Newsletter Fall 2017

Director's Message

by Dr. Simonetta Moro

For this edition of the Newsletter, we decided to dedicate a special issue to the Venice Biennale 2017. The articles included in this issue were originally written by IDSVA students as part of their Topological Studies assignments while in residence in Venice, Italy, last summer, and doing fieldwork at the oldest and most venerable international art exhibition now in its 57th incarnation, with the title “Viva Arte Viva."

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IDSVA David Driskell Fellow Profile: Natalya Mills-Mayrena

by Eric Bess, Driskell Fellow 2016, Cohort '16

Natalya grew up in Trinidad and her family was actively engaged in this epicenter of Caribbean fashion. Her Mother was a fashionista, her Grandfather an artist, and her Grandmother a tailor. They played a significant role in developing Natalya’s eye for fashion and art while the Caribbean landscape provided her with a dazzling array of color.

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Aesthetic Insecurity in Berlin

by Katherine Melcher, Cohort '16

If you were an artist living in Germany during the rise of Nazism, what would you do? If you could, would you escape? Would you practice a form of hidden resistance – by painting watercolors under the bedsheets, for example? Or would you turn your art into an outward expression of political resistance?

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Navigating the Free Thinking Zone: A Symposium in Athens

by Carrie Kellerby, Cohort '16

On a rainy Sunday morning in Athens, Greece, a group of IDSVA scholars, nomads of a summer residency, gathered for a symposium on mapping, borders, displacement, and hospitality.  The aptly named Free Thinking Zone, an activist bookstore owned by Areti Georgilis hosted our event and made a poetic point of entry as we navigated the topographical intersections between art, philosophy, and contemporary politics.

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On the Baroque: Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi and Chaos

by Ana Fernandez Miranda Texidor, Cohort '17

In the wake of the events at Charlottesville and Barcelona, I will try to put together words that make sense. More accurately, I am trying to find some sense within these recent events, but I am at a loss for words – meaningful words. Still, so many words are flying around. So many words used to say less and less. Franco “Bifo” Berardi would call the overwhelming production of words in the infosphere “semiotic inflation” – a chaos that can only be danced to in a ritournelle, a rhythm, that belongs to the mind, to the Universe.

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I'm Working on The Building: Dr. David Driskell and the Black Aesthetic

by Zoma Wallace, Cohort '15

A single repeating stanza, composed of only six lines, constitutes an enduring song of faithful optimism. From B.B. King to Elvis Presley, these lines first sung among enslaved African Americans have been re-imagined by modern lyric poets and re-delivered to new ears in service of the eternal human project. What is such a project? What is the work that gives form to this building?

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Venetian Biennale: East-meets-West

by Hazel Antaramian Hofman, Cohort '17

The artistic act to resist, liberate, and exude generosity is the humanism that inspires the theme of the 2017 Venice Biennale, Viva Arte Viva. It is a humanism that the president of La Biennale di Venezia, Paolo Baratta defines as, “that [which] celebrates mankind’s ability to avoid, through art, being dominated by the powers that govern world affairs, which if left to their own devices can greatly affect the human dimension for the worse.”

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Joy and Fear by the Theatrum Orbis: Contrasting takes on a Biennale Theme

by Angela Whitlock, Cohort '16

The Venice Biennale’s theme was humanism, specifically the kind of humanism that deals with the celebration of mankind’s ability, by way of art, to avoid being dominated by powers that govern world affairs. The artistic act can be viewed as an act of liberation, resistance, and generosity. Art can bear witness to a precious part of individuals that make them human, especially during a time when this humanism is jeopardized.

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Common Place in Chaos

by Jane Griffo, Cohort '17

The Venice Biennale 2017 Viva Arte Viva, seems to be talking about human existence in a chaotic world. Our planet is a place full of conflicts and contradictions. These conflicts are frequently created by human emotions and the speed of technology, more than by natural disasters itself.

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Prismatic Perspectives: A Biennale in Three Parts

by Waseem Rahman, Cohort '16

Art exhibitions provide a platform through which various artists can showcase their artistic creations. Art exhibitions are a culmination of converged efforts from different players in the industry. The Venice Biennale plays a lead role in the convergence of artistic effort. It inspires and systematizes several exhibitions which capture the intricacies of contemporary art.

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The Tension Between Spectacle and Intimacy

by Silvia Ruzanka, Cohort '17

Descriptors that come to mind when one thinks of the baroque: opulence, drama, exuberance, grandeur. These emerge from a culture undergoing a sense of instability. The baroque represents a swing of the pendulum from order to disorder, and from rationality to sensuality. B

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Baroque Intertextuality: McArthur Binion, Koons, & Titian

by Emel Thomson, Cohort '17

The Venice Biennale was — and is — a cultural nerve tightly bound to the fabric and waterways of the city. This year’s theme is centered on the artist’s practice: the multiplicity of approaches and the wide variety of practices. To realize a show with such a broad agenda, more than 120 artists representing 51 nations are participating. The spectator is faced with a sensory overload, a dizzying experience that is not isolated to the two main Biennale locations, but Venice in general.

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Topology on Ice: Antarctica & the Arsenale

by Mercedeh Mirshamsi, Cohort '14

Viva Arte Viva, this year’s 57th Venice Biennale, was a celebration of art as a catalyst for expanding our realities and world perspectives. It also acknowledged artists, who with their creativity and limitless imaginations, contribute to the collective human consciousness in a profound way. 

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Hope for Better Days: Art and its Reflection Upon a Fractured Condition

by Nicole Marie Milchak, Cohort '17

The 2017 Venice Biennale identifies itself as the collective majority Other, perhaps for the first time. The Biennale concerns itself with the state of humanity: the polluted ecosystem we call home; the technological framework and network which collects our ideas and archives our days; the inhumanity of a top-heavy power structure pervading more nations than not; and finally a nod toward a romanticized version of past epochs replete with Baroque-era tension, richness, and drama.

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Believing the Unbelievable

by Kim R. Reiff, Cohort '17

Although more than 380 years separate Bernini’s Baldachin (1634) located in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and Damien Hirst’s The Diver (2017) – a female bronze statue from “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable” at the Venice Biennale – it appears that they are folded together as living art.

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Political Art or Artful Politics: Capitalistic Illusionary Undertones of Art Patrons

by Amy Jo Keely, Cohort '17

The city of Venice, like other iconic cities of Europe, dances with the duality of modernity set within the framework of antiquity. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Punta della Dogana, and Prada Foundation express the dichotomies in Venice’s topological layering of political, historical, and artistic ideology within its architectural framework and art exhibits.

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