It's called BIG and it stands for
International Biennale of Young Art. Considering it cost almost two
million dollars it was big indeed, and Turin was overwhelmed by art. Art
everywhere, in around 15 different venues plus as many theaters,
restaurants, discos, outside spots around the city and the region. I wish
someone interviewed passerbys to ask them what they thought was going on.
I bet their main response would have been "something arty", but I'm sure
most people outside the art world would have wondered what all these
things had to do with art.
And this was the biggest winning point of
BIG. Something that not many people in the art world have accepted as yet:
art is now anything an artist does. This year's biennial included not only
DJs and bands, poets and writers, webmasters and dancers, but also chefs.
Thank you, I must say, thank you. This biennial is the closest thing
I've seen in Italy in trying to achieve real communication with people
outside the art world. With the public. The first (of two) catalogue is a
work of art itself: it contains no images of artworks, just quite a few
interesting photographs of the city, a marvelous graphic design job, and a
humongous amount of questions. Questions over life, art, politics,
anything. Artists and curators were asked questions like "why do you
consider yourself an artist?" and answered with statements like "After
Beuys's assertion that 'everyone is an artist' any further restatements
seems unnecessary, an attempt at elitist separation or neglect of
responsibilities." (Dominic Hislop & Erhardt Miklos) And there's a
long interview with the director of this year's biennale: povera artist
Michelangelo Pistoletto. The one of the mirrors, if you've seen his work.
Some years ago he organized a questionable free university of thought,
but the fees are very high so I never went. He's an interesting artist of
an older generation who understood and appreciated where new art is going,
which is, to put it plainly, outside itself.
When we see young people's
artwork like the installation of Andrea Salvino about Carlo Giuliani (the
guy killed at Genoa's G8 last year) or Lyn Lowenstein's collection of
political banners from demos it is clear that the blood of some sensitive
artist is boiling over matters that little have to do with art. Pistoletto
understood this well and not by chance titled this biennial "it's a big
social game". The word GAME here is almost necessary: artists are not
serious people, and what they declare (for as hurtful, revolting or
plainly true as it can be) is always part of their playful nature. "I used
the term "game" - he states in the catalogue - because I think that the
idea of game should permeate through every field, from work to
communication, in every field of life".
Careful though, within the art
game nevertheless not everything is permitted, not even in 2002. And the
BIG website - an amazing collection of everything that's been going on (it
will take you days to look through it, without checking the outside links)
- has been pivotal in letting people know what's been going on behind the
scene. The group "Everyone is an expert" from Germany abandoned the game
when they were stopped from distributing leaflets stating "Enough with
Berlusconi, Bossi, Fini, and welcome clandestines!" The phrase alludes to
a new Italian law that will restrict immigration laws to resemble the ones
of the US. The director did not like it. He stated "…this is a harmful
game for art, that should keep itself in an autonomous zone without being
invaded by the left or the right.
It's necessary to get out of the
logic of the conflict within opposite parties, we don't wanna fall in the
same old trap." So the group, which was going to organize an interesting
database of job offers and demands based on what we are - not constrained
by borders and laws - left back for Germany.
Regardless of this (not
small) incident, the show was an incredible array of performances, music,
theater, street happenings and so on. To mention just a few, the
interesting intervention of Kosovo artist Sisley Xhafa, who built the
fašade of a Job Center blocking a street outside the University: newly
PhD'd students would then walk through the gate only to find out there was
no job, nor a center, on the other side. Or the "Kartonhaus" (cardboard
houses) by Austrian artist Oskar Leo Kaufmann, which were stolen from the
exhibition by the very people whose work was for, two Turin homeless
Then the huge banner by DafnÓ Moscati, "Love" in both Arabic
and Hebrew; the intricately simple constructions of the French group Les
Assembleurs De Vide; the survival rotating house of the Danes n.55, and
the minimalist performance about the problem of human communication "Eggs
on Earth" by the German Nico & the Navigators.
And much, much web
based art. In fact, the invited country at this year's Biennale was not a
country at all, but something way bigger and global: the Internet itself.
And it's probably the internet (especially now that the show is over) the
best place to enjoy what's left of BIG. Click on www.bigtorino.net and you
will find the project of each of the 350 artists, and if you read Italian
you can also check out the "Diary of Board", plainly written by witty
youngsters not necessarily involved in the art world. They honestly reveal
they loved a performance, or didn't understand anything at all, or fancied
the dancer and so on.
With all due respect to the next director of the
Venice Biennale, I fear that BIG may be the biennial to visit in 2004.