Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Michael Kimmelman's June 10th review of the 2009 Venice Biennial seemed to calling for Swoon's Swimming Cities of Serinissima, who were en route. In particular, Kimmelman's summary of the work at the heart of the show -- by the Gutai group ("Japanese avant-gardists from the 1950s/1960s"), Lygia Pape (a Brazilian artist "who came to prominence around the same time"), and Gordon Matta-Clark ("the short-lived American iconoclast of the 1970s") -- could have been written about Swoon and her merry band of travelers:
Devising quasi-utopian projects of hippie-ish experimentalism by often fugitive means, they aimed to engage more than an art audience and to spread joy. They saw themselves as liberationists, optimists, fabulists and troublemakers without exactly being ideologues, who shared an almost alchemical knack for transforming scrappy materials and tests of sensual awareness into fine modernist forms.
Kimmelman notes that these artists bring "cool pleasure" to the main exhibition, and knocks the overall show, noting "the Biennale is meant to be a survey of new art, and while conscientious young artists now dutifully seem to raise all the right questions about urbanism, polyglot society and political activism, their answers look domesticated and already familiar. They look like other art-school-trained art, you might say."
Swoon's crew, by contrast, built a flotilla of boats from discarded trash, running on engines converted for biodiesel, to sail from Slovenia (where much of the wood in Venice originally grew) to Venice, with performances along the route (a play, puppets, music).
This fits more with the "quasi-utopian, hippie-ish experimentalism ... aimed to engage more than an audience and to spread joy" than with "art-school-trained art" (check Tod Seelie's blog of the trip if you don't believe me).
more on the project on their blog, flickr, & facebook pages, in NY Magazine, & all over the web.