Monday, November 9, 2015

Art Teacher in Paradise

So it turns out that blogging has become the thing I do when I can't sleep (my last post), or when I have a little extra time in the morning (this post).  I just looked at my "all-time" stats and it was kind of sad to see the downward trend of my hit mountain, but what can I say?  I got art shit to do.
One of the reasons my printmaking teacher, Subler, encouraged us all to participate in that study abroad in 2001 was because the Venetian Biennale takes place on odd-numbered years.  A biennale is an art event that takes place approximately every two years (literally it means every two years but has come to be able to fit other regularly spaced events), and the event that made it a thing all started in Venice in 1895.
Well, the 2015 Biennale was the fifty-sixth in the history of the event, but of particular note for me and Mongolians because this is the first year Mongolia has participated, and this helped to spur me on in my desire to make it back to Venice this summer.  I first learned this when an acquaintance posted their IndieGoGo campaign on Facebook.  I'll let you read the story yourself via the link...long story short, their goal was to raise $50,000; they only raised $820 and awareness, but sometimes awareness is what you really need, because somebody's fairy godmother got on the horn and made stuff happen.

I managed to locate Palazzo Mora (which hosted the Mongolian Pavilion as well as a couple of other national pavilions) fairly easily, one of my first days in Venice.  One of the great things about the Biennale is that there are all these palaces with doors wide open to let you see internationally renowned art FOR FREE.  I rushed through the door and up the stairs, past some really cool pieces of art (such as a hallway of shoes made of bullet casings and some really fascinating sketchbooks) til I made it to the Mongolian pavilion.  It featured the work of two artists, T. Enkhbold and Unen Enkh, and the installation, featuring rough materials such as felt and leather, reminded me so strongly of Mongolia that I might have felt a little homesick as I sat on the floor and watched one of the videos, in which Enkhbold sets up his ger on a faraway the Netherlands, if I'm remembering correctly, but it's been several months thanks to my computer problems, some laziness, and the fact that the Kawaii Kid keeps suggesting really interesting anime to me.
One of the things that blew my mind in 2001 was the insane variety of materials and creations on display at the Biennale.  I had forgotten how much of it there was until I made my way to the Giardini this summer - the main things I remember from the 49th was Ron Mueck's Big Boy, Do Ho Suh's floor of people, and (of course) all the video art (particularly the Bjork video with the robots...beautiful, in a weird way...)  Walking through the Giardini, I remembered more, but couldn't be distracted by ghosts of the past.  There was the artist who made swatches with different kinds of earth and an installation which read Peace, but could only really be seen from the right perspective.
I LOVED the Australian (I think - sorry guys, like I said, it's been a while) pavilion.  It had the feel of a crazy antiques shop where skulls had been painted on the cuckoo clocks while someone had defaced currency with swimming sperm.  I also appreciated the tree on wheels outside one of the pavilions (German?), but I think I loved the Japanese pavilion the most at the Giardini...
Chiharu Shiota's installation, "Key in the Hand," featured about a million keys (rough estimate) strung through the million miles of red yarn tangled throughout the space...and a few rustic boats.  I felt like one of those keys must be mine, and if I could grasp it I could untangle it's line from the others, finding my way back to...something.  I liked the feeling of possibility it invoked in me.
It was just after I'd purchased my vaporetto pass and was taking a ride somewhere (possibly to Murano) that I realized I recognized a name on one of the posters - Rashad Alakbarov.  As soon as I figured out why I knew his name I totally fangirled.  Alakbarov is an Azerbaijani artist who creates the most amazing installations using light and shadow.  I tracked down "The Union of Fire and Water" at the Palazzo Barbaro (which, I swear, would make a great haunted house.  It had some serious presence!) one afternoon to see his art in person, and it.  Was.  Fantastic.  Not only was his work even more amazing in person than it is on This Is Colossal but it fit perfectly into the mood of Palazzo Barbaro, particularly the message, "I WAS HERE," which was reflected off a grouping of mirrors.  But my personal favorite was "DO NOT FEAR," spelled out in the shadows of knives.
My last stop was the Arsenale.  I hate to admit this, but I was a little undone by the time I got there.  It was hot, the sun was shining, and I was thinking more about the dinner I was supposed to have that night with a Shanghai friend who happened to be in Venice at the same time (historic ravioli.  Need I say more???)  Also, the Arsenale always kind of strikes me as a madhouse - it's just sensory overload!  I took a good look around, and I liked what I saw, but by that point in time, I was a saturated sponge, and there wasn't much more art I could soak up, no matter how much I wanted to. Nevertheless, with everything there is to see, I'd love to take my kids to Venice for the 57th Biennale.  I can't even imagine some of the things they'd say about the art, but I'll probably have to, since I have no idea how I'd plan that and keep it reasonably priced.  Still, a girl can dream.
Oh, hey - I have one last thing to tell you (all six of you regular readers)!  Last fall I entered the Harmonic UB Tourist Photo Competition.  The original deadline was in September 2014 and I hit them with my best shots (yes, I live here, but I am still a tourist...or at least travel around Mongolia.  Details!), but then they decided they wanted to give more people a chance to compete, so they changed it.  To September 2015.  So I waited patiently for the next year for the damn thing to wrap up.  There was an exhibition of the best photos on the concluding weekend, but I didn't know about it until the photos were added to the facebook event, and although they said winners would be announced soon, none were ever posted on any of the associated pages...I would know, because I was watching and waiting.  My hopes were dashed while we were in Greece (I have a lot of writing to do...) and Engrish said she'd got an announcement that some Chinese woman had won the contest, but I was dubious, since there were supposed to be three prizes and c'mon, what the heck, why didn't I get an email, too?  Finally, one month and a week later, I get a short, very innocuous message in my hotmail account letting me know that I've won second place!  Honestly I was hoping for first place, because the prize was a trip to the Gobi and I've never been, but I don't mind going to Khuvsgul again, if someone else is paying.  So, yeah.  Another second place win for me.  Yay!


  1. �� Nice to read your blog again. Awesome. ��

  2. How a trip to khuvsgul lake will be a second place win?