Words, elements and keys as essence of our life. A visit to the 56th Venice Biennale. Part II
Los pemones de la Gran Sabana llaman al rocío Chirïké-yeetakuú, que significa Saliva de las Estrellas;
a las lágrimas Enú-parupué, que quiere decir Guarapo de los Ojos, y al corazón Yewán-enapué: Semilla del Vientre.
Los waraos del delta del Orinoco dicen Mejokoji (el sol del Pecho) para nombrar al alma.
Para decir amigo dicen Ma-jokaraisa: Mi Otro Corazón.
Y para decir olvidar dicen Emonikitane, que quiere decir Perdonar.
Los muy tontos no saben lo que dicen
Para decir tierra dicen madre
Para decir madre dicen ternura
Para decir ternura dicen entrega
Tienen tal confusión de sentimientos
que con toda razón
las buenas gentes que somos
les llamamos salvajes.
(‘Sobre Salvajes’, by Gustavo Pereira)
‘On savages’ (by Gustavo Pereira. Translated by John Green)
The Pemones of the Gran Sabana call dew Chirïké–yeetakuú, which means Saliva of the Stars;
tears are called Enú–parupué, which means Liquor of the Eyes, and the heart, Yewán–enapué, is called Seed of the Belly.
The Waraos of the Orinoco Delta say Mejo–koji (Sun of the Breast) to describe the soul.
To say friend, they say Ma–jokaraisa: My Other Heart.
And to say Forget they say Emonikitane which means To Forgive.
These stupid people don’t know what they are saying
To say earth they say mother
To say mother, they say tenderness
To say tenderness, they say to give oneself
They are so emotionally confused
That, with good reason, refined people that we are, we call them savages.
A lot has been written and commented on this edition of Venice Biennale, seen by many as ‘full of political content’. The daily live readings of Karl Marx’ ‘Das Kapital’ at the Arena, in the Central Pavilion area, has been also interpreted as a criticism of capitalism and lucre, while the exhibition relies on them to survive.
All these comments may leave indifferent those who are solely searching for inspiration, beauty and originality in art. For this reason, I have started my article with this poem, which is part of the exhibition as well: for the beauty it manages to instill in us while we read it.
I’d like to briefly introduce three pavilions for the impact that they had on me through their different messages: the power of words, the animistic spirit of casual, natural elements in a world that is being devastated by man, and the keys to our inner world : Venezuela, Australia and Japan.
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s pavilion attracted me for its welcoming, bright colours of the outdoor installation and for the title of its artistic display: ‘I give you my word’ by Argelia Bravo and Félix Molina (Flix). While the indoor photograph video performance by Bravo is more emotionally disturbing (on show, there are some mothers breast-feeding their babies while wearing black, full-head masks), we still come to realize how written words and their images are interconnected and constitute a source of any form of art, be it visual or not. Words are represented as sounds, signs and images during our lifetime and they have always defined historical evolutions and social changes too. Oscar Sotillo Meneses, curator of the Venezuelan Pavilion, wrote this compelling description to introduce the works displayed here: ‘Seen from their visual and graphic nature, words have been appropriate as talismans, charms, and flags of changing identities. Words contain a spirit that irradiates sound and concept beyond their visual presence.’
The poem by the famous Venezuelan poet Gustavo Pereira‘Sobre Salvajes’ ( ‘On Savages’) was printed on the colourful outdoor area of the pavilion in Spanish, Italian and English language.
Elements of all sorts, transformation of materials, images and objects, are part of the enthralling archeological installation by Fiona Hall, titled ‘Wrong Way Time’, representing Australia. The space we enter is dark. At first sight, it is not a merry environment and the message is clear: man has a persistent role in the destruction of the environment, in the climatic mutations, in terrorism, wars and economic crisis. But despite that, within this gloomy perspective, Hall manages to create magnificence, and transmits a message of confidence and belief in the world’s wonder and in its variety. Hers (and ultimately ‘ours’), is a challenge. The pavilion is full of creative riches, and it transmits hope in every artwork.
In one of her projects, Fiona Hall worked with women from the ‘Tjanpi Desert Weavers’, a social arts enterprise that provides income source for the Aboriginal women living in the desert. Extinct or endangered animals from the Australian desert have been weaved, as fibre art, by over four hundred women, using grasses and other materials, based on their knowledge of hunting and animal behaviour.
For another artistic creation, she collected driftwood from a New Zealand beach. Large-scale erosion, caused by years of intensive farming, has been reshaping the Waiapu river at its mouth. Once the river reaches the sea, the flattened timber is flushed to the beach, where it piles up. Here, Hall finds the creatures of the woods and water, travelers coming from a forest life, transported by the currents and now put back into the world of the living.
Japan pavilion has been for me the perfect landing place, a unique and calm area from where to get plenty of inspiration, resulting in fundamental reflections. I guess that nobody would be immune to its distinctive charm. The Key in the Hand, by Chiharu Shiota is introduced to us by an outdoor area with a beautiful picture of a child holding keys in his/her hands. A movie, on different screens, shows young children talking about memories of their life. This is the starting point of a voyage into one of the phases of ‘memory’.
We walk up to the second floor and we enter an incredible space (please take a look at my pictures at the bottom of this article to have a feeling of what I mean). The space is filled with kilometers and kilometers of red yarn, and countless keys of different shapes are hanging from the thread, suspended from the ceiling. What is the symbolic meaning of a key? The keys, in our daily life, protect our most valuable possessions. They take often shelter in the warmth of our hands and, in this way, they accumulate our memories as well. We then pass our keys to people we trust, so that they can look after what is important to us.
Two boats are part of the installation as well: they symbolize two hands catching a rain of memories (the keys) pouring down from the ceiling. The boats keep floating and advancing in the sea, while collecting our own, individual memories. Mesmerizing!
Isn’t this poetry as well?