Jane Morris: Pawel Althamer and Anatoly Osmolovsky: our editor's take

Thanks to his installation Venetians, 2013, in Massimiliano Gioni's Encyclopaedic Palace show in the Arsenale, Pawel Althamer has become one of the talking points of this year's Biennale. Another side of the 46-year-old Polish artist's work is on show in a collateral exhibition at the Casa dei Tre Oci, on Giudecca, paired with the work of the Russian artist, Anatoly Osmolovsky. Organised by up-and-coming curator-about-town Nicholas Cullinan (fresh from his move from the Tate to the Met) this is an independent project for the V-A-C foundation, which is backed by the Russian billionaire Leonid Mikhelson. It aims to show the dialogue between two artists who witnessed the transition from communism to a wildly out-of-control capitalism in the 1990s.

Pawel Althamer, detail from Venetians, 2013, in "The Encyclopaedic Palace"

Althamer's work in the Arsenale is a contorted group of unraveling grey figures. "Parallel Convergences" on Giudecca principally focuses on Althamer's video pieces—rather intimate works showing the artist interacting with collaborators (collaboration and teaching form a big part of his work) in different psychological states: on LSD, on Magic Mushrooms, under hypnosis and injected with "truth serum". The effects are documented in ways that range from the comical and creative, to the distinctly uncomfortable.

Paweł Althamer with Artur Żmijewski, So‐Called Waves and Other Phenomena of the Mind, 2003–2004

If Althamer's work is about inner exploration versus social norms, Osmolovsky's work—or at least some of it—is much angrier and political as might be expected of a leading figure in Moscow actionism (as a result, his presence at Mikhleson's ultra-glitzy dinner, among the diamonds and the Louboutins, seemed a tad incongruous). One particularly discomforting piece, Seven Deaths in Moscow, 2003, consists of a group of televisions on the floor. These show jerky, hand held street scenes accompanied by menacing sound tracks that purport all too convincingly to be the noises of assaults, rape and murder taking place. But like Althamer, there is more to Osmolovsky than is first apparent. An altogether more controlled, abstracted and formal set of sculptures, with a surprisingly visceral, disturbing quality despite their almost decorative polished surfaces are among the best things in the show.

Worth a trip

Jane Morris is the editor of The Art Newspaper

Published Mon, 03 Jun 2013 14:38:00 GMT

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