The Second Turin Biennale Giovani
Stefano Pasquini

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 people.
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 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. o