My arrival to this year’s Venice Biennale was a curious one. If I didn’t have a crowd of people depicting me as their face of Hell, I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate all the allusions to Dante’s Inferno everywhere I went.
I saw Anne Imhof last September at the Hamburger Bahnhof observing her performers with a CEO stance, her feet slightly spread apart in line with the width of her shoulders. As I observed her stance, I became aware of my own crossed my feet prone to causing tilting stumbles. No one seemed to recognize her. Then a half year later, I saw her again winning the Golden Lion and she looked as though years had passed. The hard work and fatigue could be seen on her face.
The choreographed tableaus of “Angst” had changed to ones of hate shown through warring movements against oneself and others. Shadows moved like a herd created by the audience chasing the performers from above and then circling them as they stood looking down through a pane of glass. Small cotton ball bonfire flames burned in a corner, hands traveled down beneath the shorts and inched its way near the groin, a foggy imprint of breath made its way across the floor like one-legged footsteps. Fists appeared, first one, then two, then three – all lined up signifying a moment of unity within the struggle/ resistance.
Walking up to the German Pavillon, I thought is this a cliché, looks just like a building from the Third Reich. Ideology now looked like a cliché. The architecture had the body of classic Prussian style slightly gray in tone but the insides of a concentration camp examining room – Germany’s own pool of inferno blood being washed away by an overflowing pool of water. Imhof carried the burden of German history well on her shoulders and was even introducing non-Germans to “Faust.”
Before the performers arrived, I made a round of the space and found a little bee on the ground. While normally afraid of bees, I bent down and examined it and wondered are you chance or are you art. The bee was gone by the time I came back.
The accessories were laid out grouped in threes and fours, all meticulously placed along the walls, on tables or near corners. There on a Tuesday, around 2 weeks after the fact, the stars of the group were not present. Out of the group of 20 dancers, only 6 were performing the day I was there. Disappointed, the bodies I saw were a little less majestic, conveyed a little less power but even without the stars, I could see Imhof’s piece had come to Venice to kill.