Danish Pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale

by Anna Salmeron

 

A kind and well-meaning friend stopped me outside the door or the Danish

Pavillion, warning me that as someone notoriously sensitive to the suffering

of our animal brethren, I might want to pass this one by.

 

"Wow, are they hurting animals in there?" I asked. "Well....no...but they are

showing animals that look like they are being hurt ". And that, actually, I did

want to look at. I personally find looking at it immeasurably easier to deal

with than accepting veil of denial that such hurt is usually hidden behind.

 

My friend’s hurried summary statement ended up proving precisely

accurate. Animals being hurt. Terribly hurt. Hurt almost beyond

comprehension. Us humans, and the other animals with whom we share this

little planet.

 

Entering the pavillion visitors encounter a nightmarishly sad vision of our sad

earthly reality. The entire pavilion has been transformed into a sordid  primordial barn,

with half-human-half-horse-like creatures in profound distress.

 

The first section to great the visitor features a man-animal hanging dead

from a chain, with a large ham-like thing hanging nearby, both just meat

now. In the other end of the barn is a woman-animal who has just given birth

to a bizarre blue infant of undetermined viability.

 

Both of these beings are so realistically executed that no one in our group

could say for sure that they were not live human performers. (We got much

closer than personal space conventions allow, and were still not certain.)

This small family unit is surrounded by sod and bizarrely morphed farm tools.

(Now, transporting large amounts of sod into the galleries happens to be a

reoccurring motif in this incarnation of the biennale, and in many cases

comes off just as spectacle for spectacle’s sake - Biennale Artists going big

because they can.)

 

But in this instance it creates a powerful sensory experience, and feels central to the project's core.

The whole place feels like a barn of some collective human memory - evoking our subsistence past,

with brutality a daily necessity and survival never assured. The suffering of

human and non-human animals literally fused into one terrifying tableau. A

tableau smelling strongly of manure. This barn immediately brought to my mind a Samuel

Beckett-like sensibility

re our stupefying cruelty to other animals. The fact that this was definitively

a contemporary nightmare was confirmed by the neon-blue fluid that either

fed or sucked from the lifeforms even as it illuminated their offspring.

Standing inside this hellish vision I felt the veil of denial re our connections to

other animals drift away like a fog lifting over the morning hills. And I was

glad. Really happy and glad and rejuvenated.

Because seeing and feeling

things fully is the first step forward in taking back our souls and gaining the

strength to fight for a mutual future together. I left this installation stronger

and more complete than when I entered it. I can think of no higher praise.

The Danish Pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale

A kind and well-meaning friend stopped me outside the door or the Danish Pavilion, warning me that as someone notoriously sensitive to the suffering of our animal brethren, I might want to pass this one by.

"Wow, are they hurting animals in there?" I asked. "Well….no…but they are showing animals that look like they are being hurt ". And that, actually, I did want to look at. I personally find looking at it immeasurably easier to deal with than accepting veil of denial that such hurt is usually hidden behind.

My friend’s hurried summary statement ended up proving precisely accurate. Animals being hurt. Terribly hurt. Hurt almost beyond comprehension.  Us humans, and the other animals with whom we share this little planet.

Entering the pavilion visitors encounter a nightmarishly sad vision of our sad earthly reality. The entire pavilion has been transformed into a sordid primordial barn, with half-human-half-horse-like creatures in profound distress.

The first section to great the visitor features a man-animal hanging dead from a chain, with a large ham-like thing hanging nearby, both just meat now. In the other end of the barn is a woman-animal who has just given birth to a bizarre blue infant of undetermined viability.

dn

Both of these beings are so realistically executed that no one in our group could say for sure that they were not live human performers. (We got much closer than personal space conventions allow, and were still not certain.)

