Greek mythology is the inspiration for the Russian Pavilion at this year’s 55th Venice Art Biennale, which is seen in “Danaë”—a provocative installation conceived by conceptual artist Vadim Zakharov and curated by Udo Kittelman, under the supervision of commissioner Stella Kesaeva.
The rooms of the building (designed and built in 1914 and situated in the area of the Giardini) have undergone some structural changes to connect all of the spaces that host the installation, which consists of objects, performance and the continuous involvement of the visitors.
The action is centered on the flow of custom-made golden coins (each one is One Danaë), symbolizing fertility and abundance. Coins fall from the sky, in a room where only women are allowed to enter (protected by a transparent umbrella) and take a handful. The coins are then brought by female visitors to an adjacent room, put into a bracket and hand-lifted to the upper floor through a hole in the ceiling. The man who takes the coins up is in charge of filling a machine that, thanks to a special lift, automatically takes them to top of the pavilion, where they fall again. This process keeps repeating and repeating.
In another room, a man is sitting on a saddle on top of a pillar. While he’s eating peanuts, the only thing he produces is leftovers falling on the ground—trash, not gold. Writing on the wall says: “Gentlemen, time has come to confess out Rudeness, Lust, Narcissism, Demagoguery, Falsehood, Banality and…” In another room the sentence continues: “…and Greed, Cynicism, Robbery, Speculation, Wastefulness, Gluttony, Seduction, Envy and Stupidity.” Only the golden coins carried by the ladies can save: on one side, their true value is unveiled and it consists of “Trust, Unity, Freedom, Love.”
The 55th Venice Biennale is open to the public now until 24 November 2013.
Images by Paolo Ferrarini and Daniel Zakharov