paul Weiner

photo by Paul Weiner

Living Dog Among Dead Lions "While someone is among the living, hope remains, such it is better to be a living dog than to be a dead lion." Ecclesiastes 9:4.

I have one rule about looking at art, and that is to always look at it first. Only if I like something about it I will then proceed to the artist's statement. Of course I know that art can be deepened by words of explanation, but call me old-fashioned in insisting that no amount of grad-school parlance can conjure something into being from work that is not compelling on it's own.

This rule has served me especially well at the fire hose of art that is the Venice Biennale, where one must have some kind of system to have any hope of progressing through such a bewildering amount of work.  Artistic projects large and small  (mostly large) come flying by so furiously that one can be forgiven for wondering if the resurrection itself might pass by unnoticed in such an environment. But then again, any kind of resurrection worth seeing would be able to get your attention anywhere, wouldn't it?

Of course it would. Faith, ye pilgrim.

And so it was that while winding my way through the seemingly unending procession of art installations that is exhibited in the Venice Arsenale during the Biennale, I suddenly came upon this house. This sad old rundown broken-hearted hill house, someplace where all your sad old rundown brokenhearted ancestors toiled and dreamed and then, well, died.  A house that is is pitch perfect in it's melancholy evocation of life and loss. And in a masterful inversion of all the adolescent let's-play-with-water-because-it's Venice-after-all-and we-are-so-you-know-site-specific (here's looking at you Canadian Pavilion), it is raining inside the house. Nice and sunny and prosecco-laden outside, but raining forever inside the little house. Forever, or for at least for the six months that the Venice Biennale runs. You can smell the rich earthy decay already, and this was just the first week. What's more, whoever brought us this delightfully doleful house of perpetual rain clearly welcomes us here, because they have provided wonderful little step ladders around the house so that we can climb up and peep in the windows, and look and smell and hear in the rain that sacred elegiac music that is always playing just outside the reach of our conscious minds. l love this doomed and sweetly mournful little house, which speaks such volumes on the wounds we live with deep inside. I will gladly read whatever words this artist has for us.

More sweet surprises! The words are wonderful. Almost as lovely as the house itself, which is the work of Georgian artist Vajiko Chachkhiani, and is Georgia's official contribution to this Venice Biennale. The brochure which accompanies the installation is dedicated to an interview with the artist, and in it one learns that he had the idea for such a house and went searching in the Georgian countryside until he found the perfect abandoned property up in the mountains. He brought the entire house to Venice where he re-assembled it along with all it's original furnishings. The interview is as direct and wise and unpretentious as the work - extraordinary for an artist who is only 32 years old. He must be an old soul. I am happy he is young in this life though, because that means that with luck we can follow his work for years to come. In the meantime, I'm out to walk my beloved live dogs in a nourishing spring-time rain.


AUSTRIAN PAVILION by Holly Howe (OK, we're cheating a little here - she's an actual journalist - but a really arty one.)

While you may not initially "see" the link between Erwin Wurm and Brigtite Kowanz, the two artists that curator Christa Steinle paired for this year's Austrian Pavilion, upon visiting the pavilion you literally see it.

While Wurm’s contribution to the pavilion is predominantly in the form of his “One Minute Sculptures” (which are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year), Kowanz’s “Infinity and Beyond” series comes in the form of neon writing placed on infinity mirrors. The link between the two? Temporality and viewer interaction.

Kowanz has said before in interviews that she’s happy for people to take selfies in her work (the bane of all art with a reflective surface), but even if they don’t, the act of looking at the work places the viewer within it while they look at it.

Wurm is more prescriptive with his sculptures, and the viewer is given instructions on how to pose with each piece, and which posture to adopt. The results are often amusing – on the opening morning, some visitors thought the models were wax dummies as opposed to living people – but in an interview with The Collectors Chronicle, Wurm stated “the assumption that my work is predominantly humorous is wrong.” Instead, he is more interested in the relationships between the objects in the gallery and how the viewers interact with them to create new objects.

Personally, I din't find Kowanz's work particularly new or engaging. Whereas Wurn's I loved, despite it being the continuation of an existing series. And what capped it off was the opportunity to climb to the top of an inverted truck outside the pavilion, and gaze at Venice. Even though Wurm's cheeky guidance was to "stand quiet and look out over the Mediterranean Sea". Which obviously isn't on view...



The Luxembourg Pavilion is famous with The Biennial Project and the rest of the throngs of hungry art-lovers that mob Venice during the opening week of the Biennale as being absolutely the most generous with their receptions – predictably providing an opulent opening night spread for a huge crowd that includes with not only the de rigueur endless supply of procecco, but full dinner and desserts as well.

