Form long queues for the Chilean pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale – ARTnews.com
Attention-grabbing stunts, such as virtual reality and interactive elements, are a double-edged sword – they can be great fun, but they can also feel like a waste of time if the gamble doesn’t pay off. One such example at this year’s Venice Biennale came in the Chilean pavilion, which boasted queues of over 20 minutes to enter the Arsenale. Some on the ground said the wait wasn’t worth it, though visitors who persevered were able to see a technically complex cinematic installation focused on the Patagonian bogs.
This work, which is part of a pavilion called “Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol”, is the creation of artist Ariel Bustamante, art historian Carla Macchiavello, architect Alfredo Thiermann and the filmmaker Dominga Sotomayor. (Camila Marambio also served as the pavilion’s curator.) Its focus is on the Selk’nam people and their reliance on the natural environment of Tierra del Fuego, which currently faces the threat of ecological destruction. Members of the Selk’nam people were also involved in its creation; a long list of credits can be found on the pavilion website.
The wait to see this work comes from the fact that you have to see this video installation from beginning to end. Only eight people are allowed at a time, and the job takes about 15 minutes.
Once inside, viewers are walked up a ramp and into a panoramic screen. The screen itself isn’t like a traditional screen you’d find in a theater – it’s as thin as a layer of skin, and viewers are advised not to touch it as it’s made of an undisclosed type of biological material.
As the film begins, viewers are asked to sit on the floor and be quiet – not that it’s easy to talk over the work’s loud soundtrack, the hum and rumble of which can be physically felt. An assistant described this aspect of the pavilion to me as a sound bath.
The film itself is somewhat difficult to describe as much of its imagery borders on abstraction. Initially, the camera flies over what appears to be a bog. Then the camera sinks slowly into the peat and gradually sinks into the earth. Sonically, the installation becomes more and more intense the more it does – the effect simulates a primordial state in which visitors are seemingly brought into a close relationship with nature.
Then there is a period of silence, and the camera goes back up. Once above the ground, there is darkness. Spectral forms emerge from this void, running in circles and singing as they do. After the film is over, viewers are allowed to exit through the path they entered and invited to touch the fields of moss transported to the pavilion along the way.
So far, the Chile pavilion has proved divisive, with some enthralled by the immersive elements and others disappointed after waiting so long to enter. But the long lines are part of the Venice Biennale experience, and are usually eye-opening. really interested. Could Chile’s gamble be rewarded with a prize? That seems unlikely, although the buzz is certainly mounting.