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Visitors looks at the installation called "Bang" by China's artist Ai Weiwei at the German pavilion during the 55th La Biennale of Venice May 29, 2013. The exhibition runs till September 15. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini (ITALY - Tags: SOCIETY)

Harsh messages in Venice

June 1, 2013

Art works from 88 nations have gone on show at the Venice Biennale for the next half year focused on greed, destruction and money. Spain's exhibit is a pile of rubble – alluding to social impacts of the eurozone crisis.


One of the world's most prestigious art festivals, the 55th Venice Biennale, has begun with discordant artworks from a record 88 nations. Half a million visitors are expected until late November at various Biennale venues in the famed lagoon city.

Ten newcomers include Tuvalu, the Vatican and Angola, which was awarded a Golden Lion on Saturday by the Biennale jury for the best national participation entitled "Luanda, Encyclopedic City" by artist Edson Chagas.

The German-British artist Tino Sehgal was award a Golden Lion for best artist for his contribution to the Biennale's main exhibition series called "The Encyclopedic Palace." Sehgal's works typically seek audience participation.

Recalling Fukushima

The Biennale jury also awarded a special mention for Japan's contribution by artist Koki Tanaka. His work symbolizes the communal action that emerged after Japan's 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

"When the earthquake happened, people collaborated and helped each other to deal with the strange situation," Tanaka said. His work is entitled "Sharing Uncertainty."

The Spanish pavilion is filled with bricks, concrete and glass, resembling the aftermath of an earthquake.

Germany - which swapped pavilions with France - invited exhibitions from artists from four countries who have close ties to Germany.

Absent Ai Weiwei depicts detention

The Chinese dissident and artist with Berlin links, Ai Weiwei, portrays his 81 days of detention by Chinese authorities in 2011. His work consists of half-size scenes placed inside six containers, complete with watching guards and a bare mattress bed.

One of his works called "Straight," located in Venice's Le Zitelle complex, shows 150 tons of re-straightened steel bars removed from the ruins of Chinese schools that collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Nearly 5,200 children were killed.

"He is making something right that was wrong," said Maurizio Bortolotti, who curated Ai's collateral exhibits.

Another Ai work comprises 886 antique stools that are arranged in interlocking arches (pictured above).

Although freed from jail in China, Ai said Chinese authorities denied him a visa to travel to Venice for the opening.

Information complexity

In the US pavilion, artist Sarah Sze said she had used yarn and twigs to connect a myriad of everyday items, such as screwdrivers and packets of sugar, to ask the question: "How do we make sense of it?"

She said her sculptures were attempts to model information that was "often beyond our ability to understand."

Corruption portrayed

Russian artist Vadim Zakharov postulates that only women can save the world from corruption.

His installation provides a lower room of refuge for women. Gold coins shower into it through a hole in the upper floor. A man in a business suit hauls the coins to an upstairs conveyor belt.

Pacific Ocean waste

Italian-born artist Maria Cristina Finucci set up the "Garbage Patch State" pavilion containing bags of water and plastic to illustrate huge patches of rubbish floating in the northern Pacific Ocean.

The UN culture agency UNESCO granted her exhibit symbolic statehood in April.

ipj/slk (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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