690: Venice round-up (Tuesday 9 June 2009)

compiled by Hilary Murray
This week saw the opening of the 53rd Venice Biennale and Circa was there. Scandinavian art duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset transformed the Nordic and Danish pavilions into a dramatic installation called The Collectors, for which they won a Golden Lion. The US also received the award for best national pavilion with a retrospective of the work of Bruce Nauman.
Péter Forgács' Installation at the Hungarian pavilion dealt brilliantly with ideas of racial identity, whilst the Polish pavilion saw Krzysztof Wodiczko examine ideas of voyeurism and the situation of self within the environment. Australian artist Shaun Gladwell provided some pop-culture flair, referencing films such as Mad Max and questioning the Australian identity abroad. Daniel Birnbaum's Making Worlds provided one of the highlights of the show in the form of Sweden's Nathalie Djurberg, whose fantasy-garden turned little-shop-of-horrors Experimentet won her a Silver Lion for best young artist. This pavilion also included a gallery-filling installation of neuronal-network simulation in black elastic ropes by Tomas Saraceno.
The British artist Liam Gillick filled the German pavilion with pine kitchen units; though possibly commenting on German efficiency and precision, the overall effect was too sterile to be engaging. The overall show lacked a common theme - though one was ascribed, 'making worlds'. This did not, however, take from the show and for me the disparate nature in pavilion identity created a jarring effect that exaggerated the differences that make up national identity. Most countries fell gleefully into their sobriquets; the Americans were all neon and super-star power, the Australians had the outback and kangaroos, and the British and French pavilions were impossible to get near to!
 Elmgreen and Dragset\
Elmgreen and Dragset's Death of a Collector for the Nordic and Danish pavilions; photo Hilary Murray

 From Elmgreen and Dragset\
From Elmgreen and Dragset's The Collectors; photo Hilary Murray

 Shaun Gladwell at the Australian pavillion; photo Hilary Murray
Shaun Gladwell at the Australian pavillion; photo Hilary Murray

 Tomas Sarceno’s Galaxies in Daniel Birnbaum\
Tomas Sarceno’s Galaxies in Daniel Birnbaum's Making Worlds; photo Hilary Murray

 Nathalie Djurberg’s Experimentet for Daniel Birnbaum\
Nathalie Djurberg’s Experimentet for Daniel Birnbaum's Making Worlds; photo Hilary Murray

 Miquel Barceló at the Spanish pavilion; photo Hilary Murray
Miquel Barceló at the Spanish pavilion; photo Hilary Murray

 Krzysztof Wodiczko\
Krzysztof Wodiczko's installation for the Polish pavilion; photo Hilary Murray

 Taken from the Bruce Nauman retrospective at the American pavilion; photo Hilary Murray
Taken from the Bruce Nauman retrospective at the American pavilion; photo Hilary Murray

 Taken from the Bruce Nauman retrospective at the American pavilion; photo Hilary Murray
Taken from the Bruce Nauman retrospective at the American pavilion; photo Hilary Murray

 Péter Forgács\
Péter Forgács' installation for the Hungarian pavilion; photo Hilary Murray

 Péter Forgács\
Péter Forgács' installation for the Hungarian pavillion; photo Hilary Murray