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ActuallyMag’s Guide to the 54th Venice Biennale: Part II

The National Pavilions are said to be one of the four pillars of the Venice Biennale, and continue to be the strongest foundation upon which the international art exhibition is built upon. These pavilions reflect the nature of their individual countries, and yet are able to transcend the boundaries of their societies to discuss wider world issues.

The Korean Pavilion
Lee Yongbaek presents his multi-medium artwork in his usual style: a mix of paintings, photographs, sculptures, videos and objects. What at first appears to be a still image of a psychedelic floral scenery is realized as an optical illusion; it later separates into a three-dimensional landscape with flowers limp on the floor. Upon closer inspection, a soldier clad in a similar psychedelic printed uniform, is moving camouflaged through the landscape. Hung on the walls are the clothing props used for the video, with names of lauded military generals sewn onto tags. In Pieta, robotic figures are placed in stances reminiscent of religious symbols, such as Mother Mary and Baby Jesus: an archetypal mold holding the model cast from it. However, the empty medium used strips away religious emotion or sympathy and re-constructed as impassive static figures.
The Danish Pavilion
“Speech Matters”, a collaboration of eighteen artists, discusses the ongoing debate of free speech, and the freedom of artistic expression. It’s aim is not to shock or to provoke, but incite reflection on the subject of free speech, suppression of memory and history . A notable exhibit was the series of photos from China’s Mao Regime: doctored photos released in the press placed next to the original photos. Jan Svankmajer’s 1968 film, “The Garden”, was equally enjoyable, a subtle critique of the oppressive Czech communist rule.
The Hungary Pavilion
A powerful experimental opera lives on in three rooms in the Hungary Pavilion. Hajnal Nemeth’s ‘Crash: A Passive Interview’, a complicated installation of multiple components which unfolds throughout the halls, explores the possibility of a single focused moment—The Car Crash—slowed down by memory. The first room presents white walls blanks except for vehicle registration plates onto which words are printed. The final three plates read: ARE YOU DYING?  Police interviews and recollections of the moment are composed into an opera piece, and sung into musical form. The exhibition is a beautiful poem who dives into the linear chronology of human destiny and whose words sung into musical form.
The German Pavilion
Winner of the 2011 Golden Lion award for best national pavilion, the posthumous work of Christoph Schlingensief has constructed a ‘Chapel of fear’ in the Nazi-era architecture of the German Pavilion. An altar basks under the red glow of lamps, with wooden pews to sit at. But what are we supposed to be worshipping? Sinister drawing of a bastardized Jesus are projected onto a blown-up x-ray of the chest, bizarre film clips cover the walls. Horror pervades the senses, as if the spirit of the Nazis is reincarnated in the walls of this Pavilion.
– Natalie Chin, an intern at the Singapore Pavilion, currently living in Venice.

The 54th International Art Exhibition will be open to the public from Saturday, June 4, to November 27, 2011, in the Giardini and the Arsenale in Venice, Italy. labiennale.org

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