Installation Art that Explores Living Spaces

Installation Art that Explores Living Spaces

Rachael Grad
Jul 25, 2011

Among the hundreds of country-sponsored pavilions, collateral exhibitions and gorilla art that make up the 2011 Venice Biennale, some of the most memorable are installation works that invite the viewer to immerse themselves in the artist's surreal space. Three favorite pavilions and artwork challenge the idea of home and space: "Le Cercle Fermé" at the Luxembourg Pavilion, Song Dong's para-pavilion at the Arsenale and Mike Nelson's "I, IMPOSTER" at the British Pavilion.

All three installation works are large in scale and the size of houses. To see the pieces, you must enter them and travel through the distorted space. Experiencing the works feels like visiting a surreal, carnival funhouse.

Images 1 - 3: "Le Cercle Fermé" at the Luxembourg Pavillion was created by artists Martine Feipel and Jean Bechameil. Entering the Ca' del Duca, where the exhibition takes place, you pass through a white space of distorted rooms with curved hallways, pointless staircases and mirrors. The artists aim is to show that our conception of space is historically dated and so they go beyond the limit of a place to find a new one. Click here for more info on this project.

Images 4 - 7: The first artwork you encounter when entering the Arsenale is installation artist Song Dong's "para-pavilion." Song Dong recreates his century-old family home and community to explore his history and that of contemporary china. We wrote about "Waste Not" by Song Dong at the MoMA in 2009. His "para-pavillion" pieces at the 2011 Venice Biennale consists of 100 salvaged architectural fragments, including wardrobe doors, room dividers and pagoda panels. Song Dong is one of four artists invited by the Biennale's "Illuminations" curator Bice Curiger to create "para-pavilions."

Images 8 - 10: in the Giardini, the main space for the Biennale, installation artist Mike Nelson turned the British Pavilion into a Turkish rooming house that includes abandoned artist studios, a chandelier repair shop, photographers' darkrooms and other spaces. Nelson left the classical exterior of the building intact, so the impact on entering the Turkish labyrinth is really surprising. The work is a partial recreation of his "Magazin: Büyük Valide Han," originally built for the 8th International Istanbul Biennial in 2003. For more info and photos of the 2011 British Pavilion, click here.

• 2009 Venice Biennale: A Peek Inside

Images: Rachael Grad

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