This Biennale I was fortunate enough not only to eat and drink on their dime but to also speak at some length with the artist and with the curator of the exhibit.

The curator explained that the artists under consideration were first pruned down to a list of twenty five, then three, and that then the top three were invited to give an hour and a half presentation of their ideas to the judges. They wanted not only innovative ideas that represented Luxembourg but also a new youthful vision with a global perspective. The artist they chose, Mike Bourscheid, is 35 years old and currently lives in Vancouver Canada.

His installation consists of 5 rooms. Each room displays costumes the that artist wears during his performance pieces. One room feels much like a mash up of a sport teams locker room and a ballet studio. In it you will find many outfits consisting of heavy-looking leather aprons and large metal cage-like shoes.

Each of these “uniforms” has a number on it. These costumes represent personal connections for the artist. One had the number of his old soccer uniform as a kid. One was that of a former roommate. One was that of Wayne Gretzky the famous hockey player (99). Mike explained that this uniform also represented another hockey legend (whose name, symbolically enough, I can’t remember) who wore the number 9 and who spent his live accumulating enough goals to finally break the goal for the most goals in a career, only to have Sir Gretzky beat his record in only a few years.  During his performance piece for this uniform the artist uses a pony tail to cover one of the 9’s to transform from one of the hockey players to the other.

In another room viewers are required to put protective covers on their feet before walking on the carpet although the carpet is not in any way special. The act of putting covers on one's feet involves the viewer in the experience of putting on a costume and contributes to an overall vibe of viewer-friendly and playful performance that makes the Luxenbourg Pavilion a Biennial Project favorite (and not only for the quality of the vittles!).

OK, that should do it for What We Saw, What We Liked - Part One. Part Two up next!  Check out our blog, website and facebook page for more on Venice!

Some of the Biennial Project Gang in Venice photo by Paul Weiner

The Biennial Project Brings You the Venice Biennale 2017 One Pavilion at a Time – Russian Pavilion by Charlene Liska


"No two people see the same Biennale, given the several thousand exhibits. Venice is momentary, fragmentary, a hope of chance sights that will hold fast in memory," says Laura Cumming of The Observer. So, stuck in my memory along with a handful of other exhibits (notably several wonderful uses of water and sound) is the Russian pavilion's ‘Theatrum Orbis,’ which references the first modern atlas. With the ambitious aim of spanning the world, the show features three separate pieces on 3 levels, by Grisha Bruskin, Recycle Group, and Sasha Pirogova. Of the three, I was particularly blown away by 'Scene Change' by Grisha Bruskin. It's a marvel of what you can do with black and white, what worlds it can span, how much more expressive and emotionally challenging it can be than ordinary color. In a darkened, domed space, white statues, some archaic, some surreal and futuristic, ring the walls, alternately harshly illuminated in raking light and plunged into darkness. Projected over and above the statues is a richly black and white animation of marching automatons, beginning with one individual, increasing to a horde, ultimately swarmed by fanciful airborne devices.  Sound builds from a low murmur  to shouts, roars, engine noises, finally to an hypnotic din. Are these multitudes contemporary freedom-fighters? Fascist brigades? Futuristic automatons? It is a deafening, mysterious, and sinister tour de force. In 'Scene Change', per Bruskin, "there is no movement whatsoever, be it from old to new, from primitive to complex, or from worse to better". What I love about this piece, with its great beauty and visceral allure that simultaneously attract and repel, is that it is also a sly reminder that such aesthetic thrills can cut both ways between sublime swoon, innocent enthusiasm ("Go team!"), and Riefenstahl-like enchantment. It's very old, but it's all still in there.

Charlene Liska, for The Biennial Project

ARTVENICE BIENNALE IV announces high profile judges and extends entry deadline by Anna Salmeron

So The Biennial Project, the group putting together ArtVenice Biennale IV is very happy to announce that we are extending our entry deadline from Feb 15 until March 9th. Enter ArtVenice Biennale IV

Yay, that gives you, the artists whose work we are dying to see, three more weeks to enter ArtVenice Biennale IV!! Enter ArtVenice Biennale IV

So don’t delay, or delay a little now, but not too long, and submit your work!! We want to see it. So do our globally renowned jurors giving out special recognition individual prizes.

Just in case you did not see how cool our jurors are we have listed them and their credentials below. Most important to us is that fact that each of our special jurors have shown in one of the most recent Venice Biennales!

