In November 2013 students from the MA and BA fine art courses went on a study visit to Venice to see curator Massimiliano Gioni’s major exhibition The Encyclopedic Palace and many other exhibitions as part of the Venice Biennale.  The Venice Biennale’s two main sites are the Giardini (a beautiful garden with pavilions hosting exhibitions from  30 different countries) and the Arsenale (a former ship building warehouse, widely credited with being the first site of mass production), with many other exhibitions spread throughout the city.

MA fine art student David Fowling gives us his highlights of the biennale:

No matter where you go in Venice, there is a constant feeling of awe. From simply casting one’s eyes towards the heavens, you are completely submerged within an architectural paradise and cannot help but stand and gaze upon a landscape that nowhere else in the world has to offer. Where roads should be infesting, canals instead harmoniously flow throughout the city. A more beautiful place couldn’t have been imagined, and yet there was still the 55th Venice biennale to be explored.
Scattered throughout the city and in the Giardini itself, Pavilions stood proudly displaying different cultures, history and art, each one providing an influencing experience and a new insight into a world one might not have experienced otherwise. To mention one, the U.S pavilion, I felt was unfitting with a lot of the works at the Giardini, maybe because of this I remember it all the more so.
Sarah Sze: Triple Point. U.S. Pavilion:
This tactile installation by Sarah Sze which was oddly constructed of random pieces of paper, string, lights, matches and anything else one could find in an everyday office or home. Although the aesthetics may seem random, this installation was carefully considered as well as carefully constructed. Upon closer inspection there was an emotional and functional attachment to these objects. Each piece, be it humble, precious or simply throwaway added to this monumental ‘ecosystem’ providing a new experience to both the mind and eyes.
Wandering through the Arsenale attempting to take in all the wonderful, precious, challenging and thought provoking art was a pleasure. I only say attempting because I feel that if I were to visit several times I would feel and experience something new each time. One piece which stood out from the rest for me was the work of Pawel Althamer. This work is an interactive piece, where casts had been taken of Venetians but not in order to display the human form. These ghoulish, grey casts echoed soullessness, forcing the audience to interact and experience the art because of the certain elements such as life like faces and to scale casts. Althamer’s work dominated a small part of the Arsenale leaving the audience questioning his work.
 Pawel Althamer1

On a final note an amazing trip filled with lots of new experiences, great food, great people, interesting art, and above all fantastic memories. I hope to go again.”


Words by David Fowling.