The Most Important Art Exhibition In The World

The Most Important Art Exhibition In The World

A student's memoir of the Venice Biennale.

When I studied abroad in Italy this year, we paid a visit to the most important art festival held in the world: the Venice Biennale. A tradition that goes back 120 years, each nation hosts a pavilion in which they ask the best artists from their country to come and represent them. Each year, more and more countries join, and the artists push the boundaries further and further. The exhibition takes place in the Giardini and the Arsenale, as well as various satellite exhibitions across the historic city of Venice.

Behind the Biennale: A Short History of the World’s Most Important Art Exhibition from Artsy on Vimeo.

The Venice Biennale was like a playground for the senses. When we were in the Giardini traveling between the National Pavilions, it was like traveling from one world to another. The artists had complete control over their environments, for example the French Pavilion promoted a sense of calm while Finland’s created an atmosphere of fear and unease.

The French Pavilion. The tree was motorized and slowly moved across the floor and rotated. The viewers were able to lay down on comfy couches to observe it.

While the theme of the Biennale was All the World’s Futures, I feel like it was more of a reflection of what is going on in contemporary and past times, but perhaps as a gauge of what the future world will be like. Much of the work was political, both of past politics and current. How could it not be with an epic live reading of Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital” going on almost constantly like white noise?

Yes, this was a performance piece that was going on constantly "Hunger Game"s style.

One satellite exhibition that I particularly enjoyed was Iraq’s "Invisible Beauty." It featured five artists, and their work questioned United States involvement in Iraq as well as how to defeat ISIS. Much of the work was video and photography, asking people what they thought and how they as ordinary people felt about the fighting going on in their country. The most poignant work on display though was not made by world renowned artists, but by the child refugees from Northern Iraq and poems and statements made by elders. Ai Weiwei curated the works and put them in a publication called "Traces of Survival." The Iraqi refugees have always been close to my heart, and the experience of seeing the drawings of the children was deeply moving and humbling. Their drawings were full of hope. Their drawings wished for a more peaceful world. Their drawings had life. Their drawings communicated in a way that words cannot. The idea of art flourishing in Iraq is important as ISIS destroys more everyday. It is a story of creation versus destruction. The exhibit asked questions. It didn’t tell us what we needed to do about ISIS like the news does everyday, it presented the viewer with the facts of everyday life in Iraq and then asked what to do about the situation.

Most of the exhibition seemed to fly by, but this is one of the exhibitions that made me reflect and ponder. It seemed like as we traveled through the pavilions, the Arsenale, and all of the satellite pavilions that I was overwhelmed and left with tiny phrases stuck in my head. We began with Fabio Mauri’s “The End”.

Then we continued on through the central pavilion to Jeremy Deller’s text “Hello, Today You Have Day Off”.

Later, in the Arsenale, we were told that we were too expensive to buy.

And then the names of the satellite exhibitions seemed to ring in my head. I think I dreamed about “The Infinite Nothing”.

There was so much art compressed into so little time, but somehow it all managed to leave a lasting impression.

Cover Image Credit: Julianna Wells

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.

What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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News Flash: 'Building The Wall' Is Still A Dumb Idea And Always Will Be

The government is still partially shutdown because of funding for the wall. Really?


A man who is a strong supporter of building the wall told me this metaphor: If you don't want the wrong people walking into your backyard, you put a fence up. We don't want the wrong people coming to America, so we put a wall up. I respect people's political beliefs, and because of this, I want to share mine.

I believe that President Trump demanding money to build a border wall is dumb.

It's hard to believe so many people really think that this "build a wall" has everything to do about border security. It's just inhumane and wrong.

Literally, the most notorious drug lord of Mexico has shed light about how he smuggles the drug into the U.S. They have brought it through fishing boats, trucks going through the legal point of entry, underground tunnel, but not through unwalled parts. The half of million pounds of narcotics that were secured at the border? They were all al legal points of entry.

I'm saying this because I am a proud daughter of immigrants who crossed the border. The media has portrayed immigrants as these horrible people infiltrating our country. They just want somewhere safe to live to raise their kid.

The conditions of Latin American countries are inexplicable. Communist have risen from the ashes dominating these countries letting people rot on the street starving. There are little to no job opportunities. I haven't seen my family in three years because it is dangerous to go.

The media doesn't tell you this. They don't tell you how many people have gone to the border and returned to Mexico because ICE agents tear gas them.

They tell you that they throw babies over fences to distract border patrol agents. They tell you children are dying because of malnutrition of trekking thousands of miles to get the border. They don't tell you that those same children have been eating unmonitored food with thousands of microorganism some mal some good.

Not all immigrants are not bad people. The notions that all immigrants are criminals is "fake news." It has been a hook, line, and sinker for the Republican Party. There are studies such as one from the journal Criminology showing that places with high undocumented immigrant population does not equal high crime.

Should undocumented citizens attempt to become legal residents of the United States? Absolutely, and that is a problem if they are evading taxes and other legal notions with more consequences.

However, we should not lie to ourselves and act as a wall is to help border security against drugs and crime. It's just a physical quota like 1920s immigration laws. There is a better solution then sacrificing 5.7 billion dollars. Let me translate that: 5,700,000,000 dollars. That is our taxes. As a college student, I rather have those 5.7 billion dollars be translated to scholarship, grants, financial aid, and helping us, the future of this country become the best people we can be. Why build a wall when the future of America, who I personally think is more important can be helped.

I don't come from a rich family, and I don't have the means to afford a college education without loans, so when I hear that the Government can afford to give 5.7 billion dollars for a wall, I have the right to be upset. Tell me I'm wrong, and call me dumb, but this is my unpopular opinion.


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