By Visual Arts team

11 December 2019 - 18:32


Keely Hohmann

Whilst wondering the city, I found that Venice is at a much different pace to Bristol. In Venice, you must run fast, past slow confused competitors through a maze of buildings, with crumbling sacrificial layers canting in gently. As Google Maps directs you to wind down tight avenues and ultimately fails when reaching the ‘Campo’ square you have reached, you’re told to jump to your destination. Take a leap of faith in Venice. Time is less important here – 6 minutes equals 18 minuti. Slow down, you’re in no rush. Once you’ve embraced that time difference, Venice rewards you. You’re standing on the edge of the billow. It exists to remind you of your insignificance and to teach you to feel alive. Ready to swallow you whole as you echo your body movements to the ebbing of the water, and exhale with the rhythm of the yellow boat platform. 

Cathy Wilkes’ work echoes that same pace within the Biennale setting. Within the British pavilion, in preparation for this Biennale, Wilkes had taken out all the artificial lighting, lightened the floor and only allows in 15 people in at one time. Although you wonder the Biennale for the consumption of art, Wilkes makes people slow down. The responses that came from these decisions and the environment really caught my attention.

Wilkes’ use of ambiguity within her work and literature stirred my attention towards the way a text and narrative have been used amongst the exhibitions. Wilkes has always played with and embraced the idea of ambiguity and allowing people to come to their own conclusions. The lack of literature (or people’s misinterpretation of the poetic literature given) made for the conversations I was having with people, ever more interesting. People would ask for a different key from the invigilators. Over the month, you realise not to give too much away, people don’t need your personal interpretation (even though that’s what they’re asking for). 

Giving them the practical hints of the environment Wilkes has created allows people to understand the different pace that the pavilion has provided compared to the intense visual stimuli found elsewhere in the Biennale. Other artists have used narrative as a concrete way of laying out the meaning to viewers. In Russia’s pavilion, you have 5 pieces of texts embedded within the exhibition. They are explaining the themes, displaying conversations between the artists involved and their response to the final production. This is the extreme opposite to the way narrative is used within the British pavilion this year. 

All the events that I went to within Venice were filled with opportunities to confirm my artistic practice. Whether that was with other fellows, research symposiums or art events within the city. I was thrust into a vast network of people, who were all very interested in my position at the biennale and the complimenting research project. I found over the month, I was becoming more comfortable verbalising my practice and my areas of interest. Having just graduated, this fellowship came at a crucial point for me, as if I hadn’t had this, I would have spent the next year still slightly unconfident about where my practice lies. 

Over the coming month, I’ll be plugging these ideas into creative and critical writings of the works and my time in Venice. Works I’ll look to explore with involve Laure Prouvost’s Deep See Blue Surrounding You (French Pavilion), an artist who has always used sensually explicit narratives; Motoyuki Shitamichi, Taro Yasuno, Toshiaki Ishikura, and Fuminori Nosaku’s ‘Cosmo Eggs’(Japanese Pavilion), exploring narrative through mythology and music; and of course Cathy Wilkes (British Pavilion).


Keely Hohmann is an artist based in Bristol and a recent graduate from Art and Visual Culture at the University of the West of England. Creatively and critically focused on exploring female narratives within literature, through Art Writing and Performance.


Instagram: @keelyhohmann

Twitter: @hohmann_keely