It is so exciting to arrive in this Laguna.
To jump on a boat, to feel the sea breeze, to be welcomed by these rather sexy Italian men: a mix of Bond and Marcello. How delightful to bend and get inside that speedboat, to try to walk gracefully to the end of it so you can enjoy the bottom deck and have your hair in the wind. You suddenly feel like a diva in Roman Holidays. Where is Fellini?
You have arrived in a fantasy and on top of it for an art fair - a special one where contemporary art is bringing you the best or the worst but the art all want to see and be confronted with.
That is Venice. And you are a part of it.
Everybody feels a part of this play. The visitors, the museum crowd, the curators, the collectors, the art specialists and ironically at the end of the list, the artists!
The Venetian people look at it from a distance. They enjoy Venice being a popular place in the world but do not enjoy the disturbance of that frenzy. Venice is a secret place, it is above all an unsaid clan of people who know the place well inside out, the real good restaurants, the amazing palazzos, the art collections, the old families, the history...
Venice will not unveil its well kept secrets to the Biennale visitors. I love this sense of sacredness these old cities still carry in their inhabitants.
Here I am in the hotel Danieli, the famous and gorgeous Venetian hotel comprising many old palazzos, facing the Canal and Piazza San Marco. I had to book a year ago to secure a room! There is a long line of the most influential people in the art world, all queuing quietly, waiting their turn for their key - it is quite surreal - in Venice during the Biennale, everyone, however powerful they are, has to wait their turn in the queue.
Once there, I was able to get to the Giardini. The temple of the Venice Biennale. Walking along the canal, side by side with global VIPs and tourists, we made our way to this delicious park situated at the end of the island. It's quite a walk but this is one place you don't wear sneakers. Looking at all the glamorous people surrounding me, I thanked God that I forgot my sensitive feet for the day, and went for chic over cool and comfortable.
But as I walk into the Pavilions, I forget all my troubles, all the hassles getting to Venice, all the constant queues (and my footwear); I am transported into the magic of the Art. All the pavilions are offering something to discover, to receive, to learn from. And that makes me humble and so happy. That is why I came. I rejoice! The Biennale is a generous moment of life. You are experiencing the work of hundreds of artists, curators, art directors and institutions. They have each tried to bring what they think is the best, most appropriate art to represent their country today.
We are humbled but we are severe critics too! Isn't it the human habit to approach art as a defining subject? We always need to have an opinion, to react with this linear thinking. I may like it, or I may hate it. I try to embrace it.
Suddenly I am taken by an art overload. As I discover the first pavilion of Spain with an artist whose work is all about destruction or maybe reconstruction, who knows really, I just want to see them all. You are busy in one place, then you hear everybody talking about another fantastic pavilion they have just seen and you cannot miss it! You crave more and more. Oh my God how can I do that? See everything? Run through the alleys? Don't look at those familiar faces or they will catch me for a conversation. I just want to see it all and I am enjoying it. Ai Weiwei is there and I want to see his work in the German Pavilion, but no, there is already a long line, a repeated curse in this Biennale. Here in Venice it is not the price of the art that makes it successful but the length of the line.
And the winner is France! I am so proud. I thought France was depressed, I thought French art was not so en vogue lately. But no, I am transported. I am in awe of this piece of art from Anri Sala, Ravel Ravel Unravel deconstructing a piece of music from Ravel. Yes, you're right, Anri Sala is not French but Albanian. That is another thing in Venice, a country can choose a foreign artist to represent them. The video offers an amazing acoustic experience. You sit, watch and listen. My entire Biennale will be a success, no matter what I see afterwards, as the experience of that French piece is ecstatic. Mes felicitations France. They chose a foreign artist that really made them shine at the altar of sacred art.
Jumping to the British pavilion. The difference is harsh. Me who now lives here and has become a true Londoner, questions myself... Where is the strength and the edginess of the contemporary UK art? "Lovely" is not the key word for a biennale. The Russian pavilion was talking about new money. Was it about the vanity of new money or was it simply vanity for vanity's sake? Where is the tormented Russian art that shook the art world? Kulik where are you? I must say that the US pavilion chose a fantastic artist Sarah Sze with her extraordinary installations. But here is the example of an exhibition that kills the beauty or the force of its art. They just gave us too much of it. Her installations were piled one after the other. The Belgian pavilion next - a strong artist, Berlinde de Bruyckere offered a very confident installation. You could not come out of it except feeling different, marked by the pain of life. The Italian pavilion, now that was a "grand moment" of art. Thank you Mr Massimiliano Gioni (curator of the Biennale).
I will disappoint you, but my favorite piece was a wall of Anonymous Tantric Paintings. Then the successful installation of Eva Kotatkova called Re-Education Machine was like a deep session in Jungian psycho-self-analysis. On this table objects and texts were disposed, you could spend many days trying to reflect on your life, your conscious and unconscious. Impossible, but yes I got it. This artist is great.
And so so much more...
I spent three days running from one exhibition to the other, from one lunch to another dinner, fighting the fatigue, both of my eyes and my brain, and my poor feet.
I ate delicious Italian food, I saw interesting people and rubbed shoulders with lots of socialites, but I don't actually remember my hours of sleep.
I do remember my breakfast in front of the Canale, fighting for a table between a Maharaja followed by a huge cameraman and some French curators who were already avidly commenting on the Biennale and its artists.
I remember the eyes of the Venetians looking at all these mad people fighting for a single table.
I remember walking through the magic that is held within the streets of Venice.
I can't remember it all now. I am still pondering on all the art I saw, the art that I could not understand right away.
I felt like I participated in a great moment of art.
I will always remember the moment when I sat down in the French pavilion music-video room...
Karen Ruimy's Venice Biennale Diary will conclude next week...
Karen Ruimy is co-founder of the GREAT initiative (Gender Rights & Equality Action Trust) www.thegreatinitiative.com. Her new album Come With Me is available for download from iTuneshttp://bit.ly/145noRw. Karen blogs on art, philanthropy and spirituality atwww.karenruimy.com