Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chad's São Paulo Diary: Bienal Day 2

Friday 28th October

The Bienal is sardine-packed with school kids today, as it has been every day. The educational department is fabulous, and they have teams of volunteers explaning the work to groups from pre-primary kids up to adults. Its incredibly nice to see (although screaming children can make it hard to concentrate on the art). This was our tour guide explaing Kendell Geers to us:

Three works really stood out for me today, and true to this Bienal all of them live and work in developing nations. Emily Jacir, an artist from Palestine, produced a work called Lydda Airport. The airport was once the largest in the British Empire, and she makes a gentle slow black-and-white-film around the old building. It takes its cue from two legends.

The first is the mysterious disappearance of a Hannibal, one of the largest passenger planes of the 1940's, which was based at the airport. It vanished one day over the Red Sea, without a trace of the plane, pilots or full complement of passengers. The second is the tale of Edmond Tamari, an airport official who received a message that he should take a bouquet to the airstrip and wait for Amelia Earhart. She never arrived. Recreations of these stories are set against a ruined and abandoned airport. I found the combiation of waiting, sadness and disappearance to be very moving, as a film and in the context of Palestine. A model of the airport was situated behind the film room:

Francis Alÿs produced a video called Tornado, in which he films himself running into tornados. With shaking camera and the sound clipping from the high speed winds, he runs over and over into the tornados. Its a mythical contest between a man and nature. A Sisyphean task. The video climaxes when he breaks through a wall of wind and dust and stands in the eye of the storm.

One hopes for some calm, some purpose to this useless task. But the quiet barely lasts a few seconds, before he spins out into the dust. Then a new loop begins. Alÿs has been working on this film for numerous years, and this accumulated time extends the one-liner element of the work.

Antonio Marcotela's work is about exchanges, time and economy. Something similar to Santiago Serra, but with a little more heart to it. Over a period of three yearshe visited the Santa Marta Acotica Jail in Mexico City. There, where people have time, but no ability to use it, he started a series of exchanges. He would undertake a task in the outside world for an inmate, and in return the uinmate would spend the same amount of time producing an artwork for the artist, though relating to the prison. An example, he tries to find the love of an inmates life, and the prisoner scratches out the centre of the Count of Monte Cristo.

The nice part about the work is that they are understated, and he doesn't show his parrt of the exchange. In another exchange he serenades a mans mother, or watches his childs first steps or finds someone's son. These are incredibly emotional works.

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