Although there exist many a pleasant moment in Curiger’s biennale, the curator stumbles over contextualizing it, and often relies upon generic ideas to band together ideas with no real curatorial thesis. Curiger writes, “The term ‘nations’ in ILLUMInations applies metaphorically to recent developments in the arts all over the world, where overlapping groups form collectives of people representing a wide variety of smaller, more local activities and mentalities.” I take this wily statement to mean that recently, artists of varying locales band together to represent their nationhood in larger groups—a sentiment not exactly illuminating.
In a further attempt to explain what needn’t be explained, Curiger writes, “ILLUMInations emphasizes the intuitive insight and the illumination of thought that is fostered by an encounter with art and its ability to sharpen the tools of perception.” Here I was under the impression that it was part and parcel of successful art works to “enlighten” its viewer through an aesthetic experience, how that is emphasized, I’m not sure. My guess is that this throwaway concept is one Curiger found to unify an essentially un-unifiable group of works. Perhaps the sole phenomenon unifying all works is Curiger’s propensity to pick out the most hot artists of a given moment: R.H. Quaytmann and Seth Price in New York; in London, Klara Liden, who just had a solo show at the Serpentine, Elad Lassry in Los Angeles, Sharyar Nashat in Berlin, among others. Although Curiger falters in her apparent subscription to cool internationalism, much of the work comprising the Biennale—particularly in the exhibition’s Central Pavilion in the Giardini—is worth consideration.