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The summer break is always looked forward to but this year I was determined not to interrupt my studies with endless days lounging around and topping up my tan. Preparing for the 3rd year of my degree was upper most on my mind as when we returned after the long break the task ahead would involve writing a well researched essay leading to a final major project and an exhibition. If successful this would result in a BA (Hons) Degree in Photography and Video Art.

Satisfied with my 2nd year results (and the bonus of 5 images exhibited through the summer at the Milton Keynes gallery) I decided to explore the same paranormal theme further with a view to expanding the ‘medium’ image into a full blown exhibition covering images, sound, installation and video. (see relevant blog entries)

A piece of feedback from one of my tutors was also on my mind. “Visit as many galleries as you can.” Taking this quite literally there was only one event on the art calendar where I was guaranteed to see loads of art in one place, the Venice Biennale. There was little objection from the wife when I ‘randomly’ suggested Venice for our summer holiday, its a place she’s always wanted to go to.  Good friend and artist Arthur Trombetta  also agreed to join us for a few days to explore with us.

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The Biennale is huge. After four days of exploring the exhibitions and pavilions I was on art overload. Thank you DSLR. Taking photos of the best of the exhibits (and the name of the artist) enabled me to do more research once home which allowed me to re explore the art I’d seen and understand more of the context and meaning behind the arts creation. Not surprisingly the best art was in essence founded on the simplest of ideas.

My favourite if I can call it that was an exhibition containing three piles of clothing in a tiny church which takes some finding in the Venice back streets. This was an exhibition packed with symbolism. The clothing belonged to girls who had become victims of murder, kidnapping or slave labour. Each pile of clothing was placed on its own church altar, (as symbolic as placing a christian cross) denoting the suffering experienced by these women. The fact that the church was hidden away also symbolised how these crimes can be hidden away. The final symbolic irony was in how many visitors entered the church took one look and walked out again. I counted 10 people in just 15 minutes who failed to seek out and read the artist statement, which incidentally you couldn’t see unless you fully entered the church. Shrine for Girls connected with me on a truly emotional level, its symbolism hit hard and it was an exhibition I have not forgotten.

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The Biennale contained so many exhibitions, some were attractive, some ugly, some symbolic, some based on traditional art practices. Many were really quite bizarre but overall the experience was planting seeds of ideas and I found myself examining a sculpture and imagining a new variation based on photography.

Other galleries which entranced me were the Japanese pavilion with its two boats and a ‘million’ old keys.

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Also in the Japanese exhibition were four films of children aged around 4-6 yrs old who were asked the question ‘Where did you come from?’ Their explanations and apparent memory of being in the womb and being born were chillingly accurate from minors who really shouldn’t have had any inkling of the facts of life.

The British entry by Sarah Lucas was just bizarre and a little disturbing that the ‘best’ of British art involved several plaster naked torsos with a cigarettes planted in their anuses (and other intimate areas) and a collection of very phallic sculptures.

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Also strangely compelling viewing were France’s moving trees. Its seemed weird to watch an object that doesn’t usually move doing an impersonation of a Triffid. (see Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham).

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The Australian pavilion was also memorable. The centre area was filled with human like sculptures which were constructed of shredded military uniforms but in a way that gave them a ghost like quality.

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To sum up, the Venice Biennale was about 70% sculpture, 15% paintings, drawings and other art / paper creations with the remainder mostly video. Only about 3% of the exhibitions were photographs and most of those were ‘documentary’ reportage of a similar theme.

Also in Venice was the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. This was a great chance to see work by Pollock, Mondrian, Picasso, Dali, Kandinski and others which made a contrast to all the new modern art we’d seen so far.

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A further bonus was just outside Venice where I stumbled across an Andy Warhol exhibition. Different again from all I had seen in Venice but just as absorbing.

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Research also filled some of my summer with books by Professor Chris French, Professor Richard Wiseman, Carl Jung (psychologist) and others making some heavy reading, (well I did do some sunbathing and needed a few good books to pass the time!)

Looking forward to the start of the semester and the final push to finish the degree.

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