High School students visit the Venice Biennale art exhibitions

xsfaMr. Mitchell and Ms. Tyson were delighted to be with the students from 10th, 11th and 12th grade on this year’s high school art trip who all behaved excellently and were fully immersed and engaged by the experience both of Venice itself and the 56th international contemporary art exhibition, this year curated by Nigerian born Okwui Enwezor and with over 80 countries participating at various venues including the national pavilions of the  Giardini, the renovated shipyards of the Arsenale and Corderie and at collateral events throughout the city. Students also visited the Academia to see the collection of historical Venetian painting from the middle ages to the 17th century, as well as the Peggy Guggenheim Museum’s collection of modern art and the Thyssen Bornemisza contemporary art collection and exhibition at the restored Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana.

The title ‘All the Worlds Futures’ encompassed a vast array of exhibitions, topics and themes many of which were thought provoking, challenging and powerful and gave a deep insight into current global social, cultural and political situations as well as posing timeless existential questions.

What is unique about the Venice Biennale is the way the present is framed by the past. The historical city has been a cradle of world civilisation, a meeting of East and West, in both Byzantine and Ottoman empires and a crucible of mercantile capitalism, at its height with a powerful mediterranean maritime empire and a form of democratic republic governed by an aristocratic oligarchy, that made Venice rich and independent through trade secured through diplomacy and war.

This historical context provides a contrast for contemporary artists to explore current global issues and extrapolate meanings in relation to the present and future.  The city’s extraordinary infrastructure and the temporary exhibitions housed in national pavilions specially built for the biennale as well as many  historic architectural spaces, explored both by vaporetti (waterbus) along the canals and on foot in the many narrow passageways, thus acts as a  sort of labyrinth which can be ‘read’ as a cipher for our own times. Venice is like a giant shiny bauble of both desire and loss that reflects the many contradictory facets of the world, past, present and future in its glittering surface.

The art trips always provides students in art and design classes with valuable stimuli for both critical and contextual studies and the development of new and exciting creative and imaginative explorations of materials and visual investigations in the art studios.  The biennale could also act as a significant catalyst for Theory Of Knowledge (TOK) discussions or extended essays with cross-curricular links to economics, history or literature as well.

By Alan Mitchell, HS Art teacher