‘Venetians’ (2013) – Pawel Althamer

A piece I saw at The Bienalle, one that deeply resonated within me, was this. My friend Joel walked into the other room as I watched the videos in the room prior, and when he came out. His face was in awe, his eyes wide in happiness. He asked me; ‘have you been next door yet?’ I walked in, and was taken aback immediately.

The room was filled with, at a guess, 50 of these statues of his venetian collaborators. Their faces cast from those of his collaborators, and their bodies a tangle of plastic and metal. It was beautiful and empty, the pieces ‘exist’; rather than dancing, playing or breathing. They are just hollow beings, in a way, and it enforces the idea that our bodies are actually just hosts for our souls. What is the actual person? the body, or the person behind that guise?

This leads into many different arguments and points, but the main part of it is the comment on how we define what a person is. The face, the most poignant and relateable piece of the human body, is nothing more than a thin piece of plastic here, but looks so realistic that it begs for us to talk to it, to reach out and touch it, even though it will be hard and cold. It’s a piece that I still struggle to understand completely, as my brain could not comprehend the juxtaposition of the hyper-realistic facial region and the torn and empty body.

I will upload an image of my favourite of the ‘venetians’ following this, who I kept coming back to each time I walked around the room,

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