In my role as an a-n AIR Councillor, I was privileged to be offered a travel bursary to go to either the Venice Biennale or Documenta this year. I chose Documenta, but then decided that, as I had never been to either, this was a perfect opportunity to go to both! So I paid for my own trip to Venice and joined my colleagues there for three days of exhibitions, openings, speeches and free prosecco. The Biennale is a crazy carnival of art – a triumphant display of wealth, privilege and ambition which is as intoxicating as it is exhausting. My recommendations for sound art pieces to see and hear were published on a-n news.
By contrast, Documenta, which happens every 5 years, is a more contained and less sprawling event, with the focus of Documenta #14, squarely on political issues of the day – migration, borders, openness (or the lack of it), cultural identity, fascism. I felt more at home amongst this work than I did amongst the spectacle of Venice, although I would say that I had the more memorable art experiences in Venice.
For an artist looking to move their work out onto the international arena, both of these flagship shows can seem overwhelming. I felt encouraged however, safe in the knowledge that my work is of a sufficient standard to play a valid part. Now the challenge comes to court the curators/gallerists who are the cultural gatekeepers for these sought after showcases.
What follows are two slideshows and a collage of iPhone recordings from Documenta.