If, as Richard Kadrey suggests, “Memories are bullets. Some whiz by and only spook you. Others tear you open and leave you in pieces.” then it explains a great deal about the state of my memory. Over the past many years of being an art educator, I have had the unique opportunity to travel to many parts of the world looking at art and then bringing it back to my students. The challenge has been that there is so very much art and so very little time to share all of it with my students.
As a result, I have over ten years worth of collected images from shows sitting around in my iPhoto library. If I happen to think of a particular work or artist to show a student, then I have to attempt to sift through thousands of images to find the work. As a classroom teacher, it's a flawed system at best. This new series of posts will be my concerted effort to address this.
My intention is to choose an artist or work that I have seen and respond to it on a personal and aesthetic level. Time permitting, I will try to provide additional information about the artist for those interested in exploring their work on a deeper level. This is as much a personal journey for me as an artist and educator as I continue to explore the ideas and inspiration within my own artwork.
This past summer of 2013, I had the opportunity to go to the Venice Biennial for a second time. The theme of this year's show was "The Encyclopedic Palace" based on "the model of a utopian dream by Marino Auriti who filed a design with the U.S. Patent office in 1955, depicting his Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace), an imaginary museum that was meant to house all worldly knowledge." While not my favorite exhibition, the show did introduce me to a fantastic range of artists, many of whom I had not been aware.
After attending an exhibition as huge as the Venice Biennial, I find that a bit of distance and time from the show offers a better perspective on the art I have seen. Those images that linger in my memory, like a burning ember or a scar, are the pieces I hope to share in this ongoing blog.
One such artist is, Cathy Wilkes. Her piece, Untitled 2013, in the central pavilion, was engaging both in it's use of space as well as the emotional impact it had on me personally. The work provoked in me the desperate state of women and children all over the world. The expressive body language of the mannequins contrasted with their delicate yet simple faces set brought forth a sense of hopelessness that was a breath of fresh air compared to much of the cerebral work I had seen earlier in the day. I especially liked how the work revealed itself by requiring you to walk around the threadbare curtain, providing no real privacy to the drama of these figures' lives.
Often students ask me how best to bring together an installation piece. I believe that this work with both it's use of unified textures, faded color and emotional context
Thanks again to the Governor's School Foundation for this amazing opportunity! Stay tuned for updates later in the summer.
Better late than never.
Today is sadly our last day in Istanbul. We have a full schedule for the day with hopefully a 'hat-trick' of sites. We'll start at Topkapi Palace, followed by the Istanbul Modern Art Museum and wrap things up with a visit to the Grand Bazaar. It'll be a full day, but a fantastic end to to research part of my journey.
What and amazing trip it's been.! I've learned so much to being back to my students for next year. I can't wait to share these experiences!
Today we had the pleasure of meeting up with Maggie Walker alumni, Maryam Patton, who showed us around the public transportation system here in Istanbul.
We started our day with a tasty lunch, the tool the ferry over to the Asian side of the city. There are less historical buildings there so we took in some of the local flavor and enjoyed a healthy walk to the Maiden's Tower.
Along the way, we were grilling Maryam regarding all things Turkish culture, history, and current events. It's work noting that Maryam's family is from Turkey and has spent many summers here since her youth. Currently she is here on a research fellowship from Princeton.
Later we made our way to Taksim Square and Gezi park, the site of the recent protests in Istanbul. Life was back to normal there, but there was a large police presence. Most of the protest art had been cleaned up, or painted over, but in some of the back streets I was able to find some nice examples. These were in contrast to the memorial statues and imagery of Ataturk who is still revered here.
I still need to edit videos from the first day, in Istanbul. We've been going full blast since we left. Time and energy have been at a minimum.
Let me know what you think and if you have any questions in the comments below. Thanks for following along!
We got in late yesterday to Istanbul and any preconceptions I had before coming here were simply blown away.
(On a side note, I do apologize that I didn't post yesterday, but I'm having some iffy wifi at the hotel here. )
First, in regards to Taksim, all seems well and life is going along as if nothing had happened. While we were concerned enough to move our hotel to the old city and away from Taksim and Gezi park. The Turkish people have been wonderful, welcoming, helpful and friendly. I simply cannot say enough. Having no Turkish language skills, I was concerned how we would be received.
One of my primary reasons for coming to Istanbul was to experience Islamic culture, knowing that since Turkey has a secular government, it would be more moderate. Having now experienced it, I feel very much at ease. I had naively imagined that when the call to prayer happened, that everything would stop dramatically. In my mind, I now see the call to prayer much like church bells ringing. When the call to pray happens, the faithful go to pray and everything else keeps on going.
I had also imagined the area around the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia to be solemn, like around St. Peter's in Rome. Instead, it felt a bit like a celebration, with a huge fountain that changes colors, hundreds of people taking pictures and getting snacks from vendors. Restaurants, shops, and families just having a good time. It was so alive and so completely different than what I had expected.
I'll be posting some pictures until I get my video issue sorted out. I do hope they dispel some of the misperceptions that I had of this dynamic, beautiful, and very modern city.
I will be meeting up with Maggie Walker Alumni Maryam Patton tomorrow. She's here visiting her family and doing research. I can't wait to catch up with this amazing former student and get her opinion on Turkey, Turkish culture, and the current events.
Please post questions if you have any regarding Turkey or Istanbul below! Thanks!
The Giardini section is my favorite part of the Venice Biennale. I like how the artwork is divided into pavilions based on various nationalities. The short pause of waling through the gardens from building to building allows you to reflect momentarily on what you have seen before having to move on to the next "course" if you will. This is in stark contrast to the amazing, but somewhat overwhelming, "endless buffet" of art in the Arsenale.
One would think that this national focus would promote competitiveness or discord, but instead the event has a healthy sense of unity in coming together every two years for over 100 years to celebrate art, architecture, music and dance.
That is not to say that the exhibitions are lacking in political speech. Three in particular had overt political themes in their work. Venezuela's pavilion focused on street art which had a strong anti-globalization vein running through it. I thought it ironic though how globalized graffiti culture has become. Germany's pavilion was full of political speech, especially, Romuald Karmakar's videos that addressed Germany's struggle to deal with it's history. South Africa's pavilion dealt with the idea of trying to move beyond it's history of apartheid and the protest art that defined that generation into one focused on crafting a new identity for the country. http://sa-venice-biennale.com/sa-pavilion/
This was an amazing year for the biennale and I'm looking forward to showing my students ALL the work that was on display at the event.
If the Venice Biennale is the Olympics of art, then the Arsenale can best be described as the marathon of art. It is held in a several mile long structure that at the peak of Venice's military power could crank out a warship in a day on what was essentially a very long assembly line.
Take that and fill it with art from around the world you get the Arsenale. This year's theme is based on an "outsider" artist, Marino Auriti's work, the Encyclopedic Palace. He immigrated to the USA from Italy after criticizing the fascist government in his home town. After many years working as an automotive repair mechanic, he spent years working on his idea of one building to house all human knowledge. He constructed his model, filed and received a patent for his design.
This work acts as the conceptual axis for the entire exhibition.
The quantity of work is simply overwhelming, so I present a montage of some of my favorites of the day. Themes of censorship and protest abound so I will pull these artists out specifically as I am putting together my curriculum at the end of my adventure.
I would be very curious to hear what you have to think about these artists and the whole idea of a building to house all of human knowledge. Please leave a comment below and I'll be sure to respond. Thanks!
Jeff "Coach" Hall is an artist and art educator who is currently the Fine Arts Dept. Chair at Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies located in Richmond, VA.