Argelia Bravo, 56th Venice Biennale, Venezuelan Pavilion, born  in Caracas in 1962, studied at the Central University of Venezuela (1980-1983), at the School of Visual Arts Cristóbal Rojas (Caracas, 1979-1981) and at the Centro de Educacion Gráfica CEGRA (Caracas, 1981-1983).  Noted Venezuelan artist whose work has been influencial in transfiguring the relations between art, society, politics and culture in general. Her body of work celebrates the essence of the woman, mapping power that emerges outside the official structures of society.

Binelde Hyrcan, 56th Venice Biennale, Angolian Pavilion, born in 1982 in Luanda, grew up in Angola. Shocked by the images of war in his youth, he saw the real consequences of political decisions. His work across painting, drawing, sculpture, film, performance and installation often addresses the absurdity represented by political and social customs and attitudes, particular critiquing structure and power and human vanity. He has exhibited widely across the globe.

Camille Zakharia, 55th Venice Biennale, Bahrain Pavilion, was born in Tripoli, Lebanon in 1962 and lives between Bahrain and Canada. As an exile of the decades-long Lebanese Civil War, Zakharia’s itinerary is a tale of immigration, between the United States, Turkey, Greece, and ultimately Canada and Bahrain. The celebrated photographer, graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, is an experienced surveyor of the contemporary human condition as it has become inherently entangled with processes of migration, immigration, globalization and displacement. Within this process is an exploration of home, identity and belonging in the context of a globalized condition. He has received numerous accolades for his work including the first place prize in the International Photography Awards in 2006 and 2007. He has exhibited widely.

George Camille 56 Venice Biennale, Seychelles Pavillion, born on the island of Mahe in 1963. From a young age, he took an interest in working in Charcoal & Pencil. His works developed into Watercolour, Gouache & Acrylic. He studied at Blackheath Collage of Art and Goldsmiths College, both in London. In 1987 he established Sunstroke Studio Seychelles which provided him with a means to continue his design activities and his fine art work. Taking his cues from his native Seychelles landscapes, he has incorporated elements of ‘objet trouvé’ into mixed media work experimenting with metal, resin & relief work. George has had solo & group exhibitions in Seychelles, Mauritius, Martinique, Reunion, UK France, Germany and Beijing, China.

Nigol Bezjian, 56th Venice Biennale, Part of the Armenian Dispora Pavilion, Golden Lion Winner, was born in September 11,1955 in Aleppo, Syria, to Armenian parents. He immigrated first to Lebanon, before immigrating to Boston in 1974. He studied filmmaking at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and then the UCLA School of Film, Theatre and Television where he graduated with a MFA. After having worked for Future TV in Lebanon, he was involved in producing broadcast television programs throughout the Middle East. For several years he has owned a production company; Think Positive, providing production services in Lebanon, producing documentaries, consulting to TV station and producing TV shows. He is a director and writer.

Nizar Sabour, 54th Venice Biennale, Syrian Pavilion, born in Lattakia, Syria 1958, he graduated from the Department of Painting and Drawing in the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Damascus in 1981. He later pursued a Doctorate of Philosophy in Sciences of Art at the University of Moscow in 1990. He now teaches at the University of Damascus and is a Professor at the International Private University for Science & Technology in  Ghabagheb, Syria. His work tends to have religious undertones, focusing on the artist’s fascination with religious imagery and icons, whether Christian, Islamic or pagan. However he treats these elements in a very non-traditional manner and purposefully counterbalances any religiosity by employing colours and a technique that is more reminiscent of Dada collages than the precision of religious iconography. In 2004, he was awarded the first prize in painting at the International Art Symposium in Dubai.

Togmidshiirev Enkhbold, 56th Venice Biennale, Mongolian Pavilion, born 1978 in Uvurkhangai province he graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts, Ulaanbaatar in 2005, where he now teaches. In addition he is a member of the Blue Sun Group. Founded in 2002, the Blue Sun Group is an artists group that supports emerging artists and alternative art practices. They maintain a studio complex and a gallery space in Ulaanbaatar city centre. Raised in a nomadic family Enkhbold moved to the Mongolian capital city Ulaanbaatar in 1998 to study. Using his own scaled down, self-built version of a ger, the mobile circular living structure traditionally used by nomadic Mongolian families, Enkhbold uses performance to explore geographic and contextual shifts.

Horst Uhlemann, 54th Venice Biennale, Costa Rica Pavillion, born 1959, lives in Pottsdam, Germany. Since 1997 he is a member of the group “utopia” in italy. He likes his paintings to be understood as single pages of a book, which have their own signification and authorization. They don’t announce what he seeks, but what he has found. Through the immediate vitality of his colors and compositions, the combination of different techniques and materials the tensions become an experience.

