22 October 2013
This short note is not an art critique to the works of the mentioned artists, rather it tries to shed light on the Syrian pavilion from a holistic point of view, it also examines the Syrian Arab Republec’ participation in in the 55th Biennial of Venice 2013 in light of the events on the Syrian ground, and away of any political views of the author.
The Syrian pavilion at the Venice Biennial 2013 (located on the island of Saint Servolo); Cara amica arte (Art is a dear friend) revolving around the role Art can and should play to bring people together
The curator Duccio Trombadori designed the exhibition to showcase Syria from a non-political perspective, and an unbiased point of view, through exhibiting the works and testimonies of the 17 chosen artists “who look toward the Mediterranean world beyond their individual political, cultural, and religious ideas (the curator statement)” molded through their recent stay in Syria http://www.myartguides.com/venice-art-biennale-2013/art-biennale/national-participations/item/539-syrian-arab-republic
The exhibited works feature various topics; some of them tackle the demographic diversity of Syria (Felipe Cadena), others illustrate motifs taken from the rich mythology of ancient Syrian civilizations and represent it in a modern nostalgic context (Nabil Al Samman), while other works depict mildly-tortured women portraits which could be the artist’s view on women conditions in Syria (Lidia Bachis). Alternatively another artist (Shafik Echtai) represents his ideas in a modernism-style with a greyish palette, which might be hinting to a certain brave political message, -affected by the nowadays Syrian collective consciousness; using grey, or “being grey”, might indicate unbiasness- however the Kandinsky-like style makes it difficult for the viewer to grasp the exact idea the artist wanted to express, which flaws the message of the artwork to some extent, on the other side (George Miro) depicted his memories with views from certain Syrian landscapes, but again in an abstract manner.
Overall, the exhibited artworks depict each artist’s views, and his or her personal experience molded through their recent stay in Syria, and it all add up to the general message of the exhibition -which the curator has chosen, and which was previously highlighted in the statement-
Consequently the curator’s virtuous attempt to keep art impeccable and away from political biasness is evident… However it might have gone to the extreme here, and ended up as a clear detachment from reality. The Arabic quote “too much is similar to too little” will come in play here, and the overall impression the visitor gets, as well as the overall message of the exhibition might be accused of avoiding the firm tragic Syrian reality !
Hence the question of impeccability will re-impose itself; “Verifying the attempt to keep art impeccable… WITHIN limits of biasness, and detachment !”
Obviously this note has evolved toward questioning the soundness of the curatorial statement’s implementation, and to what extent it adheres to the actual reality in the featured country… and it became the responsibility of the author to provide a justification of this critique…
As a matter of fact the needed justification is found in the very same artwork exhibited at the entrance of the Syrian pavilion, the work by the Italian artist Camilla Ancilotto titled Deposizione (Deposition), which could be the only artwork addressing the situation in Syria in a direct way, while successfully keeping its unbiased state.
Ancilotto is revisiting the work of the great Spanish artist Pablo Picasso; Guernica, copying its main elements -richly charged with symbols- to depict the horrors of the war, and featuring the work in an emphasized Cubism frame, making it an interactive piece of art to better engage visitors in the artwork and in its imbedded message of peace.
Camilla Ancilotto’s Deposizione is an powerful message to stop the civil war and condemn all atrocities, it also answers the eternal question; “can Art be involved in Politics ? and if so, can political Art still be unbiased?”, by providing a proof that Art can play a major role in national causes -especially at such international events like the Biennial- while preserving its unbiased position by merely keeping the awareness role, and raise the patriotic call over biasness and any national pride.