I Hate The British Pavilion

by Paddy Johnson on June 7, 2011 · 5 comments Venice

Inside Mike Nelson's installation for The British Pavilion

Resting on the perch of a hill overlooking the entrance to the Giardini, The British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale commands a lot of attention. It’s a grand location, and with the exception of the La Biennale building probably the best spot in the whole garden. As such, even for those who have never been to the Giardini, it’s probably not hard to imagine the kind of drama that ensues from seeing hordes of people lined out front the pavilion. The angle of the hill makes the crowds look larger than they are, and there’s an element of anticipation that builds as the throng swells.

I understand the allure of theatre, but if there’s a means of thinning the crowds, they need to do it. As I mentioned in my Daily article published earlier today, the country admitted only about 50 people each hour, and the crowd control diminished the art experience in favor of a bit of drama.

“I really have to say I think it's crazy to do such a piece at a Biennale,” Till Fellrath, the Executive Director of Art ReOriented, told me after taking turns waiting in line with his partner Sam Bardouil for close to four hours, “I think you have to concede this traffic flow and if you do a great piece for the Biennale you have to figure out a way that a lot of people can go and see it, and not just 50 people every hour or something. I think it's maybe not the best approach for a biennale.”

As someone who spent the better part of four hours swapping line-holding duties with Fellrath and Bardouil I have to agree. But Bardouil had a more generous take on the matter. “Well, it took the artist three months to build this so we're giving what, one percent of his time — three hours for his three months?”


K.I.A. June 7, 2011 at 8:08 pm

the nightclub strategy?

Marco Polo June 7, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Or an FU to the art world?… Regular citizen visitors were able to get in fairly rapidly in the day following the vernisage.

Amory Blaine June 7, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Can you tell us about what you saw inside? Or is this a new blog about the contemporary waiting scene?

Anonymous June 7, 2011 at 10:47 pm

I talk about what’s inside at The Daily. There’s a link in the post itself, but here it is below as well: 


Here is my flickr set with the images: 


In addition to what I said on The Daily, I don’t think Nelson’s reconstructions of memory are all that interesting particularly since they are so heavily aided by photographs. It really seems like it’s about building. Of course, not everyone’s as good as Nelson at it, but the creativity required for technical proficiency isn’t as difficult as coming with a conceit that does more than rebuild the known world. Past this, there’s a certain fussy-ness to this work I find off putting. The distinct smells to each room add something admittedly, but I’m not sure I needed quite so many hidden rooms filled with dust, dirt, a few scattered tools. It’s overkill.

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