The Whitney Biennial: Art Overdose

Just what is the point of the modern artist? Such an individual has to compete with a multitude of media, from the Internet to film and appear relevant to our lives. All while using a medium, the art gallery, that seems often to be as much fun as a church.

The Whitney’s Biennial attempts to shake us into viewing things in new ways be it through an animatronic boy or the use of an old magnetic liquid called Ferro fluid invented in the late sixties.

They try live video from Charles Atlas, test patterns courtesy of Lucy Raven and underground films from the late George Kuchar.

They even have an artist, Dawn Kasper, who makes part of the gallery her studio and produces work while we watch.

'This could be something if I let it', Dawn Kasper

And even though it all promotes thought and is obviously trying hard, none of it quite makes it for me.

This is partly because of the sheer scope of what we are trying to take in. Biennials by their very nature tend to be a loosely themed mish-mash of everything. They require us to think about documentary photography one minute and sculpture the next.

Trying to review each individual work is impossible and also a little unfair, as there’s no way we can really get to grips with even a small portion of the work.

Of everything I saw I was most intrigued by the Giselle Vienne’s animatronic boy, who engages in a creepy unsettling dialogue about evil with a hand puppet. Yet even this, while it provoked reaction and drew a crowd, somehow wasn’t quite there yet. After all we belong to a society brought up on amazing technical innovation and seeing something deliberately low-fi and expecting us to be deeply disturbed by it is a big ask.

I’m glad I went and I’ll go next year but the format of the Biennial makes it rather like a big music festival. Loads of acts but only 1 or 2 you actually want to see.

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