Tuesday, May 12, 2015

THOU ART (AGAIN)






This tickler notwithstanding, the 56th Venice Biennale seems much like the last one, in which case I'm recycling my poem about that too.



THOU ART


A boa of serious gaiety settles upon the shoulders of the island
As the artists of the world convene for the Biennale,
Suited, pashmina-ed, be-holy-jeaned,
Pink mohawk punks wheeling Gucci luggage,
All a world apart from the common or garden tourist
If by the trim of their beard or the cut of their jibe,
Striding atop high-horse heels from Prada to Prado,
Hastening o'er the cobblestones towards importance.

They convene at certain outdoor tables
In a certain jigsaw of piazzas,
To drink down their spirits and suck on their fags,
Discourse with a weary intensity
On the weary world in all its woes
Quoting tracts which might or might not
Be their own, and so of themselves connote
Self-conscious quotations of quotations,
In an argot that gyres towards dizziness,
When I say art I mean business.

Over the bridges the hordes come and go,
Behold the canals of Canaletto!

Over Campari sodas and ten euro cognacs
They may denounce racism and sexism,
Injustice, imperialism, post-colonialism,
To the last dwindling penny of their per diems,
The last soup├žon of their gauche caviar,
Then retreat, all too often alone, to their hotel,
Its star rating an exact and authentic reflection
Of their place in the firmament of art.

In the morning they will recall few if any
Of their ejaculations of the night before,
Not that it matters so very much, and work
On their bowel, and a polite avoidance of breakfast.
Aboard the vaporetto down to Giardini
They may strike up a conversation with a critic
Whom they suddenly hope some day just may
Smooth their path a tad, if not invite them
One sweet summer for a stay in their villa
In an unpronounceable corner of Sardinia.

The afternoon is a Sargasso Sea drift from pavilion
To pavilion of this Olympics cum trade fair of art
Through the heaving chest and scolding tears
Of another performance giving voice to the voiceless,
Another stupendously expensive, purpose-made,
Site-specific installation decrying greed,
Another panel discussion on capitalism and its evils,
Denouncing history, denouncing meaning
And meaninglessness, again, and yet again.

They may saunter past a massive mound of rubble,
Squint at a squid of tree trunks and rope,
A squall of words down a long white wall,
A bird of prey with a royal Land Rover
Tight in its claws, and be left to wonder,
Helplessly, angrily, poignantly, tragically
Why again, again, their own work is not quite
Among these select, this creme that floats so easily
Atop the creme de la creme like an outrageous
Vienna coffee, a Liberace of floss,
To wit, an entire building, and not just any building,
But a building with their nation's flag aloft,
The national pavilion of their own people,
Given over to them, and them above all others:
All this - and the Biennale of Venice!

When the rain comes it is perfect rain, expensive rain,
Venetian rain, and it patters down exclusively
Upon the heads of the artists of the world,
And their relatives, spouses and partners
Under common law, their friends, foes,
And rivals alike, critics, students and theoreticians,
Enthusiasts and hobbyists, television presenters
Who pronounce their ars as doubleyous,
Camp followers, dilettantes and dandy poseurs,
Idle gawkers, stray tourists grouped and ungrouped,
And the lone model in the mini skirt who steps
Like a Bond Girl from an idealised water taxi,
As if her arrival were itself a catalogue performance,
But who is instead taken aside and politely asked
For the ticket of admission she does not have;

The rain falls and falls yet, upon all equally now,
Just as gently, as insistently, just as wet,
Flecking scarves, miring boot heels in cobbled mud;
Umbrellas of varying qualities are hoisted
Against the heavens, and the queues at pavilions
May dramatically shorten, or suddenly lengthen
Outside the pavilion that is the momentary buzz,
In dogged defiance of the nagging elements
That have always been the enemy of art.

Over the bridges the art lovers come and go,
Hungry for a naughty Hirst or Serrano show.

They may linger in the cafe in careless conversation
With a Roman gamin who hates Rome because nothing works,
Overhearing the tidal rise and fall of the singsong likes
Of the endless Americans, and the Dutch
In their Double Dutch, idly remarking
The French in their heroic pessimism,
The Brits in all their bravura,
The Spanish in their melancholia,
The Italians in all their cigarettes,
Note the nod, the shrug, the derisive snicker
As works are deconstructed over fat brioches,
And marvel that none of all of any of this
Means the merest thing, other than that
Everything was forever until it was no more,
That this moment as lived now
Will never come again, but sink irrevocably
Into the eternal murk, like Venice.

With the fall of evening they may repair to the Via Garibaldi
Another night in the bar, the ristorante, trattoria, bistro,
Where they cash their chips for grilled Venetian fish,
Rendering unto the Doge that which is the Doge's,
Glimpsing again the gamin holding court
A Madonna on the rocks and such too is her drink,
A vast parabolic sweep of her cigarette in hand,
The artists of the world at her lovely sullied feet
All of them masterfully assembled by a despised old master
Into a loving canvas of all that is vanity and frailty,
In all their human stain, and smoke-smudged beauty.

In their hotel room again, alone yet again,
Encrypted in its Woolworth rococo,
Trying not to picture the gamin atremble in the arms
Of him or hersoever, they may shower meditatively,
A little tipsily, perchance a little drunkenly,
And for the most fleeting of moments feel almost happy,
And wonder, again most fleetingly, is that not the project of life,
And, too, the purpose of art, that is, if it has one at all,
Be it an attempt to shock the bourgeois from their seats,
Or decorate their houses, offices and city squares,
A passing pleasure for the eye and mind, if that is a question at all,
Critically defensibly worth even two minutes at a panel forum,
A question so narratively grand and historically conditional,
Fluted and curlicued, that it is not worth the asking.

Though they may then consider further, even more leisurely,
Whether they are content in this life they have made,
And conclude that the question has no rational answer,
Before retiring to the salad crisp sheets,
Where before switching out the bedside lamp
They may observe a peeling of paint in the ceiling,
And how it almost constitutes a shape, or pattern,
So that they spend some moments breaking out the camera
To photograph it, their Venetian ready-made:
The last thing before closing their eyes, they delete
The photographs, and eye the glass of water
 One night table, wondering if their wish is to drink it.

Over the empty bridges the rats now come and go,
Squeaking of Michelangelo.

At last, even artists sleep. As night settles
On Cimitero di San Michele, the isle of the dead,
The cypress groves recede an ever deeper green
And the forest of crosses grows;
The waters of the archipelago lap at the island's hem
Oblivious to the heeled whore of Venice
Across the lagoon, murmuring a prayer for all
Who sail within, a sigh for their nighted souls,
Murmuring of the gentle deliverance of oblivion
For all, from the hard mystery of art.

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/may/10/venice-biennale-2015-review-56th-sarah-lucas-xu-bing-chiharu-shiota



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