Poised to strike, artist Valentin Carron’s snake greets you into the Swiss Pavilion. Despite this Biblically insipid and potentially subversive welcome, as the length of snake winds through the Pavilion, the exhibition is as predictable and dull as Switzerland’s contrived icons of nationalism (the Alps, timepieces, and chocolate). The first gallery contains an installation of Carron’s Modern paintings with his wooden sculptures interspersed along the walls. The paintings, abstractions recalling Brutalist architecture, all contain variations of quasi-trapezoidal forms rendered in cool blues and deep purples against a gray background. Punctuating the installation are low-relief, wooden sculptures of wind instruments. Carron’s paintings refer to International Modernist architecture, which failed in its conception for an integrated society around combined living and working structures. The flattened instruments recall the Swiss legend of Wilhelm Tell, who is used at moments of national crisis as a rallying point around the folkness of being Swiss.
The topological nature of the world’s oldest contemporary art fair, the Venice Biennale, is ignored for a tautological didactic in eternal stasis. It’s tragic that Switzerland, all too conscious of her favored nexus of international finance and diplomacy, fails to codify a becoming in keeping with the rhizomic nature of the contemporary art world. By playing it safe, Giovanni Carmine’s curation and Carron’s artworks are just as bland and unimaginative as chocolate that has been stored beyond its expiration date.