TBA21 in Venice with Armin Linke

TBA21, Thyssen Bornemisza 21st Century Art (the Francesca von Habsburg’s foundation) lands in Venice in April 2019 a few weeks before the opening of the next Venice Art Biennale. It does land here by knotting an exclusive liaison with a water city threatened more than others by oceans rising. And by positioning its action beyond (at some excerpts even out) the merely artistic circuit of art foundations and the economics of exhibition spaces which overwhelms (with more than a reason) Venice.


TBA21 does so also restoring a space many others longed for before the Wien based art think-tank, a few tried to acquire and none succeeded.


It is the majestic church of San Lorenzo which has been longly neglected and is located in the most marvelous, and still a bit authentic, city sestiere of Castello. At the moment, in change of the restoration financing, the Council concedes the church for nine years then we’ll have to see (even if the director Markus Reymann refers that the relation with local authorities is in very good health)


Until September 30 it is possible to visit, know and appreciate a part of the art promotion the Foundation already used us elsewhere (and in Venice itself). This part is the preface of the core of the actions the Venetian branch will deploy, the Ocean ones as we’ll tell you in a minute long reading.


Armin Linke – one of the most peculiar Italian artists who abandoned long ago the use of photography in architectural, aesthetically and descriptive sense to embrace an uncommon register placing him in the vague of the explorer/fellow/activist – already exhibited in Venice and quite often for the Architecture Biennales (the next starts in few hours at the time we write and will end on November 24) projects and researches whose object was always the liability of the borders and the keen friability of the legal postulates on this regard.


After a long interval of international research financed by TBA21 Academy, Linke presents Prospecting Ocean, which is either an installation and a show-reportage deployed all over the ten rooms of the modern building beside the Old Canonica palazzo, few steps out the Giardini of Biennale and owned by CNR-Ismar, a scientific centre about ocean and sea research also promoting the show.


Prospecting Oceans is really a pretty unique show where the level of engagement and of study by the audiences is gradual and where this is allowed by the set and exhibit design facilitating different permanences and consecutive visits.


For sure the show setting is not neutral to the hardship of the subjects of the show: the actual law system on oceans is linked to two very different treaties, one dating back XVIII° century stating about free sea (Mare Liberum) and one which is almost dating back our days (1982) establishing the rights of ‘exploitation’ of seabeds beyond the various economical areas where a certain authority of the coastal states is exercised.

This said, the most recent body of laws also establishes that those states or entities able to exploit seabeds because more acknowledged or able to pay the crazily expensive researches on that area of the planet, have to compensate the other unable ones because able to exploit the ‘free sea’ – which is ironical because as Linke said this is the sole ‘common good’ left to us.


Linke’s show is aimed to divulgate on a general level but, as much as the audience learns and get educated about a very poor in democracy law system invented with International bodies as UN and slavishly subtracted by public debate for its complexity, to also excite the consciences of those citizens, scientists or other shareholders who would like to engage right now or tomorrow.


How many themes we derive from the debate Linke encloses for us in the show? The oceans rising, the biotic piracy often lead by big pharma to handle the secrets of ocean beds, the island struggling to defend their exclusive zones with the above rising and many more including the secret conspiracy among intelligence agencies and the state of art of the ruling UN body ISA (International Seabed Authority, at which TBA21 Academy enrolled as observer) after the treaty Unclos has been put on place.


Arts, documentation, the representation of phenomena and of pressures also thank to the multidisciplinary contribution of geographers, architects, scientists can be, we believe, the watchdog of the future especially when and where traditional media are slave of the mere logic of beat-click which demands to banalize the level of the treated and opinionated contents.


This, we assume, is what also TBA21 believes first when they backed and then when they produced the research project in form of a show which is the prelude of their presence in Venice from 2019: they took the decision to do not ask to pay an entrance ticket in order to enlarge the audience, Reymann referred.


The show is organized in 10 rooms where not only spectacular seabeds images can be found (they come from public German archives) but also countless reports and artifacts, books, maps and interviews to key person able to explain the phenomena from many view points: the ambient, the law, the activism (on this side there are various examples from Fiji to Papua New Guinea). A reading room complements the show: no books are placed here, but just a very organized timetable of running interviews which screen a four hours footage that can be watched with calm in case of repeated visits thanks to the easy tracing of contents on a timetable. By waiting the CNR-Ismar archive on sea researches will be transferred in the same compound but in the old part of Canonica.


Prospecting Ocean is the teaser of Ocean Space, the new TBA21 Venetian branch at San Lorenzo which will serve exactly as ‘creative supercollider’ among all the projects on oceans they have around the world beside the shows, the publications and the production of artworks.

They deal with quite complex activities and a very neophyte of contemporary art would think they’re not into the action perimeter of an art foundation (which nevertheless used us in Venice to very incredible projects as Your Black Horizon and Green Light on which we’d already enthusiastically reported).

These activities are often realized not only by visual artists but also by scientists, fellows and also indigenous residents as happens in all the case threatened lands are involved (Toga, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand).

The 9 years (for the moment) Venice projects includes also Current a 3-years block of projects curated by artists (actually Superflex) and curators (actually Chus Martinez) but also international conferences with UN members or Tidalectics (a TBA21 Academy show including 20 artists working between creation and science and have been had bursary fellows with the Foundation as our favourite Julian Charrière we introduced you recently) and many other works we saw around the world being produced by them. Our very favorite has been John Akomfrah’s Purple we’ve reported about from Frieze 2017 when it has been successfully premiered at Barbican Centre.

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