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La Biennale di Venezia 2013 – Magical mystical tour

If there is a patron psychoanalyst presiding over this Biennale, then demonstrably, it is Carl Jung. Away with the post-modern Freud, and hello once again to the esoteric traveller Jung, whose life work took him deep into mythical and mystical places; not least his own.  In Massimiliano Gioni’s central Pavilion Italia, pages from Jung’s Red Book greet the visitor in a kind of dream and visionist cosmology.  Vividly coloured with crystalline bursts, demonic characters, figures borrowed from eastern and tribal cultures, fractal abstractions and so forth, these pages have a religious presence in their display vitrines, yet hold a pagan spell over the Pavilion space.  They remind us of self styled mystic, William Blake’s illustrated books of Prophecies and poems with their imagined creations and revelations.  Jung’s Red Book was commenced during a period of psychic turmoil for Jung in which he saw visions and dreamt of horrendous things.  Seeing purpose in these terrors as enlightenments he actively sought to induce these hallucinations through trance and meditations — the Red Book remained a private account until well after his death.  Now they open to usher in an assembly of works which attempt to encompass universal knowledge designed through the mind of the artist.

Carl Gustav Jung, The Red Book, (1915-1959), © 2009 Foundation of the Works of C.G. Jung, Zürich. First published by W.W. Norton & Co., New York 2009

Carl Gustav Jung, The Red Book, (1915-1959), © 2009 Foundation of the Works of C.G. Jung, Zürich. First published by W.W. Norton & Co., New York 2009

In the Pavilion Italia, Gioni has brought great intensity to his thesis of esoteric matters and subjectivity as a describing and seeking system of knowledge. Intuitive, obsessive, elaborate and multi-detailed, the works he has assembled draw a direct line from psyche to page. Many works have the appearance of worlds within worlds, paradise systems and charts — a fitting reference to the uses of astrology that defined, in early centuries, the Venetian understanding of time, space, place and consequence.  In this city, once a place of Popes, religion and cosmological matters were sibling doctrines.

Other accumulations, such as insurance agent, Peter Fritz’s 387 hand crafted, hobbyist houses and buildings — found and researched by artist Oliver Croy and architecture critic Oliver Esler, and seen previously in Gioni and Maurizio Cattalan’s Berlin Biennial — point to ideal worlds and little Utopia’s.  If Jung were not the psychologist muse here, you might be tempted down a path of enquiry which would lead you to a man’s need to control and organize his place through a kind of idealised nostalgia for quaint townships and village life — it might even lead you to darker places of enquiry regarding his oedipal status — but since we do not have to travel down that little gravel path, let us just agree that this is a form of paradise vision built from the imaginary place of the insurance clerk’s mind, whose job no doubt was to help people with home securities.  It makes a very nice and grid like display at the side beginning of the Pavilion, and I am happy to see it once again.

Oliver Croy and Oliver Elser, Special Models-The 387 Houses of Peter Fritz, Insurance Clerk from Vienna. Courtesy the artist and Wien Museum, Vienna. photo Francesco Galli

Oliver Croy and Oliver Elser, Special Models-The 387 Houses of Peter Fritz, Insurance Clerk from Vienna.
Courtesy the artist and Wien Museum, Vienna.
photo Francesco Galli

There is so much to recommend, and hours of viewing in the Pavilion Italia. Its tremendous detailing deserves attention and thorough concentration. Which alas, one has little time to do during the Vernissage hellos and meetings. Items that impinged quickly on the mind are Romanian, Geta Brătescu’s embroidered drawings, Medeic Callisthetic Moves, derived from thoughts on the mythical story of Medea; Tacita Dean’s lovely calligraphic film of The Friar’s Doodle; miner and outsider artist, Augustine Lesage’s exhaustively patterned and kaleidoscopic religio-gnostic paintings — there are many similarly absorbing worlds. The inclusion of drawings by Rudolf Steiner (without his attendant Beuys) extend the ideas of theosophy and the subjective.

Medeic Callisthetic Moves 1 Geta Brătescu. 1980-1981. Courtesy of Ivan Gallery, Bucharest and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin. Photograph: Stefan Sava

Medeic Callisthetic Moves 1
Geta Brătescu. 1980-1981.
Courtesy of Ivan Gallery, Bucharest and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin. Photograph: Stefan Sava

Tacita Dean The Friar’s Doodle, 2010 Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

Tacita Dean
The Friar’s Doodle, 2010
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

Rudolf Steiner, untitled, 1923, chalk on paper, 40 1/8 x 60 1/4". From the series “Wandtafelzeichnungen zum Vortragswerk” (Lecture Blackboard Drawings), 1919–24.

Rudolf Steiner, untitled, 1923, chalk on paper, 40 1/8 x 60 1/4″. From the series “Wandtafelzeichnungen zum Vortragswerk” (Lecture Blackboard Drawings), 1919–24.

Indeed this is a most interesting beginning!

– Juliana Engberg

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