Venice Threatens

The Venice Biennale goes on until late November. The organisers believe that art is not doing its job unless it has loud and clear social concerns. Here they celebrate that “social practice” is the latest thing to be taught in art schools.

16BIEN-master675 (P Rozenkranz, Swiss pavilion: pink water)

The world is troubled by climate change, rising sea levels and the loss of more and more species from delicate ecosystems. Meanwhile, human population continues to grow. The biennale argues that this is not the time for art as an object of contemplation or delight, much less a market commodity.

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Camile Norment’s shattered glass at the Scandinavian pavilion (above, right) and “All the World’s Futures” (above, right) bring out this central preoccupation that art is not doing its job unless it uses scientific observations to challenge society. Here is art’s reaction to the declaration of scientific data that humans are destroying the planet.

Joan Jonas’s “Mirrors,” in a rotunda gallery (below, left), joins this artist’s multimedia installation, “They Come to Us Without a Word,” at the United States pavilion:

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Santa Maria della Misericordia (above, right) is a Catholic church that has been transformed into a mosque. It serves the many Muslims who commute to Venice each day to work and has prayer carpets, plaques and Qurans. After weeks of touch-and-go negotiations with city officials the opening ceremony of the biennale included a sermon by an imam.