Art / Exhibitions

The Language of Art

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Review of 'Dreams and Conflicts, the Dictatorship of the Viewer', Venice Biennale

The 50th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale is an immense event which runs until the beginning of November. It consists of the work of hundreds of artists in exhibitions spread over 64 national pavilions, themed shows in the Arsenale and Museo Correr, and numerous additional exhibitions and events at venues around the city. Established in 1895, one of the original ambitions of the Biennale was to promote a 'universal language of art'.

Meme Me Up Scotty

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Review of Adbusters

'The commodity is, first of all, an external object, a thing which through its qualities satisfies human needs of whatever kind. The nature of their needs, whether they arise from the stomach, or the imagination, makes no difference. Nor does it matter here how the thing satisfies man's need, whether directly as a means of subsistence, ie an object of consumption, or indirectly as a means of production.'

All Style and No Substance

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Review of 'Art Deco' exhibition, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Art Deco embraced the modern world. The exhibition blurb tells us that Art Deco 'reflects the plurality of the contemporary world, unlike its functionalist sibling Modernism, it responded to the human need for pleasure and escape'. So not unreasonable then to expect fun, excitement, excess and speed. It is billed as something of a blockbuster show, and it costs £8 to get in.

Picture the Suffering and Struggle

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Review of 'Exodus: an exhibition of Sebastiao Salgado's photographs', Barbican Gallery, London

A man sleeps under a dirty blanket beside a vast rippling expanse of water. A woman, perhaps his wife, waits, her arms wrapped around her sari. In the distance a modern city stretches across the horizon. A bird, blurred and flapping, swoops down behind the pair.

The photograph, one of the many striking images in Sebastiao Salgado's new exhibition, depicts poor migrants on Marina Drive, overlooking Bombay, waiting for food handouts. It epitomises one of the major themes in the Brazilian-born photographer's work--the cycle of displacement and migration in the developing world.

Blood Sacrifice

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Review of exhibition 'Aztecs', Royal Academy, London

The Aztecs exhibition will stun and perplex many people who see it. There are displays of magnificent sculptures from pre-Hispanic Mexico. There is a beautiful filmed reconstruction of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, one of the biggest and most magnificent cities in the world before the Spanish conquistadors tore it down to build Mexico City. But there are also written descriptions of how many of the sculptures and buildings were used for gruesome religious rites.

In Defiance

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Review of exhibition 'Anthem for Doomed Youth', Imperial War Museum, London

I am making this statement as a wilful defiance of military authority... I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.' Siegfried Sassoon's rejection of the First World War is one of many moving tributes to soldier poets killed in that conflict in the Imperial War Museum's 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' exhibition.

Days to Remember

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Review of 'Crisis', exhibition by Jess Hurd and Alke Schmidt, Vaults @ The Foundry, Shoreditch, London and of 'You are G8, We are 6 Billion' by Jonathan Neale, Vision £10

'Crisis' is an exhibition on the political upheavals of globalisation and the struggle against war, violence and injustice. Centred around key events such as the protests at the G8 summit in Genoa last year, the recent war in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and the rise of the anti-war movement, the exhibition features the images of Alke Schmidt and the photographs of Jess Hurd.

A Shard Experience

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Review of the Imperial War Museum North, Trafford Wharf Road, Manchester. Opens 5 July.

The impact of war on the lives of ordinary people throughout the 20th and 21st centuries is the theme of this new site of the Imperial War Museum, which opens in Manchester at the beginning of July. Set on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal, the spectacular new building is meant to signify the concept of a world shattered by conflict, a fragmented globe reassembled in three interlocking shards. These shards represent conflict on land, air and water. Visitors enter through the Air Shard, which is open to the elements.

Mouthwatering Perspectives

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Review of exhibition 'Matisse Picasso' at Tate Modern, London

This exhibition has been acclaimed as 'momentous' and 'tremendous' and 'the first major exhibition of the 21st century'. For once, it is an event that lives up to the hype. The masterpieces are worth the pricey £10 entrance fee by themselves. But seeing Matisse and Picasso's works placed next to each other, seeing how they learnt from and fed off each other across the decades, is a revelation.

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