Venice Biennale – all at sea

Gav's Bar
Gav’s Bar

We had hardly started on the Venetian lagoon when we came across this site-specific installation by Gavin Turk, the much-praised Young British Artist (now of course no longer so young). Here is some of the publicity material we found flying about in the wind from the Biennale*.

“Gav’s Bar – entrance through the white door on the right – is set on a platform once used for fishing on the western lagoon, not far from the shore of the island of Pellestrina. Gav has hung empty frames, canvases, a representation of the moon from a carnival parade and other found paraphernalia to provide a challenging invitation to fellow artists to replace the material with their own artworks, in a curatorial and interactive project that will evolve during the lifetime of the Venice 2015 Biennale.

In keeping with Turk’s  playful references to art history and identity, Gav is also a hommage to the celebrated arts cafes of Montmartre where artists used their work as a medium of financial exchange. In return for their work, artists will be offered drinks and a certificate to validate the transaction. Drinks on offer include Gav Grappa, locally produced, whose hallucinogenic properties rival those of the absinthe drunk by Bohemian artists in early 20th century Paris.

Turk will personally be monitoring each contribution and will only accept art works that he feels are worthy of inclusion or rise to the spirit of the occasion. The participatory, interactive project relates to his ongoing dialogue with the meaning, authorship and value of works of art.

The mundane remains of artefacts from life on shore, set alongside debris collected from the lagoon and the sea outside, will gradually evolve into a coherently curated set of artworks that will illustrate the challenges of maintaining life in the oceans and resisting over-exploitation of the world’s resources at a time when society is increasingly focused on excessive material consumption and the inevitable production of waste and pollution, as exemplified by the passing yachts and holiday barges.

Gav’s Bar has organised a fleet of old and carefully damaged inflatables to ferry artists from the village of San Pietro on Pellestrina to the bar. The deliberately corrupted state of the inflatables and the inevitability that some will not complete the journey without sinking and rescue of the artists on board adds a further political and social dimension to this conceptual project, encompassing the plight of refugees in the Mediterranean”.

* Only slightly adapted from the flyer for Gav’s other bar in Calle del Forno, Venice, and publicity for various Biennale events.

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