With my departure to Venice imminent, I’m trying to decide what I’m looking forward to the most. Memories of previous visits have flooded back and I’m excited to be reconnecting with the city. As a British art student, my first experience in 1989 fell a little flat. It was mid-winter, just at the close of the annual festival Carnevale, and Venice greeted me with biting cold, wet confetti-stained streets and cafes full of tired Venetians wearing dishevelled 18th Century wigs.
My second visit in 2003, (New Zealand’s artist was Michael Stevenson with This is Trekka) came courtesy of the Whitechapel Galleries’ enlightened staff travel policy, and was a roller coaster ride of art-fuelled emotion: my first experience of the overwhelming cultural avalanche that typifies the Venice Biennale.
Reflecting on curatorial practice and the context a gallery space can evoke, the Tate’s Sir Nicholas Serota once wrote: “Our aim must be to generate a condition in which visitors can experience a sense of discovery in looking at particular paintings, sculptures or installations in a particular room at a particular moment”. The unique context provided by Venice and the intriguing architecture of its exhibition venues shape the experience of viewing work at the Biennale.