Dysfunctional, an exhibition by the Carpenters Workshop Gallery in partnership with Lombard Odier, at the Venice Biennale 2019, lies at the intersection of art, design and architecture. Exhibiting over 50 works by 23 international artists, the works on display delve into the question of form versus function in a world where technological advancement is increasingly changing the landscape of art and design. Exhibited in the ‘ca’d’oro’, which houses artworks from the Baroque and Renaissance age, the contemporary works while in direct contrast to the architectural richness of the original space, create a sense of wonder and shock at times, stimulating a dialogue that raises pertinent concerns about history, technology, art, ecology and, most importantly, sustainability. In that sense, the exhibition disrupts the line of vision of the viewer from the conditioned sensibilities, making him or her question – what is art? What is art becoming? Can design be art? Can art not be functional? The juxtaposition between the historical and the modern, as presented in Dysfunctional, then blurs the categorisations between art and design.
About the exhibition, Julien Lombrail and Loic Le Gaillard, co-founders of Carpenters Workshop Gallery, commented: “We decided to stage Dysfunctional during the world’s most important art exhibition, the Venice Art Biennale, to question what defines an artwork, why can artworks not be functional and when does design become art? The idea of dysfunction, defined as ‘the disruption of normal social relations’, invites visitors to rethink the conventional relationship between form and function, art and design, the historical and the modern. In partnership with Lombard Odier, with whom we share the same vision, we want to invite visitors to go on an immersive journey in time and explore the blurred lines between art and design in the context of the rich Venetian heritage.”
The display within the culturally and historically infused Venetian setting presents a challenge of sorts to the artist. And yet, the participating artists have created works that inevitably draw the viewer in albeit the already rich architectural setting.
Verhoeven Twins’s delicate iridescent bubbles in the work Moments of Happiness are not just symbolic of water bubbles, an ode to the city of Venice, but transport the viewer into a realm of fantasy as these forms reflect light across the room, creating an aura of luminescence, perhaps one that hints at a time pre-Anthropocene. Studio Drift’s work Fragile Futures III includes a chandelier made of real dandelion seeds attached to LEDs. Through the intersection of technology and nature, the artists behind the work question the future of our planet and whether technology itself might be the answer to achieve sustainability. Artist Maarten Bas’ work Real Time is a self-portrait referencing Leonardo da Vinci’s famous work Vitruvian Man made around 1490. Through the work, Bas raises questions about the passing of time and the journey from where we were to where we might be headed.
The future is a consistent thread that runs through all the works, reflecting the most important concern of our times. Displayed in a city whose mention brings to mind the image of water, many of the works subtlety seek to bring attention to the uncertain future of this natural resource. Perhaps, then the dysfunctionality isn’t merely about the art, but rather what it reflects about our own behaviours.
The exhibition is on display until November 24, 2019 as part of the Venice Biennale 2019.