Fake Villages, the Crimea and the Sydney Biennale pt 2
The fake ‘The Village’ an installation by Danish artists Randi and Katrine in the Turbine Hall, Cockatoo Island is “a parable and a representation of a community ideal”, but it looks plastic and only vaguely spooky when men are working building things next door. Juliana Engberg is the director and uses the title ‘You Imagine What You Desire’. Engberg calls artists “forward thinkers”.
Art is important. What is an authentic art? Nietzsche saw mass culture, perpetuated through education and newspapers, as undermining authentic art and dumbing down culture. In The Gay Science Nietzsche argues that authentic art allows “freedom above things” and that ‘we need all exuberant, floating, dancing, mocking, childish, and blissful art lest we lose our freedom above things that our ideal demands of us…. We should be able also to stand above morality . . . float above it and play. “
Old ideas of authenticity and genius have long gone with some nostalgia. Not one painting could I see in the Biennale. Of the many video works, one of my favourite’s Angelica Mesiti’s ‘In the Ear of the Tyrant’, a traditional lament for impending doom, sung by a woman into rock in a vast Sicilian cave. It didn’t have the amazing focus of the Shirin Neshat’s ‘Turbulent’ from 1998. The Tehran-born New York artist shows the tensions of contemporary Muslim society.
The other is Romanian artist Mircea Cantor’s ‘Sic Transit Gloria Mundi’, a video of a woman slowly lighting fuse wire that fizzes over the bandaged palms of a circle of anonymous men.
The most disappointing was Callum Morton’s ‘Google Ghost Train’, no hint of the sublime, of the NSA (the train enters a giant Google home page billboard) – or of the ghost train on the Brighton pier of my childhood – simply darkness, bright lights and some bangs.
Of course Google used this opportunity to do street view. He complained I was taking more photographs of him (4!) than he was of the island.
The problem for the art is competing with the industrial beauty.