The dense curation of this year’s show prompts a whinge or two
There is always too much to absorb at the biennale preview, and this year’s dense curation in the arsenale by David Chipperfield (as opposed to Kazuo Sejima’s use of fewer large singular installations) makes it more of a challenge than past biennales. There are a lot of words, drawings and exhibits to absorb, which demands some work of the visitor - a change when compared to more experiential approaches, which you could simply stroll through and drink in the installations without being forced to read or think.
As a result, there has already been a bit of whining from visitors I’ve spoken to and a lot of guilty murmurings from those who frankly couldn’t be bothered. Thankfully there is plenty of eye candy for those looking for a little light entertainment. Those seeking consensus, however, in the form of ‘Common Ground’ will be disappointed - there is little in common here. Except perhaps geography. The perceived over representation of British architects has caused some grumblings amongst the Italians, which can be expected to continue - nearly 40% of biennale visitors are from the home crowd, and a number have said they are not impressed with the English-centric curation.
But there are more than Brits featured here. Monday morning found me standing in a queue behind a cheery Peter Zumthor, who said he was pleased to be visiting Venice and had brought his whole office along. An hour later, I stood in a cramped clock tower to watch Zumthor star in a Wim Wenders documentary film, a promotional elegy to the architect’s methods captured in his Swiss studio. Zumthor was shown thoughtfully pondering a model of the roof for his Alain de Botton house for Living Architecture in Devon, and the drip detail for his mine-shaft cafe for a client in Norway.
What this had to do with the search for common ground, or the rest of the show, I have no idea. It was a nice enough short movie, anyway.