Monday, July 16, 2007

Calle, Biennale, Gratzi!

This weekend the whole school group went to Venice which was sooo beautiful and hotter than Hades. I have never appreciated Florentine shade so much as i do now. The main reason we went was to see the Biennale, a huge huge, enormously huge art exhibition taking place all over the city of Venice. It would take one a little over a week to see everything at the Biennale, that's how big it is. You think ArtChicago is big? It's precisely 1/10 of the Biennale. (pronounced bee ah nah lay) We only had two days to see it. One day for the main biennale event in which it is all of these buildings broken down into different countries that choose to represent a singular or plural artist, from their country. However, the Italian one (which of course is the main exhibit) hosts artists from every country, usually repeating the ones already exhibited in their own countries' houses. This is probably the most amazing art i have ever seen and especially at one time. It's like art olympics.

The countries i visited: Italy (thumbs up), USA(one thumb up) (Felix Gonzoles-Torres was the artist chosen), Spain(thumbs up), Germany(thumb and a pinkie up), Canada(thumbs way up), Great Britain(thumbs enthusiastically up), Switzerland(thumbs down), and France (which changed my life)(thumbs way way way way up). I heard Russia was pretty cool, as well as Venezuala. Latvia apparently sucked. I will have pictures of some of my favorite art/artists when i get my notebook with all the notes in it.

Sophie Calle Changed My Life And Photography.

A French artist, her exhibition room in the main gallery (which was over 50 rooms by the way)gave me chills and stuck out as one of my favorites even before i knew who she was or that she was the main French artist as well. Her first installation was an explanation of the piece saying that one day in Feb she got two phone calls. The first was an invitation to the Biannale, the second was that her mother had one month to live. She began describing how her mother wanted to live and die in the lat month. She wanted to die with a Mozart concerto in her ears and she kept saying this one sentence over and over again. I can't remember what it was, but it was the last thing she ever said and the last word was something (in french) like couche i think. Then she tells of how her last breaths were somewhere in between 2 and 15 minutes later. They could never be able to tell exactly when. So after reading this (which you can hear clips of the concerto in the background) you turn around to face this fabric sculpture piece framed with the word couche. Across from this is a painted portrait of her mother probably taken from a photograph in the 70's. In a room (with a feel of it being a visitation room since it was seperate) there was a portrait of her mother right after she died and another picture frame with the word couche. Across from this was an empty picture frame. Breathtaking. Chills covered my entire body. This was just an appetizer.

Her French gallery (which was enormous) was a photography installation performance art. She had recieved a letter from a former lover that one can only guess as to exactly what the context of their relationship was: they were not exclusive and i think it was more about being lovers but in a really intense way. they didn't love each other, not in that way, but in a different way. So anyways she had recieved this letter from a lover about why he was ending this relationship. She gave it to 107 women and had them interpret the letter however they wished, if they wanted to re-write it, literally interpret it, dance it, sing it, act it, paint it, whatever they wanted to do, and she documented all of this and took each of their portraits. Normally when photographers do installation pieces heavily based on presentation, the photographs are kinda lacking. NOt calle, each one of these portraits was absolutely stunning. The video of people performing in whatever way they wanted was great, and how she presented it was so so perfect. It was a truly perfect exhibit that i may not ever have a chance to see ever again. How many times can you walk away from an exhibit and have absolutely nothing critical to say about it?

I walked away from the space so unified with women in a way I have never experienced before. Every conversation I have had with Chiara about men, relationships, analytical women, how we react, everything came together. Even though these 107 women were all reacting to one ambigous letter differently with different interpretations we (meaning women)all got it. WE got every single one of them; we agreed with every one of them; we became a powerful team guarding our traits as women. We're critcized for being over-analytical, over-emotional, over-talking, but these things should absolutely be celebrated. This is what makes us women. Even if we don't like women, we still understand each other, and we have this undeniable bond, and in this exhibit Sophie Calle made us realize this and made us work together to figure this out, this one ambiguous letter, from a man. My roomate Alanna and I were discussing this exhibit in full detail together and how we felt so empowered after. We are both girls who claim not to like girls and find it much more appealing and rewarding to befriend more males than females, and we were more than curious to know men's reactions to this exhibits. We both agreed that every man who has ever questioned why women over-think or why women respond to them the why they do, need to see this exhibit. It really is life-changing and much more than art; it is socialogical anthropology. Which i have no doubt that if i was not a photography major, this is what i would be, so this is what i will always make my subject in my photography.

Not only was it life-changing in a generalized way that every woman, if they are at all intuitive to themselves as women should feel, but it incorporated the 4 main subjects of my mind throughout this trip. It really baffles me how things come together like this. Much of this trip has been about being a woman. A woman travelling by herself in Europe will have a completely different trip from a man travelling alone. I have met more women than men and this school group is heavily dominated by women. In my photo class there is only one guy. Also my photo teacher brought her life partner, who is a sociologist, along on the trip which has been so wonderful for me to see even how women relate, and in a completely different way that to what i am used to. It's actually quite beautiful to see this wonderful and loving relationship between these two women and their new baby.

Before I left and this entire school year Chiara and I would have countless conversations about men, figuring them out, interpreting them, how to react to them, and how we hate them but can't live without them. Instead of talking about us and how we feel, or how we are interpreting them, about how they react to us, about how we are hated and loved by them, the focus became about them. Now i realize that is just stupid. Thank you Sophie Calle for shaking my shoulders and waking me up.

I could go on about how this transpired into photography and where this takes me now. Basically everything I realized on the bus back from Venice, but there needs to be digestion time and too much for one blog.

Tomorrow I will leave for the beach of Cinque Terre for an overnight trip that should be amazing. So it might be a few more days before i get a chance to write more because as soon as i get back i will shoot shoot shoot for my final which i am super super excited about.

Ciao mi amores.


Chiara said...

amore! which polaroid of you that doesn't look like you, i've been slowly putting everything up on my flickr, i'll emial you whatever you want. I can't wait to look at more of this work. she sounds amazing. but for now i'm off to the lab. let me know if you want me to scan anything from that afternoon that i haven't already.

Chiara said...

p.s. "couche" means is one word for bed but also slang for sleep. that does give me chill.

i didn't have time to read all this before i left this morning, this is beautiful elise, i can't wait to talk to you more about it. nadine is here with me and i think this has been a very important summer for us all.

love you!

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