Does a given country in our age of globalization still have a certain flavor, or is it impossible to distinguish cultural differences of different nations? Has all contemporary artistic production become so fatally heterogeneous are some still linked somehow to a certain local genetic code? This is a question raised within the framework of this year's Biennale entitled “All The World’s Futures.” In an attempt to research the matter, the curator of the Italian Pavilion, Vincenzo Trione, the decided to create an experiment entitled “Codice Italia.” For this experiment, he invited 19 artists from around the world who have long practiced their art in close connection with Italy. Each, with a proper understanding of "Italian-ness," was required to create a site-specific work specifically for the show. Did the artists create a collective Italian artistic identity? And which among the 19 are the most evocative installations representing Italy? We evaluate this question with the following 7 highlights of the 56th Venice Biennale.
1. Marizia Migliora’s “Stilleven”
“Stilleven” (2015) by Marizia Migliora, the Italian artist based in Turin, is perhaps one of the most fascinating installations on display. Her work, which is made of 1.7 tons of corn cobs, 1 mirror and a wardrobe containing lenses and optical instruments, is a visual illusion that makes us rethink the genre of still life with an original and poetic strength.
2. Francesco Barocco’s “Untitled”
Elegant and delicate “Untitled” face made of clay and graphite (2015) by Francesco Barocco, another Italian artist from Turin, is an artwork that combines an idea of a 3-dimentional object with the perception of a classic 2-dimentional drawing. Inspired by the history of Italian art, Barocco’s sculpture reinterprets key archetypal elements taken from ancient iconographies.
3. “Pasolini” by William Kentridge
The huge “Pasolini” (2015) piece measuring 298 x 706 cm by William Kentridge, born in Johannesburg, where he lives and works, is a bi-dimensional cardboard figure, painted black, which hangs from the ceiling. It is a fragment of “Triumphs and Laments,” Kentridge’s ongoing project on the Tiber River in Rome scheduled to open on April 21, 2016: a large-scale 550 meter-long frieze surprisingly made from the biologic patina accumulated on the travertine embankment walls that line Italian capital’s urban waterfront. The set of “Triumphs and Laments” drawings that the South African artist has developed for the Italian capital is also on show at the Italian Pavilion. “Palosini” and “Triumphs and Laments” do not only claim the artistic value of the work. Above all, they raise the issue of the Roman public administration’s organizational failure to manage the accomplishment of the project. The realization of “Triumphs and Laments” has been under implementation for over 10 years.
4. “Le member fantome” By Vanessa Beecroft
“Le member fantome” (2015) by Vanessa Beecroft, born in Genoa and currently based in Los Angeles, is a striking and outrageous installation made of three bronze sculptures, various marble figures and bases, and other elements evoking classic Italian taste. The chaotic scene is veiled by two marble slabs blocking the room entrance and, therefore, visible only at a distance through a thin slit. The numerous mysterious and carelessly scattered objects represent the artist’s personal collection of memories, history and artistic impressions and inspirations.
5. “Untitled” (2015) by Mimmo Paladino
“Untitled” (2015) by Mimmo Paladino, born in Benevento and working in Rome and in Milan, is a rhythmic installation envisioning a solitary human aluminum figure placed at the center of the room and embraced by a speedy free-hand graphic. This works is the artist’s modern understanding of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man.”
6. “Lienzo” (2014) by Nicola Samori
“Lienzo” (2014) by Nicola Samori, based in Ravenna, is one of three paintings presented by the artist at the Italian Pavilion. Each appears to be a classic Renaissance or Baroque icon that experienced a process of violent distortion. The artist’s intention is to transmit deep emotions based not only on a visual experience, but also a profound physical deformation of the painting’s surface.
7. “Untitled” installation (2015) by Jannis Kounellis
“Untitled” installation (2015) by Jannis Kounellis, an artist born in Greece and living in Rome, is comprised of iron girders, coats and other unique materials. Rich in philosophic references, the shape or non-shape of the coats is caged inside rigid tracks, creating an overall impression of a sort of tragic frieze.