At the 55th Venetian Biennale of Contemporary Art, I was completely transfixed by one particular installation, that of Pawel Althamer. This polish artist cast the faces and hands of ninety Venetians and attached them to life-sized body frames composed of metal, blobs of goop, and sagging strips of muscle-like fibres. Althamer collaborated with his father’s plastics manufacturing company, Almech, and set each figure in a dark, grey plastic, which allowed for a diverse manipulation of media and expression.
Entering Althamer's exhibition is like walking into a room and interrupting a fascinating conversation - you want to know what went on before you were here. I have never witnessed a public more deeply engaged with a body of art; Visitors walked up and around each figure, reached out to feel details, bent down low, leaned in and really tried to listen to each piece. The inhabitants detailed hands and faces are full of raw emotion. When juxtaposed, on ghoulish, devoid bodies, these extremities communicated an intense discomfort, while other contrasting, strong and defiant bases, with arms on hips, faces laughing, attempted to defy not only gravity, but also the perils of life.
Captivated? I thought so! The Biennale's official interview with Althamer is linked below, giving more insights into his intents for the installation: