Guffwatch - Biennale edition

May 27 2015

Image of Guffwatch - Biennale edition

Picture: Contemporary Art Daily

Cristina Ruiz of The Art Newspaper alerts us to this years pick of the turkey's at the Venice Biennale - the ones which even the contemporary art crowd are baffled by. Guffwatch's antennae sprung into action with Cristina's mention of the Austrian pavilion, which is, er, entirely empty. This year, artist Heimo Zobernig pushes the emperor's-new-clothes analogy  to breaking point by filling the pavilion with nothing (although, cunningly, he has given it a lick of paint). You can see lots of photos of the empty space here.

Of course, the official press release is worthy of a place in the Guffwatch pantheon of greats:

Heimo Zobernig’s work is marked by its high level of precision in terms of both form and content. He often succeeds in involving the observer both intellectually and sensually at the same time. His spectrum ranges from drawing and painting through installation and sculpture to video and spatial settings of a practical nature. Already in his early years, Heimo Zobernig had a firm grasp of how to question the basic premises of art both critically and playfully, by using the exhibition and/or the catalog or book in itself as a medium of his analytical reflection. In this sense, the individual building blocks of his art became his actual oeuvre. Hence, he exposes the mechanisms of the art system, addresses hierarchies and examines concepts both for their concrete and metaphorical meanings. All the more impressive is how he succeeds in negotiating these issues in the form of what might almost be called classical, apparently autonomous canvases and sculptures, or by means of concrete architectural interventions and installations.

Heimo Zobernig will combine both approaches for the Austrian Pavilion, which was built in 1934 based on plans by Josef Hoffmann and Robert Kramreiter. Both spatial intervention and independent work of art will enter into a combination as equal, reciprocally commentating elements of his Venice contribution. No less than the concrete room, the situation of the Biennale itself is a starting point for Heimo Zobernig’s deliberations. How can a meaningful contribution be made in an environment based on nation-state representations and in which each voice competes for the most attention? What effects make sense in such a context? These questions also play a role in Heimo Zobernig’s concept for Venice. And the Austrian Pavilion, with its equally classical and modern language of form, offers an ideal space for this purpose.

Update - a reader writes:

A propos of the empty gallery gambit, my brother-in-law, who is an artist and art history professor at an American university, "thought it was funnier in 1958... (1968, 1969, 1970, 1974, 1975, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004…)”.


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