Critics’ Picks

Emily Jacir, Untitled (SOLIDARIDAD) (Untitled [Solidarity]) (detail), 2013, performance, mural, five audio recordings and speakers, dimensions variable.

Venice

“Emergency Pavilion: Rebuilding Utopia”

Teatro Fondamenta Nuove
Sestiere Cannaregio, 5013
June 1 - November 10

Does utopia have a place in the twenty-first century? Does it make sense today to speak about an ideal world? Is the utopian impulse is limited to artists and those who still have some poetic legitimacy in a world characterized by a predilection for the mechanistic? These are some of the questions addressed by this small but intriguing exhibition curated by Jota Castro, a collateral event of this year’s Venice Biennale. A banner by Emily Jacir hangs on the facade of the Teatro Fondamenta Nuova and reads SOLIDARIDAD (Solidarity). Inside, Jacir presents five audio works that reenact speeches given by the 1974 president of the biennale, Carlo Ripa di Meana, and Giorgio Longo, then mayor of Venice, during the inauguration ceremony on October 5, 1974—a discourse about Chile and a protest against Pinochet’s bloody dictatorship.

The passage from exterior to interior is articulated by an effective lighting scheme that dramatizes the exhibition’s expository texts and allows the artworks to emerge from the shadows, silent, powerful, and dramatic: We see, among other key works, Ella de Burca’s totem composed of tires, Jorge Tacla’s evanescent paintings, Patrick Hamilton’s Duchampian bachelor machine made of twisted saws, and Wilfredo Prieto’s spare installation made simply from used bubble wrap. Overall, the exhibition conveys a jagged universe, exposing the absurdities of a system and denouncing its failures. The artists succeed in their difficult attempt to couple an incisive message with formal refinement, employing a subtle method of exposure that results in a disorienting short circuit. Mobilizing a range of sensibilities and poetics, the artists also disentangle complex concepts in clear and penetrating fashion, through the juxtaposition of disparate and highly symbolic objects that tend to magnify the criticality of the present and to elevate it, contextually, to the level of art.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.