Blake Gopnik’s Venice series continues with a discussion of the Slovak artist Roman Ondák who is after the elusive goal of creating art that is not perceived as art by bringing the Giardinari into the Slovak pavilion:
Ondák, hovering on opening day to watch over his plants, says that in Venice “the pavilion is the concept that the artist is invited to work with” — the one fact and constraint no Biennale artist can escape. So instead of letting it constrain or condition his art, Ondák turned his pavilion into a work of art he’s titled “Loop.” “It’s about reality being transposed into the art space, without manipulation,” he says.
Ondák’s art also points an accusatory finger. By giving his project the smallest possible environmental footprint, he draws attention to the piles of lumber and drywall and exhausted art supplies most artists leave behind in the Giardini once the Biennale closes. Ondák’s plants and earth will be used to help restore the grounds around them, battered by a season’s worth of art-seeking crowds.
It is realism without representation — the real itself, for its own sake. And with the title “art” to bring it into focus. […]
Instead of acting as a neutral backdrop for framed works of art, here the pavilion itself becomes the frame, crisp and white and modern, that sets off the view of nature it contains. As we search for the fine art in this pavilion, we come upon the art of gardening instead.
Gopnik also looks at the nature of art in the context of Finnish artist Jussi Kivi’s installation “Fire & Rescue Museum”:
Neat stuff is neat stuff, and art’s just one special version of it. The greatest art, you could say, is simply neat stuff, cubed — the Apotheosis of Neat. As Kivi found out early on, and has now confirmed for anyone who visits his pavilion, one of art’s few rivals may be firefighting gear.
The distinctive thing about art, however, is that it’s never just itself, for itself, the way a firefighter’s ax can be. Art always makes us use it as a metaphor for other things. Present a firefighter’s ax as art, and it stops being just for breaking windows.
Finally, Gopnik calls attention to Canadian artist Mark Lewis who lives and works in London but represents Canada at the Biennale. Using the heightened reality of rear-projection settings, Lewis’s work examines social unity and discord.
Roman Ondák’s Fertile Twist Is Simply Inspired (Washington Post)
A Finnish Artist Plays With Fire And Sets the Biennale Aglow (Washington Post)
Mark Lewis’s Semi-Candid Camera (Washington Post)