(artistic research as)

THE EXCESS OF ART (biennial)

(work in progress, updates are coming soon)

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My visit to the Biennial as the researcher may well be perceived as the instance of excess. In general terms, the reasoning behind many of the parallel events that take place in Venice during the Art Biennial, are benefitting from the publicity and the status of the Biennial. The institution of artistic research is not the exception here. The Biennial represents the center of the world of Contemporary art, attracting prominent artists, curators, intellectuals, press reviews, political debates & huge flow of tourists and money. How would it be justified to arrange the Research Pavilion in such an expensive spot? Our research cell: Through Phenomena Themselves, convened by Alex Arteaga was set to study the phenomenology of artistic research practice. "How do one do it?" the question was repeated in the discussions framing the activity of the cell. - Exposing the practice instead of showing art works is indeed something that the context of the Art Biennial has not encouraged, and therefore such a study in the context of the RP seemed welcoming, yet the Biennial itself was a strange site to study the practice (for the most of us, practice is not happening in such a central place in Arts anyway).


My participation in the research cell was motivated by the access to study the Venice Biennale as the case study for the power structures of contemporary art. Venice can be seen as one of the centers of the Contemporary world. As such it serves as the point of reference in the positioning my site-specific artistic research practises. I was also motivated by the will to get acquainted with the artistic research community as well as with the contexts it works in. 


To support my research project, The University of the Arts Helsinki granted me the pass to the "Preview" days of the Venice Biennale. During those "pre-opening" days (8th of May until the 10th of May in 2019), that are held before the official opening of the Art Biennial, politicians, curators, press, representatives of the sponsors, and other members of the culture elite are granted the exclusive access to the show. Many of the national Pavilions of Giardini do their opening parties during the "preview days", holding the artist talks & performances.  During the "preview days" I interviewed workers in various positions of the Biennial. The most powerful were often in the biggest rush. I approached several artists & curators of various national Pavilions with a letter. The anonymous discussions in this exposition are based on the interviews (--->This exposition extends to the left -> ). 

I also experimented with the practice called "Humanoid excercise". It transforms the subjective perception of the visitor into that of the “Humanoid”.  Would the role of a humanoid work as the fitting model for a researcher, when studying the phenomenon called: "art world"? Could the “alienated” point-of-view disclose the operation of the excess? 

THE EXCESS OF ART  is my study on various things that stick into lean on, lurk into, contaminate, parasite or support art in the context of the Art Biennial in Venice 2019. The attempt here is to identify the phenomenon of excess in it's various modes of appearance, in order to forge a conceptual tool for artistic research.


The excess can be manifested in various forms, such as material, social, spatial, structural, discursive etc. There is a void between intention(s) and the said. Something leaks out of the void, and that is not only the shadow of the artist's intention. According to Jacques Rancière the political order partitions the sensible into “what is visible and what not, what can be heard and what cannot”, dividing the world and people (Ranciere, 2010). The partitioning of the sensible obscures the order, that is thereby manifested in asymmetrical ways from the various positions, that one perceives it. Rancière calls this partitioning: "police". There is no need to mention that police operates in the context of the Art Biennial. In this context, concept of excess suggests that the intentions behind the order(s) are confused, forming a complex constellation, that leaves many of it's tracking points invisible. Yet there exists forces that maintain the territorialization of the Art Biennial.

Research Pavilion may well be seen as the parasite of the Art Biennial. It does not belong to the official program of the Art Biennial, yet it has been represented in the context of the Biennial at least by FRAME (The national promotion center for contemporary art in Finland). This study is part of the research cell: Through Phenomena Themselves that has been realized as part of the Research Pavilion that has taken place in Giudecca island in Venice, 2019. The study is in progress and these texts here are unfinished. In the sideline of this study, I am wondering (at the moment) how the positioning of the Research Pavilion is justified, when there is no direct discourse taking place between the two institutions. 


Waldenfels in: Fred Evans & Leonard Lawlor (eds.) (2000):Chiasms: Merleau-Ponty's Notion of Flesh. Suny Press.

Rancière, Jacques (2010): Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. Edited & translated by by Steven Corcodan. Continuum: New York, London.


Here I am writing about some insights on the research project. Note, however, that this project is currently unfinished, also here.

Could it be possible to expose the order behind the "distribution of the sensible" by focusing on the excess, or by taking the viewpoint of the excess towards the sensible of the Biennial space? The Humanoid exercise was one of the methods that I used, to change the perspective of the one visiting the Art Biennial, in order to transilluminate the conditions through which the Art is distributed in the context of the Venice Biennale. Through the few experiments with the humanoid exercise, it became apparent, that the constituting conditions for the sensible, would not become visible, without the intentional research work, of interviews etc. The alienating effect of the exercise produced both hypercritical or overly receptive perceptions. In the hypercritical mode it made things "too simple" (Katarina's notions) and "uninteresting". On the other hand, it could produce a radically accepting mode of experience, in which anything (furniture etc.) could be wonderful and miraculous (Ralo's notions). Either way, the Humanoid exercise disrupted the social interaction, that constitutes the Biennale as institution. I used the Humanoid exercise, as the mode of seeing, while photographing. The backside of the screen in the Nordic Pavilion was as visible as the front side of it. Venezuelan Pavilion was not invisible, or without a sensible, even thought there were no Art show in it. The speech by the Minister of Culture in the opening of the Nordic Paviion was part of the performance as much as the art works themselves.

The Art Biennial would not hide any of these things, like the use of the low-paid migrant workers. The overflow of tourists destroying the city would only be the matter of logistics. The concept of the excess is problematic, when used to study the distribution of the sensible, since the excess may only be recognized in the definition of its subject. It becomes visible only in a certain discource, that preceeds the perception. The challenge with the concept of the excess is, that one cannot recognize the intent separate from the said. This belongs to the logic of the paradox, that Waldenfels argues about. A mode of excess, that is apparent in the Biennial is, that there are lots of intentions, motivated from the elsewhere. When artists were presenting their works in the Pavilions, that happened during the "preview days" when the place was not open for the public. However, the media, art market and the curators would be there, and their presence would benefit the artists more than the publicity.

Why Research Pavilion was set into the context of the Biennial, is yet to be studied further. There might well be some reasoning, that makes it beneficial to be in Venice, even though it becomes expensive and makes the physical conditions for the research (traveling with Vaporettos, logistics of the materials etc. quite challenging). Since many of the research projects, that happened in the Pavilion, were not directly motivated by their placement in Venice, or they would not comment the space of the research, was it then the other way around, did Venice enable the research?


It seems, that the uncertainty is not just the condition of the artist and the curator entering the Biennale, but also that of the research happening in Venice. Many of us collaborating in the Reseach Cell got to know one another face to face, first time in Venice. The conditions for the research and life during the research, were shaped only a few months before the time of the research. In the temporality of the Research Pavilion, this seems obvious, for the "projective temporality" (Kunst 2015) we artists and researchers know pretty well.

to be continued...

See:Kunst, B. (2015) Artist at work, proximity of art and capitalism. Winchester, UK; Washington, D.C.: Zero Books.