Thursday, June 02, 2011

Art is where you find it

If it’s often tough to work out what’s the art and what’s not in art museums, you can forget it when it comes to working out who’s a spectator and who’s a performer at the Venice Biennale. Ok, the guy in the middle of the street with twigs strapped to his head turning in circles and moaning is easy to peg as a performance work, but how about the four identically dressed women sitting on that bench staring straight ahead? More likely to be colleagues from some art-related business. 

So what about that guy wearing what looks like the back half of a donkey costume, tail included? Performer. We also figure the bride is performance (she has a roughly painted sign round her neck and wants to chat) but the bloke sitting cross-legged on the fountain? Not so sure. The beer cans indicate he might be drunk but the moaning has a chant like quality that speaks to performance. 

At one stage we catch sight of one of the world’s most famous performance artists Marina Abramović, but she seems to be just talking to a couple of friends (although it is not impossible that she will be repeating the same conversation over and over 24/7 for the next six months as an endurance work). 

At a pizza joint no food turns up for over an hour, and then just one meal at a time with long pauses between. The food is almost inedible and one of the Chinese waiters spills a dozen beers over the folk at the next table. We joke nervously that we might be in the middle of a performance work where a bunch of Chinese artists are doing their best to act Venetian, but then they bring us the bill. Even the art world doesn’t have the nerve to do that.

Images: Left, performance bride. Right, Marina Abramović