How do you usually see an exhibition? Carefully read the curatorial statement before laying your eyes upon any artwork? Or go straight into the galleries without letting anything interfere with your first impression? Try to make sense of every piece? Or only care about those that grab your attention?
There can be a myriad of answers. I guess it also depends on your mood, how much time you have, who you are with as well as the type of the exhibition.
I have been working as an exhibition intern at The Infinite Nothing for only 2 weeks but I have already witnessed so many interesting ways of experiencing Tsang’s series of four video installations. Here are my favourites up till now.
1. Run around for half an hour, leaving the tired mom resting on the stroller
A family with a kid in a stroller, which is not uncommon, entered the exhibition. Suddenly I heard a piercing scream. Did someone fall down due to the slippery floor? I rushed in, only to see a toddler running wild, cheering and screaming. Even funnier, while the dad still had the energy to play a bit with her, the mom was chilling on the stroller, watching them. I went back in 20 minutes and found the kid still dashing around. No wonder the mom looked so worn out.
2. Make hand shadows with parents and grandparents
This is the story of another family, a big one with children, parents and even grandparents. Just as they were about to exit the last room, they found their shadows on the wall that blocked their way out. So they decided to stop and make hand shadows all together. As asking for their permission to take a picture would have ruined the moment, I asked my colleague to reenact the scene for you;)
3. Take a peek and run away
A women took a peek at the entrance and turned back right away. ‘Oh I don’t like videos!’, she went. Choosing what to see based on the medium might be a practical way to survive the bombardment of art at a biennale with 89 national pavilions and 44 collateral events, I thought to myself. Another common reason for running away is that the exhibition space looks too dark. Especially on a typical Venetian summer day, the contrast between indoor and outdoor is simply too dramatic. However, this is exactly one of the central ideas of the exhibition – to turn day into night by constructing a huge box covering most part of the courtyard.
But wait, don’t run away as yet – perhaps it’s because you forgot you still have your sunglasses on!
(Several poor visitors went straight ahead, missing the entrance on the right side and bumping against the secret door of control room…)
4. Squat in the middle of the room and meditate
I showed a young man the way in and checked several minutes later, only to find him squatting in the middle of the projected river, deep in thoughts.
5. Explore every detail, and bump the head sometimes
Strict conservation rules and a common respect for historic structures in Venice means that altering existing architecture for the sake of exhibition is very difficult and rare. Most exhibition sites have preserved the characteristics of old residential apartments or historic houses, which makes them the opposite of ‘white cubes’. Therefore, knowing where the boundary of artworks lie can be very challenging sometimes.
I have already mentioned that in order to transform the space, the artist and curators of The Infinite Nothing had to take great pains to build a big box in the courtyard. In fact, the exhibition has also incorporated many existing architectural elements, including a narrow tunnel, two windows and three blind arches etc., giving them new symbolic meanings. For instance, in the third room, Tsang blacked out a pair of windows and projected onto it a video of dark, rainy scenes. It thus comes as no surprise when some visitors feel curious about every detail and explore around. But it really scared us when they bumped their head, opened the emergency door, or touched the windows to see if they were real!
6. Draw a pony on the message book
A 11-year-old girl eagerly left a note on our message book after she came out. A pony – I saw her drawing. “This is inspired by the horse image in the exhibition, right?” “No no. It’s a pony. I love ponies!”