In Dante Veritas Art Show: The Point of Departure to Understand La Biennale, Us and the Current Times by the Russian Artist Klyukin
In Dante Veritas, a solo exhibition by Vasily Klyukin, is a collateral event aligned with the 58th Venice Biennale, hosted by the State Russian Museum and the Municipality of Venice. Located in the Arsenale Nord, directly across from the official Biennale Arsenale and Giardini, Klyukin tackles contemporary issues such as climate change, fake news and corruption in a theatrical representation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, and by renaming The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Overpopulation, Misinformation, Pollution, and “ ExtermiTation” (Klyukin’s word play on the concept of mankind’s destruction of natural resources).
An apocalyptic view aligned with the 58th International Art Exhibition’s title May You Live In Interesting Times, which is a phrase that invokes periods of uncertainty, crisis and turmoil; “interesting times”, exactly as the ones we live in today. But there is still hope shared by Klyukin to resolve those challenges.
The three-stage immersive experience is presented in a labyrinth of mobile sculptures (consisting of a complicated structure of laminated metal sheets that forms the figure), special effects and mixed media works. Put the headphones on, listen to the audio-guide in any of the 12 languages, and prepare yourself for a journey to place your actions and motives in the current society. A pause for reflection, where we confront our weaknesses such as Anger, Gluttony or Waste. As the artist says:
Sins do not love publicity. To defeat an invisible opponent, you need to visualise it.
In Dante Veritas is an invitation to isolate ourselves from the outside while having a promenade in the three stages of the exhibition: Why People Can’t Fly (an important part of which contains plastic trash from more than 150 countries), The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the Hell’s section from The Divine Comedy. At the final room, the Traitor’s Wall, the visitors are encouraged to write the names of people who wronged them, to open the door to forgiveness. No stone left unturned and no space left for fear. One of the highlights of the 2019 Biennale.
Klyukin, a Renaissance man, is an architect, a designer, a writer and a sculptor. He was born in Moscow in 1979 and is currently based in Monaco. In 2017, he participated at the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert with a gigantic red Beating Heart, which beat in synchronisation with the viewer’s own heart.
Klyukin responds to the following questions:
LB: Why the Divine Comedy and why in Venice?
VK: The Divine Comedy is the third and the final part of my exhibition. The work, Why people can’t fly is the cause, the Apocalypse is the consequence and the Inferno is the result. There are many versions of sins, but seven sins are not enough to navigate around your own soul. Dante described sins in their diversity, placing in his circles of hell well-known historical characters and their enemies. His Inferno is for people and their suffering. From Dante’s original list of sins I chose sins, or rather vices, that I considered the most relevant. I portrayed not a man himself (a historical figure) but a sin, mixing it with its own version of punishment.
Now it is a journey to hell, where the figures are very clear and accessible to everyone, even children. This is an exhibition about good and evil, where every sculpture is a Vice that visits you. Sometimes rarely, sometimes every day. Look at the sculpture as you look into a mirror, and perhaps your soul will be reflected there.
If you know the enemy, it is easier to defeat him. Same with my sculptures. A person will leave the exhibition completely different, aware. This is an exhibition for everyone together, but at the same time for each person alone. To walk around, reflect, alone with your thoughts, with the audio guide in verses in 12 languages.
I chose Venice first of all because of the Biennale — it is the longest art event of the year, and it is international. I am not making an exhibition, it is an experience. Even theatrical with sound, lights and three acts, where the actors are sculptures, and you are the only spectator, alone with your thoughts.
LB: The reformulation of “The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse”: Overpopulation, Misinformation, Pollution, and “ExtermiTation” is particularly interesting specially the latter term. Can you expand on that?
VK: The horsemen were originally mentioned in the revelations of John the Theologian in the New Testament. And they do not have the names to which we are accustomed — plague, war, hunger and death. We know their weapon, colour of horses, and the order in which they appear.
The names the horsemen are received later, respectively to their time. But we live in a different world and the horsemen have changed their appearance and their names.
ExtermiTation — a mixture of words “termite” and “extermination”. It is not really consumption, it is rather excessive, often bacchanal extraction of resources: water, land, forests, oil, gas. Everything that can be extracted is removed. The wealth of oil companies is considered not only by the amount of oil that they produce, but also what reserves they have, how much more can they produce.
Pollution is death. That’s what’s gonna kill us. Our children’s children will have nowhere to live. Maybe even our children. This is the main problem. There will be no disease, no corruption, no poverty. None of that will happen if we do not solve this problem. Pollution kills. Not just whales and dolphins, animals and plants. Plastic, mercury and radiation is in the water all over the world.
LB: The viewer is constantly invited to intervene with your sculptures and installations. For example, the “traitor’s hall” where guests are invited to inscribe the initials of those who have wronged them on the walls and sculptures themselves. Are you hoping that by this action a better understanding of “wrong-doings” and forgiveness to the others to be the outcome?
VK: This is the most important room. I keep more than 100 meters of latex covered with greetings, initials, names written by people after the first exhibition. And although this is called the room of the traitor, in fact it is the room of Hope: not only the names of traitors are in there. There are words of forgiveness, vows, poems and drawings. In this room, people make final decisions on how to live. In this room I understood the difference between the sin and the vice. We as vessels are filled with both light and darkness. We are woven of good and evil. The main thing — to try to be as good as possible.
LB: The Venice Biennale is the biggest and more important event in the art calendar with 100s of exhibitions and performances taking place, why do you think members of the public should attend yours?
VK: Because it’s not just an exhibition, it is an experience. It is a journey to the afterlife, where no living person has ever set foot. It is a diagnosis of yourself. And the exhibition will hopefully answer the question, “Where do I go next?” This is not an interrogation, but an inner-conversation. Everyone will see himself/herself, in their own eyes, honestly.
I felt powerful inspirations when I created the exhibition. In less than a year, I created more than 100 works, sculptures, poems, lightboxes and sounds. I felt supported every minute, both from the people around me and from my own inner strength. I know that this is the right place for the exhibition to be.
The finale question now is… Are you ready to change?
8 May to 24 November 2019
Sunday to Thursday: 10:00–18:00
Friday and Saturday: 10:00–20:00
Ticket office closes 30 minutes before the end of the exhibition
Arsenale Nord, Tesa 94, Venice 30100
Vaporetto stop: Celestia-Bacini
Tel. +39 3331301969
Adults: 10 euros
Students with ID — 5 euros
Seniors with ID — 5 euros
(10% discount when bought in advance from the website)