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At the Venice Biennale: Upside-Down Tanks, Pipe Organ ATMs and Stuffed Pigeons

The art industry's answer to the Olympics is kicking off on Friday in Venice, Italy -- and the photos are starting to come in!

Friday, June 03, 2011 - 12:00 AM

WNYC

Every couple of years, thousands of curators, artists, aficionados, collectors and socialites decamp en mass to Venice, Italy for the century-old tradition of enjoying a World's Fair approach to viewing art. Organized by nation, the Venice Biennale consists of dozens of pavilions scattered around the city that showcase works by representative artists. A sum total of 86 nations participate. This year, first-timers included Rwanda, Haiti and Iraq.

The art exhibition runs from Friday through November 27. Repping the U.S. is the conceptual art duo of Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, who originally hail from Puerto Rico. (See this previous WNYC report for details on their background.)

In a show organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the pair is showing an upside-down tank that serves as a treadmill (an athlete from USA Track & Field runs on it once an hour) and an ATM that's been hooked up to a pipe organ. Other visual hijinks include a statue on a tanning bed and gymnasts doing routines on airline seats. Subtle, it isn't. But then again, Americans aren't exactly known for being demure. Not that this matters in Venice, where the installations tend to be big and bigger. The French pavilion has a massive armature that shows a conveyor belt-sized filmstrip of baby faces, while the Brits have gone for a sprawling, disorienting warren of rooms intended to evoke a slum.

Things got off to a rocky start early in the week when the water taxi workers all went on strike -- forcing the glitterati to ditch the designer footwear in favor of comfy walking shoes. Thankfully, the vaporetti are once again running and the Perignon-sipping and air kissing has returned to normal levels. For the blow-by-blow, logon to ArtInfo or The Art Newspaper, both of which are posting regular reports, or follow ArtNet (@artnetdotcom) on Twitter.

Talk of the Show: 'Track & Field,' an overturned Centurion tank that's been converted into a treadmill used by athletes affiliated with USA Track & Field.
Photo by Tascha Horowitz. Courtesy the Indianapolis Museum of Art
Talk of the Show: 'Track & Field,' an overturned Centurion tank that's been converted into a treadmill used by athletes affiliated with USA Track & Field.

In his review of the piece at New York Magazine's website, critic Jerry Saltz described it as the "health club from hell."

Money Talks: Also part of Allora & Calzadilla's install is this automated teller, which is hooked up to a pipe organ. A unique tune is generated with each transaction.
Photo by Andrew Bordwin. Courtesy the Indianapolis Museum of Art
Money Talks: Also part of Allora & Calzadilla's install is this automated teller, which is hooked up to a pipe organ. A unique tune is generated with each transaction.
Photo by Andrew Bordwin. Courtesy the Indianapolis Museum of Art
"Armed Freedom Lying on a Sunbed," another piece by the U.S. team. Surely, if you gaze at this work long enough, you'll come away looking sun-kissed.
If Delta were to offer buff athletes as part of their service, I might actually fly them. Here: Allora & Calzadilla's 'Body in Flight,' in which a gymnast performs on a reproduction airline seat.
Courtesy the Indianapolis Museum of Art
If Delta were to offer buff athletes as part of their service, I might actually fly them. Here: Allora & Calzadilla's 'Body in Flight,' in which a gymnast performs on a reproduction airline seat.
On to some other pavilions: Representing France is artist Christian Boltanski, who has crafted (or had his assistants craft) a mighty installation called 'Chance.'
g. sighele/flickr
On to some other pavilions: Representing France is artist Christian Boltanski, who has crafted (or had his assistants craft) a mighty installation called 'Chance.'

Art Observed has a comprehensive report on the giant, moving baby heads.

Italian art-prankster Maurizio Cattelan has stuffed taxidermied pigeons into just about every available crevice and rafter at the Palace of Exhibitions.
g. sighele/flickr
Italian art-prankster Maurizio Cattelan has stuffed taxidermied pigeons into just about every available crevice and rafter at the Palace of Exhibitions.

The New York Times helpfully digs up their source.

This meaty boot is by Italian designer and architect Gaetano Pesce.
g. sighele/flickr
This meaty boot is by Italian designer and architect Gaetano Pesce.
Monica Bonvicini's installation, '15 Steps to the Virgin,' at the group show ILLUMInations -- which brings together various artists from around the world.
g. sighele/flickr
Monica Bonvicini's installation, '15 Steps to the Virgin,' at the group show ILLUMInations -- which brings together various artists from around the world.
I have no idea what pavilion these are from, but I would reallyreallyreally like a set for my stoopside altar.
g. sighele/flickr
I have no idea what pavilion these are from, but I would reallyreallyreally like a set for my stoopside altar.
Outside the Canadian pavilion, Steven Shearer has poetry inspired by death metal. I love the phrase 'rot munching architects.' Sounds like the name of a band.
g. sighele/flickr
Outside the Canadian pavilion, Steven Shearer has poetry inspired by death metal. I love the phrase 'rot munching architects.' Sounds like the name of a band.
One artist filled the assigned space with dozens of earth-toned ceramic vases.
g. sighele/flickr
One artist filled the assigned space with dozens of earth-toned ceramic vases.
Visitors to the Biennale have been contending with Disneyland-length lines to get into the rides... er, exhibits.
g. sighele/flickr
Visitors to the Biennale have been contending with Disneyland-length lines to get into the rides... er, exhibits.

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Comments [4]

eamonn shanahan from NC

George Holding, who is running for Congress here in NC, is saying that President Obama financed the $300,000 tab for the upside down tank exhibit. Is there any truth to this? I have a feeling that Mr Holding is taking a liberty or two with the truth...

Mar. 08 2012 07:48 AM
darrel

never got to run on it but got a chance to drive it around before stripping it down and taking the thing apart, it was great fun

Jun. 14 2011 04:22 PM

@darrel: did you get to run on it? jealous...

Jun. 03 2011 02:21 PM
darrel from buxton england

all i can say is after working on this tank from start to finish, the artist and all the people involved in the background of this piece should be very proud of what they have achieved, and should be commended for the work that has gone into making this work of art happen and for how it looks. but for these people and the engineering expertease used this work could have been a complete failure so well done to all these people

Jun. 03 2011 01:56 PM

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About Gallerina

Carolina A. Miranda is a regular contributor to WNYC and blogs about the arts for the station as "Gallerina." In addition to that, she contributes articles on culture, travel and the arts to a variety of national and regional media, including Time, ArtNews, Travel + Leisure and Budget Travel and Florida Travel + Life. She has reported on the burgeoning industry of skatepark design, architectural pedagogy in Southern California, the presence of street art in museums and Lima's burgeoning food scene, among many other subjects. In 2008, she was named one of eight fellows in the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program for her arts and architecture blog C-Monster.net, which has received mentions in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In January of 2010, the Times named her one of nine people to follow on Twitter. Got a tip? E-mail her at c [@] c-monster [dot] net

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