Issues of Representation and Segregation

-Goals of the Venice Biennale have been to bring the world together through art.  Issues have become apparent when dealing with to what degree of representation for a country affect the artwork as well as segregation do to various manners of organization.  Those topics of discussion have negatively and positively affected exhibition’s structure.

Pressures from a show of the Venice Biennale’s magnitude often result in artists taking on patriotic representative roles.  Weight is also placed upon countries to choose the best artists to stand for them.  Each nation that participates in the exhibition has selected artists to invite in order to represent their country (in a way, like the Olympics for art).  Selected artists are then confronted with deciding what their responsibility is with the representation of their country.  Will they personify themselves as an artist or their nation through their artistic perspective?  Such a duty can lead the artist’s artwork into confronting situations about their nation’s political, economical, historical, social, and/or technological status.  Making reflective statements about what is going on within their nation and how to represent these ideas can be an overwhelming and touchy task to undertake.  Raising such issues, the artist needs to decide if they will be objective or subjective in their execution with portrayal.  Most controversy that is covered contained in the Biennale, as well as other substantial size exhibitions, is commonly the effects of those particular subject matters.  Those are why most of the information and news about large standing exhibitions are usually about the argumentative art and not about the organizations or institutions themselves.  Since the controversies of certain subject matter oriented art is one of the main focuses examined at the show, each artist wants to stand out and make statements that are unique to their homeland.  Those pressures push the art to be individualized and censored subject matter.  Serving as a delegate in the exhibition consolidates nations by helping a nation open the world to its individual status in an educational way.  On the other hand, that can to an extent, shut off and dismiss them as a form of political propaganda overload which takes away from the art making purpose and/or process.  Having the opportunity to represent one’s country is a privilege; it nonetheless, establishes an environment for their perspective to be shown through an artistic medium on a cross-cultural level.
Though the aim of the Venice Biennale has always been to bring the world together through the visual arts, its integration of multiple countries’ leads to segregation.  With such a massive global event, differentiation will be easily noticed and a need for individualization will be formed.  Thus, a structure must be created to keep the exhibition focused on its central beliefs.  Geographical topics are once again brought up through Venice’s physical location and historical independence further differentiates the city from anywhere else in the world.  Each Biennale has a curator chosen from a selected country, who themes and decides on particular artists to contribute work into the central exhibition building.  Due to the fact each pavilion is under the control of its country, responsible for it’s the artist representatives are held to their own nations.  This ensures an invitational selection process over who exactly can participate in the Biennale.  Disputes on the favoring and the creation of elite artists have been reactions to the invitational measures.  However, the Venice Biennale’s committee has the main control over the way it is presented and depending on who is part of it, their influences affect who is shown and how.
There is a separation between countries that transpires because it is a global event spilt into pavilions.  Most pavilions have been constructed and reconstructed at various times.  Over the many historical global periods the Biennale has been through, pavilions can become a national statement in reaction to those events.  Some are built by famous architects, which usually reflect the time period and artistic styles by what they mean for each country.  Artists and their work then become cut off to everyone else when enclosed within their country’s pavilion in their specific location within Venice.  Essentially, pavilions are transformed into mini arenas exclusive to each nation representing its own culture in a nonverbal manner.  In turn, they are created on their own individual canal created islands and consequently further and restrict the communication interaction.
The media then comes into the picture when recording and making statements about the presented artwork.  It has not been till recently in the passed couple years that the Venice Biennale has set up a website.  From their site, an abundance of information can be acquired by the public such as press, newsletters, and historical archives.  Though not the only resource on the Biennale, other subjective references can be discovered.  For that reason, one of the most prevalent concerns about the Biennale is the way art is reported.  National newspapers, magazines, journals, websites, etc. customarily render a short generalization about that biennial’s show, but then profoundly report their own country’s pavilion and artwork.  By exclusively concentrating on their own nation, it defeats the purpose of participating in an international exhibition with the basis of exploring what is going on globally in the art world.
Signs of time can be apparent throughout the Biennales and in fact, cause questions about segregation whether in both positive and negative connotations. Nations are increasingly divided depending on what manner and type of subject matter the artist chooses.  Because of phases of artic styles, depictions of contemporary dress or culture, etc. art is easily subject to the time periods in which it was created.  With the advancement and acceptance of technology in the art field, less affluent areas may be behind on the cutting-edge facet of the avant-garde.  Questions arise then if there is a lost sense of the artists hand in the work they create, and if the Biennale should continue embracing this medium as more artwork becomes digitalized.  Along with technological advancements, the progression of blurring age distinctions has amplified.  The awarding of recognition through prizes has also raised issues over the progression of the Venice Biennale.  Giving prizes is isolating an individual in praise.  How the exhibition awarded prizes, how many were given, what they were given for, and what they consisted of has varied throughout the years.  The Venice Biennale, as with any organization that distributes awards, has been confronted with accusations of corruption.  Competition is also apparent as a direct product when a reward is involved.  It was not till the last fifty years that a shift towards awarding younger generational artist became more accepted within the Biennale.  Traditionally, honoring the more established, usually much older artist had always been the case. [23]  The generational distinction then become evident in style, age, content, and medium, this distinction groups artists into different age groups.  Moving away from those beliefs acknowledges that artistic development is not solely reliant on time and age. [24]

23. Lawrence Alloway, 151.
24. Lawrence Alloway, 152.

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