The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2019

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JUL-AUG 2019 Issue

I'm lost at the Biennale Arsenale and I can't find my parents

Installation view: 58th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, May You Live In Interesting Times, with work by Michael Armitage. Photo: Andrea Avezzù.

I’m lost at the Biennale Arsenale and I can’t find my parents
and I’m starting a band called Doug Dimple and the Simple Pimples or maybe The Brazilian Pavilions
and everyone’s waiting for this limp black cord to become electric
and so am I
and here it goes building up to a cacophonous staticky thrashing

next room mom says is derivative and she’s right
all fatalistic and above it all
but at least the visuals are stimulating in a deep web deep machine drone sort of way
but the next room is lackluster full of limp rectangles that only become interesting once you read the
but people next to me miss a beat and ask “so how’ve ya been?”

my phone is dead of hypochondria
then thankfully I can’t take photos
then Michael Armitage’s name sounds like Arbitrage
then his paintings are pretty good pink and orange and journalistic about the Kenyan national election
then tetrapods writhing in hot grass
then I notice that little bits of the canvas are wisping away dreamlike ephemeral
then I read that the canvas is made of Lubugo bark
then I assume Lubugo is a tree native to Venice I mean Kenya
then a tour group engulfs me and I must wake up

with a modernist chair and mirror which lets people fix their hair
with a security guard who’s dressed like any other denizen the only distinguishing factor being his soul
with a nylon jacket emblazoned with a sheriff’s badge with Gruppo Batistolli underneath it

back at an Arbitrage Lubugo except this one looks like a Venezian chapel
a posh English accent walks into frame talking about “South Los Angeles Hip-Hop”
he says it like Arlo Guthrie would have said it if he had a posh accent Los Angel-LEES

for what it’s worth I shouldn’t be so negative there’s a lot to enjoy here
like a dieselpunk motorcycle wiry and inverted arching its back catlike
and passersby mention that “she fell off a scaffolding and broke her ribs and didn’t her partner break his
I also dig the soft cake frosting of Carol Bove it makes me want to cut off a slice and serve it with a glass
of warm milk
although in Ariel she emphasizes the metality by drilling her cake slices to a rusted junkyard get-up

now that ugly sneakers are getting passé the kids are pushing the envelope with ugly hiking boots
and I thought I recognized someone from yesterday but if I had he would have to have broken his leg in
the last 24 hours so I conclude it’s a different man albeit with the same manbun

one of my favorite things in here consists mostly of Arthur Jafa’s pair of wood-paneled speakers
softly emitting a stream of soul replete with string sections and hiked up bass and velvety duet
sounds like Chi-lites era and he pits these speakers against an Epson FineArt print of a scowling diapered
and bibbed babe
and it seems like two massive tires hooked up with some chainage are part of the mix and he calls it all
My Little Buddha

then it’s some concrete rectangles which someone calls “molto Pop”
and which surely are hardened now but feel as if you could fall and squish them if you really wanted to
and next to me a man with ugly hiking boots on remarks that the piece would really be good if it was a big
cake that we could all eat and none of us would get fat

before you can get out there’s a big line to get into a major room projecting computerized analysis
compartmentalizing data blobs into polygons to a tune of beeps and blips
it’s a rare projection room that’s enthralling even without knowing anything about it
unlike Christian Marclay’s number which is interesting only once you learn that it’s 48 war movies
stacked on top of one another
the only issue is that you can’t see what’s going on in any of them

a pair of kids brother and sister pass by me laughing in Italian skipping like only kids can and I wonder
what they think of the whole deal
I bet they didn’t read any of the placards so that makes half of the show pretty unremarkable to them
but there was certainly stuff up their alley like a fountain spewing sauerkraut juice or a knee rolled up to
show a sharpie-annotated scab
I think one of the points of even putting something in this Biennale is being able to catch the attention of
these two olive-skinned bambini or anybody else born after the iPhone
the sauerkraut juice is sour and they wrinkle their noses
then they skip out the door and I get up to follow them
gotta see where they’re going


Oliver Katz

Oliver Katz is an aspiring writer and musician who lives in New York City with his parents, his brother, Isaac, and his pet turtle, Billie.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2019

All Issues