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UAL at the Venice Biennale 2015

Written by Anna Castleton
Published date 06 May 2015

The 120th Venice Biennale will open this weekend with Great Britain represented by UAL alumna Sarah Lucas, alongside works by UAL Chairs Isaac Julien, Sonia Boyce, and Lucy Orta, as well as UAL PhD student, Samson Kambalu, course leader Tania Kovats, and alumni Charles Lim and Tsang Kin-Wah.

L-R: Isaac Julien, Samson Kambalu, Lucy Orta and Sonia Boyce.

Left to right: UAL’s Isaac Julien, Samson Kambalu, Lucy Orta and Sonia Boyce.

“How can the current disquiet of our time be properly grasped, made comprehensible, examined, and articulated?” This is the question that Okwui Enwezor, curator of the 56th International Art Exhibition, poses in his introduction to this year’s Venice Biennale. Taking the title All the World’s Futures, the politically-charged exhibition proposes “a project devoted to a fresh appraisal of the relationship of art and artists to the current state of things.”

Invited by Okwui to participate in All the World’s Futures, UAL Chair Sonia Boyce will present Exquisite Cacophony, a filmed, live, improvised vocal-led performance featuring performers Astronautalis and Elaine Mitchener, at Padiglione Centrale, Giardini di Castello. Filming for the piece took place at the V&A, supported by UAL.

Lucy and Jorge Orta Glasstress Amazonia

Exhibiting in Glasstress 2015 Gotika, a collateral exhibition at the Palazzo Franchetti, Academia, UAL Chair Lucy Orta will present a new large format sculpture in bronze and glass. Combing historical works from the Hermitage collection with commissioned works with a Gothic theme from contemporary artists, the exhibition “explores how medieval ideas and communication methods have imperceptibly crept into our modern conscience despite our technological advances and how the Gothic concept influences contemporary art”. Lucy + Jorge Orta’s commissioned sculpture Arboreal, is an “imposing bronze cast from a fallen tree-trunk from which, four exquisite glass seed pods are blossoming. The contrast between the dark patina of the bronze and the ethereal quality of the delicate hand-blown Murano glass, speak of the resilience of nature to overcome the most barren environments”.

In response to the 1974 la Biennale di Venezia, in which part of the programs were dedicated to Chile to in a gesture of solidarity, the All the World’s Futures will introduce the ARENA, “an active space dedicated to continuous live programming across disciplines”. The epicentre of the ARENA will be an epic live reading of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. Okwui explains: “here, Das Kapital will serve as a kind of Oratorio that will be continuously read live, throughout the exhibition’s seven months’ duration. The ARENA will serve as a gathering-place of the spoken word, the art of the song, recitals, film projections, and a forum for public discussions. Taking the concept of the Sikh event, the Akhand Path (a recitation of the Sikh holy book read continuously over several days by a relay of readers), Das Kapital will be read as a dramatic text by trained actors”, directed by artist and filmmaker, and UAL Chair Isaac Julien.

Samson Kambalu, Runner, film still, 2014

Spotted by Okwui in Johannesberg, Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon PhD student Samson Kambalu will present three projects for the Biennale: a live performance that attempts to re-stage Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment, a film installation, and a second installation based on his research at Yale. He spoke to the Chelsea, Camberwell and Wimbledon blog ahead of the Biennale, revealing that appearing at the Biennale for the first time feels “otherworldly”.

Former Olympic sailor, artist and Central Saint Martins graduate Charles Lim Yi Yong is representing Singapore, with a body of work titled Sea State. The ongoing work explores “notions of borders, histories and everyday life, and how these may be generated through our perceptions of the sea.”

Charles Lim SEA STATE 2 as evil disappears 2014 Sajahat Buoy

The Infinite Nothing, a text and light installation from Tsang Kin-Wah, represents Hong Kong at the Biennale. A graduate of  Camberwell MA Book Arts, Tsang’s work for the Hong Kong pavilion is his largest and most complex to date.

Tsang Kin-Wah, The Infinite Nothing

Appearing at the Biennale for the second year, Azerbaijan presents Vita Vitale, an exhibition which looks to Azerbaijan’s future, and beyond its geographic borders, to spotlight the artists and scientists confronting the ecological challenges we face globally, including Wimbledon MA Drawing course leader Tania Kovats.

Tania Kovats, Arctic Circle Islands, 2014

“I am a feminist, and it is a feminine show” asserts Sarah Lucas in The Guardian this week, discussing I Scream Daddio, her solo exhibition representing Great Britain. The London College of Communication alumna presents a show of sculpture and paintings depicting her “muses” against the backdrop of the British Pavilion entirely repainted in buttercup yellow paint. “The sculptures are set in a sea of custard,” Lucas tells The Guardian “Crème Anglais in other words.”
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015, Photo by Cristiano Corte copyright British Council

The Venice Biennale runs 9 May to 22 November.

Read more about the Venice Biennale

Read the full interview with Samson Kambalu

Read more about the UAL Chairs

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