F%#k pretty pictures: how one artist brings a tender approach to loss

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Art is emotional. Art is worthless unless it gets a reaction. Fuck pretty pictures and lovely things to hang on your walls. Art needs to pour energy into your bones like a thumping early-dawn ecstacy high or the rush from spiked street iced coffee in Hanoi.

Art is about the blood coursing around your heart, steaming through your mind and banging a reaction from you. It doesn’t have to be shocking, but it needs to make you feel, needs to pull-up a long forgotten memory or stir a comatose emotion. Everything else is a waste.

The Venice Biennale is full of a lot of blah. But the blah made a stunning counterpoint to the magical moments.

One of them was a tender exhibition by Jimmie Durham. Venice: Objects, Work and Tourism at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia. His works were spread throughout the palace in surprising and delightful places, like bumping into a long lost friend on the street.

Artwork by Jimmie Durham

The works were sculptural pieces made from found objects on and in the canals of Venice and each carried a story that wove the past with today, creating an intimate and ultimately tragic story of Venice.

Pieces of porcelain and piping, lace and handmade bricks were tenderly pieced together with a short tale. The amateur lacemaker whose trade was killed by a robot, the underage brick maker who never made it home but whose thumbprint lives on in clay.

Not sentimental but hard, real and breathing life into what was here in Venice. It explores the love-hate relationship that Venice has always had with tourism, throughout the centuries and what is left, what remains. This exhibition cradles the head of a dying Venice, that is slowly being trampled to death.

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