Highlights of a visit to the Venice Biennale

 

Venice Biennale, Hew Locke – photo: Richard Christensen

BA(Hons) Fine Art and BA(Hons) Drawing students recently returned from a study visit to the Venice Biennale.

The visit gave students from the two courses an opportunity to spend time with those on a different course at Falmouth, and the group fit much into their time. 2017 graduate Abbie Hunt, who was supported by Falmouth School of Art and the British Council to undertake a British Council Venice Fellowship, had been in touch with the students to make recommendations based on her experience of working at the Biennale for a month. And exhibiting in this year’s  Diaspora Pavilion were Falmouth Visiting Professor of Fine Art, Hew Locke and fellow Falmouth alumna Libita Clayton.

BA(Hons) Fine Art student Richard Christensen provided his response to some of the highlights, and some great images of the visit:

Venice Arsenale, photo: Richard Christensen

‘Our arrival in Venice was inauspicious, late on Monday evening with a biting wind which made for an uncomfortable ride in the vaporetto to San Marco.  The wind continued into Tuesday, together with plenty of rain, and found its way into the exhibition spaces of the Arsenale, where there were few warm spots for retreat.  But by Wednesday the wind had gone, and for the rest of our stay the city was pleasantly autumnal.

Much of the Arsenale site consists of a long series of halls which must once have been the dockyard workshops.  The exhibitions here were organised into loosely defined themes (‘the Common’, ‘the Earth’, etc)…the openness of the themed pavilions created both variety and dynamism, with a multitude of thought-provoking and visually arresting works in all media.

Venice, British Pavilion, Phyllida Barlow – photo: Richard Christensen

The British pavilion had a painting-sculptural installation by Phyllida Barlow called ‘folly’.  Energetic, exuberant, more than filling its space and spilling outside the building, it was certainly not lacking in ambition.

An area of undoubted strength at the Biennale was the consistently high standard of video art.  Video is now clearly in an age of maturity, with professional production values and themes which speak to their audiences with clarity.  Several works at Venice are operating at the boundary with cinema in terms of the scope of their ambition and their technical standards.

Although there was little live performance art at the Biennale, the one piece which I saw was remarkable for its power and intensity.  The German pavilion was an almost empty space apart from a raised glass floor and glass panels separating some of the rooms.  The audience, on entering the building, hardly knew what to expect.  The four performers, initially positioned around the main exhibition hall, moved together and then separated in successive bursts of energy and slow deliberation, in a loosely structured narrative of encounters and separations.

Venice, German Pavilion, photo: Richard Christensen

At times there was intimacy, at others the threat of violence.  Even though much of the performance took place in and among the audience, at no time was there any interaction with it.  And despite the intensity of the piece the expressions of the performers were impassive throughout – indeed, this impassivity was what gave it much of its power.  And at the end, when the four performers disappeared, their wordless drama, maintained over an hour and a quarter, left the audience exhausted by what they had seen and experienced.

Two and a half days in Venice could never provide much more than a taster of what the Biennale had to offer.  I could easily have spent a whole week or more there taking in the art.  And as for the city… I’m sure I could devote a whole year there just to exploring its endless maze of alleyways and canals.’

 

The Venice study visit is one of a number of optional overseas trips offered to undergraduate students of Falmouth School of Art during their studies. BA(Hons) Drawing have also in recent years visited Amsterdam, and BA(Hons) Fine Art have previously visited Berlin.

Advertisements

Off to Venice!…

Falmouth School of Art has regularly made the Venice Biennale a study visit destination. This week a group of students from BA(Hons) Fine Art and BA(Hons) Drawing are travelling together to spend four days at the 57th Biennale, staying in the heart of the city…

Folly, by Phyllida Barlow at the British Pavilion, Venice, 2017. Photo: Ruth Clark © British Council. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Falmouth has other connections at this year’s event – our Visiting Professor of Fine Art, Hew Locke and fellow Falmouth alumna Libita Clayton are both exhibiting work at this year’s Diaspora Pavilion.

2017 Falmouth graduate Abbie Hunt, who was supported by Falmouth School of Art and the British Council to undertake a British Council Venice Fellowship, has been in touch with current students to make recommendations to the group, based on her experience of working at the Biennale for a month.

The Venice study visit is one of a number of optional overseas trips offered to undergraduate students of Falmouth School of Art during their studies. BA(Hons) Drawing have also in recent years visited Amsterdam, and BA(Hons) Fine Art have previously visited Berlin.

Falmouth becomes a Partner in the British Council’s Venice Fellowships Programme

Falmouth School of Art has become a partner in the British Council’s Venice Fellowships Programme, and we are very pleased to announce that our first Fellow, attending the 57th Biennale Arte this autumn, will be final year BA(Hons) Fine Art student Abbie Hunt.

Exterior of the British Pavilion on the occasion of Sarah Lucas’s exhibition, I SCREAM DADDIO, at the British Pavilion, 2015. © Cristiano Corte.

The Venice Fellowships is a steward-research programme which brings together students and volunteers from partner universities and organisations across the UK, and provides them with a month at the Venice Biennale, where they split their time between invigilating the British Pavilion exhibition and conducting independent research.

Abbie has already taken part in a two-day induction in London, where Fellows received training in the practical aspects of stewarding and received support in developing their research ideas. She reflected, “Even after the induction, having this opportunity still doesn’t seem real. I’m very excited and nervous but after meeting the other Fellows I will be invigilating with in October I feel a lot more settled. The Fellowship has given me an instant network and I feel installed into another family as everyone was confident and friendly. There was a real buzz during the induction, as collectively we were positive and willing to learn and make these connections”.

Falmouth School of Art’s Director, Dr. Virginia Button, said, ‘I’m delighted that through our partnership in the British Council’s prestigious Fellowship programme, Abbie will be spending a month at the Venice Biennale this year. It’s so important for our students to continue thinking and engaging globally, and immersion in Europe’s most established international contemporary art exhibition is sure to  be really inspiring. I think it’s great that the Fellowship supports both professional practice and research, allowing graduates to really get the most out of the experience.’

untitled: dock: emptystaircasehoarding, 2014, Phyllida Barlow. Installation view, dock, Duveen Commission, Tate Britain, London, England, 2014. Photo: Alex Delfanne ©
Phyllida Barlow. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

For Abbie, the Venice Fellowship will come soon after graduation, but her success in securing her place has already had an impact: “The Fellowship came at such a good time, as I come to the end of my degree, because it has given me a new sense of confidence and aspiration for when I finish and enter the real world. Having this amazing opportunity has really made me consider the pathway of working within a gallery context whilst still having the freedom to develop my practice”.

To secure her place on the Fellowships Programme, Abbie had to complete the British Council’s written application, from which a small number of candidates were shortlisted by a Falmouth School of Art panel to be interviewed by the British Council. Abbie’s research interests already aligned with this year’s Biennale – her dissertation included research on this year’s British Pavilion artist: “In terms of the Fellowship research, I am massively interested in expanding on my dissertation, as this surrounded Phyllida Barlow’s work. Being able to interact with the public and observing their responses to her exciting unseen exhibition will definitely take my understanding to a completely new level”.

Falmouth School of Art plans to keep in touch with Abbie and hear more about her experiences during the autumn. “I really don’t feel like I can anticipate the experience I will have in Venice until I’m actually living there”, she adds, “but it’s going to keep me going in the last few weeks before deadline!”.