Enter ArtVenice Biennale IV

WE ARE HORRIFIED by Anna Salmeron and Eric Hess

Plain and simple, The Biennial Project, an American based artist collaborative and the coordinators of ArtVenice Biennale IV, are completely and utterly disgusted by the actions of our President and his administration. 

We are and will continue to do whatever we are humanly capable of to resist the new regime that has taken leadership of our country. 

WE ARE HORRIFIED at the travel ban our new president has put into place against  the 7 countries targeted - so far.

This is not what we as Americans ever believed could happen in the USA.

We, The Biennial Project, want to stand in peaceful solidarity with ALL international artists of ALL countries and ALL religions.

We invite any artists from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria. Libya, Somalia and Yemen to enter ArtVenice Biennale IV at no cost. We waive your entry fee. Please share your art with us.

Enter at

The Biennial Project knows that this doesn’t even come close to an amend for the insult and heartache our new president and his administration have slapped on the citizens of these countries.

We just want to let you know that, artist to artist, human to human, we  appreciate you, celebrate you, and love you.








PLEASE ENTER, with your fee waived, ArtVenice Biennale IV.

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ArtVenice Biennale 4 Entrants and Updated Juror List by Anna Salmeron

“They’re selling postcards of the hanging, they’re painting the passports brown, the beauty parlor is filled with sailors, the circus is in town.” Nobel Laureate and Close Biennnial Project Collaborator Bob Dylan

Hey there Artists, Friends, and Other Loonies - the grand circus otherwise known as ArtVenice Biennale 4is ramping up. We are getting so much fantastic art submitted, and as artists ourselves (we can take the dark out of the nighttime and paint the daytime black – just saying) we take damned seriously our responsibility to promote this work far and wide. So here is our first sampler of some of this great stuff. (For regular ArtVenice Biennale 4Entrant of the Day posts and other timely updates about Art World Goings On – visit and like The Biennial Project’s Facebook Page.) 

First up is Farid Rasulov, who represented Azerbaijan at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009. “His large scale paintings, installations and sculptures are fraught with apparent symbolism which the artist adamantly denies.”


Farid Rasulov of New York, NY

Here are several other amazing artists who have submitted work to ArtVenice Biennale 4 whose work we wanted to show you:


Marlene Siff of Westport, CT


Dorothy Fitzgerald of Lyndonville, NY


Yvette Kaiser Smith of Chicago, IL


Laura Krasnow of Pittsburgh, PA


Jan Brandt of Bloomington, IL


Madeleine Lord, of Dudley, MA

Another exciting  ArtVenice Biennale 4  development is the ever expanding list of Extraordinarily Successful and Interesting International Artists who have agreed to serve as Special Guest Jurors for  ArtVenice Biennale 4. Each of these wonderful artist has achieved the recognition of having exhibited at the Venice Biennale in one of the Prestigious National Pavilions. Each of these guest jurors will pick one artist from among the entrants to ArtVenice Biennale 4to recognize as a Special Prize Winner. This list is preliminary – we have just started reaching out to artists asking them to participate and anticipate having many more artists sign on for this – but look what cool artists have already said yes at this early date!

Nigol Bezjian 56th Venice Biennale, Part of the Armenian Diaspora Pavilion, Golden Lion Winner, Venice, Italy  MORE ON NIGOL BEZJIAN

Argelia Bravo 56th Venice Biennale, Venezuelan Pavilion, Venice, Italy

Binelde Hyrcan 56th Venice Biennale, Angolan Pavilion, Venice, Italy

George Camille 56th Venice Biennale, Seychelles Pavilion, Venice, Italy

Camille Zakharia 55th Venice Biennale, Bahrain Pavilion Venice, Italy

Togmidshiirev Enkhbold  56th Venice Biennale, Mongolian Pavilion, Venice, Italy  MORE ON TOGMIDSHIIREV ENKHBOLD

Horst Uhlemann 54th Venice Biennale representing Costa Rica

Nizar Sabour  54th Venice Biennale in the Pavilion of the SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC  MORE ON NIZAR SABOUR

If you enter ArtVenice Biennale 4, each and every one of these artists will see your work as part of the jurying process! Enter now before the rush to increase your chances of being promoted on Facebook as an Entrant of the Say and/or included in future Entrant Samplers sent out to The Biennial Project’s  email list of more than 40,000 peeps!

Enter ArtVenice Biennale 4 Here

They say sing while you slave and we just get bored!