Body in Flight (American)
Image: Lucy Hogg
Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla representing the United States are a young Puerto Rican duo. At this morning’s pre-preview of the Biennale (it opens to the public on Saturday) Allora and Calzadilla launched our nation’s contribution by getting two American gymnasts, one male and one female, to do routines in two of the pavilion’s Palladian spaces. Another piece of theirs prepared just for Venice is called “Algorithm,” and consists of a huge, custom-built pipe organ that reaches up into the cathedral ceiling of one of the building’s spaces. It sets up our national pavilion as a national art-church. But there’s more: Set into the far side of the organ, where you might expect to find its keyboard, is a standard automatic teller, ready to deliver money to anyone with a card. Withdraw cash, and the organ lets loose Hunchback-of-Notre-Dame chords, as though J.S. Bach or E. Power Biggs disapproved of your password and credit report. (The artists say that the Palladian pavilion, built in 1930, reminds them of a wealthy regional bank. Sports; art; industry; commerce; church: almost all the lynchpins of American culture are there, inside our single American pavilion – except the military, which instead gets pride of place in front of it. Allora and Calzadilla have taken a huge, real tank, painted Desert-Storm tan, and installed it upside-down in the pavilion’s forecourt, like a helpless beetle flipped on its back. Mounted high up on the tank’s left tread is a standard gym treadmill, its motions electronically linked to the tread on the tank. An athlete climbs up and starts walking, and the tank tread rumbles to life. As the athlete starts to hoof it, the tread moves faster and faster. The curator of the American Pavilion is Lisa Freiman, the curator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.