by Stefania Fumo
VENICE, Italy, May 13 (Xinhua) -- The international exhibition at this year's Art Biennale in Venice takes visitors on a fantastical voyage through the imagination of 120 artists of all ages and from 51 different countries and regions.
The overall feeling of the show titled "Viva Arte Viva" is one of exuberance and joy: the exhibition spaces flow into one another, each containing visual treasures that engage the mind and the senses while touching on issues such as the environment and nationalism.
Russian artist Irina Korina, who was born in 1977, invents a two-story space within an anonymous grey metal container. The inside of this site-specific installation called "Good Intentions" is covered in animal-print patterns as well as gaudy, elaborate fake flower ornaments and traditional symbols in brightly colored neon tubing and lights.
Her intention is to show a soothing, fictitious esthetic that covers up a disturbing reality.
In "Food for Thought," Saudi Arabian artist Maha Malluh places 80 audiocassettes into 30 wood bread baking trays and hangs them on the wall.
India's Rina Baner uses materials such as steel, feathers, MP3 player components, shells, glass lampshades, and thread to build mythical creatures that sprout from the walls in a riot of shapes and colors, taking on a life of their own.
Born in 1975, Argentinian Martin Cordiano places large plaster spheres in a maze of plywood on the floor. The interior sides of the plywood are finished with skirting boards and painted white, like the walls of enigmatic unfinished rooms and hallways all connecting to one another but going nowhere.
The piece is called "Common Places" -- common materials reconfigured in an unfamiliar way.
Another take on the game of usual/unusual is "Shoe Collection" by Monaco artist Michel Blazy, who filled 27 worn old sneakers with dirt, grew plants in them, and placed them in a row of vertical displays inside a lighted box -- much like those we see in regular shoe stores, but with a new twist that speaks to the intersection of the artificial and the natural worlds.
Following on this notion, the installation "Fossil Fuel Spaces" by 30-year-old Swiss artist Julian Charriere, leads the visitor into a science-fictional forest of hexagonal striated columns rising to different heights, made of lithium brine in acrylic containers.
A silver-white metal used in mobile phone and computer batteries, lithium is harvested in mines and will one day run out, just like fossil fuels. The installation feels like the archeological ruin of an architecture that doesn't exist yet -- perhaps the leftovers of a future civilization.
Among the oldest invited artists is 79-year-old Philippines native David Medalla with his monumental itinerant project that began in 1968, called "A Stitch in Time".
Members of the public are given needles and thread and invited to sew their hopes, dreams, poems, messages, on a long cloth hung from the ceiling like a giant hammock. The fabrics thus created in different parts of the world through the decades become a living archive and witnesses to an era.
"While art hasn't changed the world, it remains the place in which it can be reinvented," writes French curator Christine Macel, who organized the show into nine chapters with titles such as The Pavilion of Artists and Books, The Pavilion of Time and the Infinite, and the Pavilion of Joys and Fears.
The 57th Art Biennale, or the Venice Biennial International Art Exhibition, opens to the public on Saturday and runs through November 26.