Klara Kemp-Welch: A different take on the Romanian pavilion

This year, the Romanian pavilion is empty and white and occupied by a group of young dancers in jeans moving about and arranging themselves into different shapes and positions. From time to time they call out titles of works, artists, dates, or what seem like random phrases. A young man in a blue hooded top is lying on the floor, occasionally lifting his head to talk passionately about the importance of condoms in the struggle against violence against women. A girl standing beside him delivers a speech about condoms and clean needles not being the solution – arguing that instead a new morality is what we need. Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, another dancer announces the title of a 19th century sculpture, and the group comes together to form a static re-enactment of what we imagine might originally have been a dramatic marble monument. They remain deadpan as they carry out their exaggerated and solemn gestures.

The Romanian performers preparing themselves to replicate another work

Their versatile bodies remind us that, with very little, you can become pretty much anything you like. As they move efficiently about the space, they morph into a bronze sculpture, a wooden baboon or Marina Abramović. They are performing 100 works a day from a repertoire of pieces, in various media, that have been exhibited at the Biennale since it was first founded, in 1895, ranging from works by Nan Goldin to Edvard Munch. Everything takes place with minimum fuss, and we soon begin to see the world choreographically—looking at how a series of parts is configured to produce a dramatic whole through stasis or movement. This is an undoubtedly direct strategy for bringing the exhibition's history alive and it rhymes with the aims of the Bienniale as a whole, in its own pointedly "immaterial" but bodily way. Certainly worth a visit to the far end of the Giardini.

Klara Kemp-Welch is a researcher at the Courtauld Institute, London

Published Mon, 03 Jun 2013 12:42:00 GMT

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