 

 

This small family unit is surrounded by sod and bizarrely morphed farm tools. (Now, transporting large amounts of sod into the galleries happens to be a reoccurring motif in this incarnation of the biennale, and in many cases comes off just as spectacle for spectacle’s sake - Biennale Artists going big because they can.) But in this instance it creates a powerful sensory experience, and feels central to the project's core. The whole place feels like a barn of some collective human memory - evoking our subsistence past, with brutality a daily necessity and survival never assured. The suffering of human and non-human animals literally fused into one terrifying tableau. A tableau smelling strongly of manure.

This barn immediately brought to my mind a Samuel Beckett-like sensibility re our stupefying cruelty to other animals. The fact that this was definitively a contemporary nightmare was confirmed by the neon-blue fluid that either fed or sucked from the life forms even as it illuminated their offspring.

Standing inside this hellish vision I felt the veil of denial re our connections to other animals drift away like a fog lifting over the morning hills. And I was glad. Really happy and glad and rejuvenated.  Because seeing and feeling things fully is the first step forward in taking back our souls and gaining the strength to fight for a mutual future together. I left this installation stronger and more complete than when I entered it. I can think of no higher praise.

What it means to howl in Cuba

The formal mission of The Biennial Project is to “develop a body of work that will be displayed in as many biennial exhibits as possible (especially the really cool ones)”.

Our informal mission is to raise just as much hell as humanly possible.

Rarely have these two goals dovetailed as effortlessly as during our recent participation in the 00Bienal de La Habana. The 00Bienal de La Habana took place this May, and was organized by an ad hoc coalition of Cuban artists in response to the state-organized Habana Bienal being postponed from this year to 2019 in response to very difficult economic conditions on the island.

The organizing artists took great pains to make it clear that they were not anti anything. Rather they were in favor of the necessary role that art and artists must play, ever more so in challenging times.

The 00Biennial de La Habana received no institutional funding, relying instead on the organizing artists’ Herculean efforts in pulling off a multi-venue 10 day schedule of events that showcased the art of fascinating Cuban artists as well as that of many invited international artists (including us!). It tires us out just thinking about how much work this must have entailed.

One might think that the Cuban authorities would have been just proud as punch to have these fantastic young artists taking so much responsibility and putting such a positive face forward to the world.

Unfortunately that would be the case only in the Cuba we wish existed, not in the one these artists live and work in today.

So, to sum up, we risked investigation by the U.S. State Department to travel to another country to participate in an art event that was denounced and harassed by that country’s government. We guess artists are seen as a threat just about everywhere.

And what a great fucking trip it was! Incredible! How we got so lucky to be part of it we are still not sure. Our best guess is that somewhere in our youth or childhood, we must have done something good. In any event, it was amazing. No way can we do justice to it in one post (more to come – we promise!), but here follows the CliffsNotes version.

SO many artists put themselves out there to make this happen – with the two lead organizers being just goddamned paragons of artistic and human wonderfulness – (yes of course we did Artist Trading Cards on the participating artists – again, more on that later) - Yanelys and Luis – you are really tooooo extraordinary!

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The exhibitions and presentations – in artists’ homes, studios, the beach – were electric and suffused with the heady energy of direct artist to artist exchange and support. Artists just doing it, instead of waiting for the powers that be to it for them. (Not a bad idea wherever you live, we thinks.) So much fun. So much food for thought. So many new connections with artists that we are thrilled to now know about and be able to follow. A thrilling model for what a biennial exhibit can look like.

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And because it was us, hanging out in a gorgeous country with intrepid (and photogenic!) co-conspirators (including our new BFF Nonardo Perea – more on him later of course), there were a few pictures.

SEE A FEW MORE PICS FROM CUBA

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We promise to write more, but in the meantime here are some links to other articles about this remarkable event:

Hyperallergic - The Importance of Havana’s First Alternative Biennial for the Cuban Art Scene

Artforum - Cuba Detains Artists, Threatens Participants of First Alternative Havana Biennial

Artnet - Cuba Abruptly Turns Away Artists as ‘Dozens of Agents’ Prowl Havana’s Alternative Biennial

 

XXOO,

 

The Biennial Project