Here’s the scene in front of the U.S. pavilion at the Venice Biennale: A sand-colored Army
tank is flipped upside down with its turret on the ground. On top of its elevated undercarriage
is a treadmill with an athlete dressed in red, white and blue and running in place, his action
seeming to power the tank treads that roll with an ear-splitting clatter.
The contraption — conceived by the artist couple Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla — constitutes an unsubtle critique of American values. The theme continues inside the pavilion where an ATM rigged with a pipe organ plays heavenly chords when visitors withdraw euros, and gymnasts perform muscular routines on painted-wooden replicas of business-class airline seats.
Maxwell Anderson, director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which commissioned the works, told me the exhibit is “an unabashed celebration of American commercial power around the world . . . richly dipped in irony.”
I have more to say about America's entry and the rest of the world's most comprehensive survey of international contemporary art (on view through late fall). Read my review in The Washington Post by clicking here or on the image above, showing the Allora & Calzadilla installation outside the U.S. Pavilion. To continue reading this article...
Sign up here for free Jason Kaufman IN VIEW culture bulletins.