Many national pavilions of this year’s Biennale – such as Belgium, Venezuela and even the award-winning British participation – were blamed by many for being, in short, merely empty. To their supporters, the rarefaction of physical elements on show was a sign of greater conceptual density, whereas their detractors focused more on what seemed to be missing (an exhibition) than on what was supposed to replace it (an idea). This reflection surely doesn’t apply to the Austrian Pavilion, Thoughs Form Matter, curated by Verena Konrad, collecting no less than three large-scale installations.
For the pavilion’s main hall, Viennese architects Henke Schreieck conceive Layers of Atmosphere, made of an accessible wooden structure, which penetrates into a sequence of paper veils, the latter designed together with Carinthia-based paper artist Anna Rubin. To walk through it, visitors have to pace a curved mirrored platform, Sphere 1:50.000 by architecture firm LAAC. Curiously enough, while its authors describe it as a surface which “bends, distorts, transports and facilitates a leap into another place”, rumours were heard about its (probably) unexpected voyeuristic outcomes. Last but not least, two outstanding projections, Beauty = Function by designers Sagmeister & Walsh, are displayed on the roof of the side rooms.
The Austrian curator is certainly to congratulate on the selection of such high-quality contributions. The exhibition undoubtedly fulfils her declared goal to interpret Freespace as “a versatile realm which is shaped by coexistence”, where “concepts such as deviation, atmosphere and beauty” can be materialised. Still, as each one of the three powerful oeuvres addresses these topics with its distinctive language, materials and shapes, at first sight they stand as separate events and fail to harmonise into a coherent ensemble, therefore somehow weakening the overall impression. Will the Biennale’s hasty audience be able to take a few minutes and give this pavilion a much deserved second glance?
- Exhibition title:
- Thoughts Form Matter
- Opening dates:
- 26 May – 25 November 2018
- Verena Konrad
- Austrian Pavilion, Giardini