2019 Venice Biennale

What Is That Horrible, Violent Noise in the Arsenale?

 

It is always dread-inducing when you hear what sounds like an elaborate installation violently crashing to the ground, particularly when a huge art exhibition has just opened and work has presumably just recently been installed. That’s precisely what happened on Tuesday in the first moments of the Venice Biennale, as I was part of the way through the Arsenale. People turned their heads, and a couple ran toward the sound. I assumed the worst. Thankfully, we were just hearing a brutally cacophonous kinetic work by the anxious-making pair of Chinese provocateurs Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. It’s titled Dear (2015), and as you can see above, it consists of a chair modeled on the one in which President Abraham Lincoln sits in his memorial in Washington, D.C., along with a rubber hose, which springs to life occasionally with the aid of high-pressure air, and an intense cage structure that prevents viewers from being maimed by the hose. It’s not exactly a subtle work, but it does induce a shot of adrenalin to the system—and to the show.

Only an hour into the Biennale, the walls of the cage were already getting marked up pretty badly. One imagines it will not be a pretty sight at the end of the exhibition’s six-month run.

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