AN IMMATERIAL RETROSPECTIVE OF THE VENICE BIENNALE
ALEXANDRA PIRICI AND MANUEL PELMUS
I went to the 55th Venice Biennale to make a map of performances and live events for my job as a contributing editor for the Movement Research Performance Journal. I spent three whole days at the Biennale with a sketchbook and pen, sitting in some exhibits for hours at a time.
In the Romanian Pavilion at Giardini, a group of Romanian performers reenacted works previously shown at the Venice Biennale. They would state the title of the work, the artist name and the year it was exhibited, as well as occasionally some supplementary information about the piece.
“’Hotel Lobby’ by Edward Hopper. First presented at the 26th Venice Biennale in 1952”
And then the performers would become “Hotel Lobby” by Edward Hopper.
One day, I was sitting in the Pavilion drawing the performers for many hours, wearing a large white linen pleated sleeveless tunic with white basketball shorts and white vintage wrestling shoes. It was very sunny, and sometimes there would be a lot of audience members and sometimes not. As I sketched the performers, one of the works they reenacted led them all outside.
I was the only audience member that didn’t follow them outside and the only body left in the Romanian Pavilion. About a minute later, the Romanian performers didn’t return, but new audience members entered the space and, assuming I was the exhibition, immediately surrounded me, gazing at me, looking at my sketchbook and taking pictures of me. I drew in my sketchbook, reclined, assumed seated postures, put my sunglasses on and took them off and occasionally stared back at the audience surrounding me.
It was about ten minutes before the Romanian performers re-entered and continued their performance. The audience members who were still watching me at this point were confused and did a few double takes as I stood up beside them, all of us watching the Romanian performers continue “An Immaterial Retrospective of the Venice Biennale.”