Metàfora and this year’s Venice Biennale

Jette Bjerg and Carles Ramos in Venice

Visiting Venice is in itself an experience. Even I, who normally desperately flees any kind of typified tourist-tailored journey, must admit that. The city is so mesmerizing that I can only think of returning. Even before leaving.

When I travel, I spend a considerable amount of energy trying to hide from the thousands of tourist-traps which are almost impossible to avoid: tourist food, tourist accommodation, tourist walking routes… These traps will also most often include conventional and over-simplified versions of the history and cultural identity of a place, avoiding the real-life-contaminated versions of the “pure” traditions and narratives, which tourists chew up with delight.

But Venice, in times of the Art Biennale, has so many other directions to send your sore eyes and senses: Any Vaporetto sailing up and down the Canale carries publicity banners of some kind of Contemporary Art exhibition: From Kapoor to Kiefer and beyond. Even if most of these banners are referring to the superstars – and perhaps most digestible versions of – Contemporary Art, they still do that: refer to Contemporary Art.

My heart jumps with delight to see how my world of “37-people-coming-to-an-exhibition is-a-great-success” has been turned upside down. These days in Venice, even tourists who have never approached an art gallery, are thrown into the world of art: Some are easy-to-see exhibitions, others, installations with profound reflections or heavy politicized discourses. 

The Biennale itself is of course for paying customers, and I guess the most conventional tourist will avoid going there. But everywhere you go (or sail) all over the city, there are “Eventi Collaterali”, free for everyone to enter, showing work by internationally acclaimed artists of utmost quality. And I see not only the easy-to-recognize- art-crowd enter the palazzi and sites of the free Eventi Collaterali. Young couples, families with kids are consuming Contemporary art in Venice these days, because it is everywhere. Literally, impossible to avoid.

Lara Fluxà, “LLIM”, 2022
Various dimensions, glass and water.

Photo by Violeta Mayoral

Being from Barcelona, and from Metàfora’s Studio Arts Program, this year’s Biennale is especially thrilling. The Catalan pavilion is represented by Curator Oriol Fontdevila, who has taught many classes at Metàfora over the years.

Oriol is also closely connected with most of the artists working as art tutors at Metàfora and operates at the center of Barcelona’s art world. 

He showcases the work of artist Lara Fluxà in a mesmerizing exhibition called LLIM, where water from the canal is being pumped into a circuit of glass sculptures-containers before returning to the canal, leaving a trace of life in the water so omnipresent in Venice.

Ignasi Aballí “Correction” (2022). Installation view of the Spanish Pavilion.

Photo: Claudio Franzini. Courtesy of the artist and AECID

Another heavy-weight from Barcelona’s artworld, and also very involved with Metàfora’s art students and teachers, is Ignasi Aballí, who represents Spain this year at the central site of the Giardini.

Ignasi, who recently has been external tutor to our 3rd year students, has occupied the Spanish Pavilion in his usual tongue-in-cheek fashion, making small, almost invisible interventions in the architecture of the space. The work, named Corrections, suggests to align the Pavilion with the one of Belgium and the Netherlands, neighbors at the Giardini Biennale site. 

Corrections is one of the two works presented by Aballí this year. The other one is a curious treasure hunt around Venice, where the visitor follows indications given by Aballí on Google Maps. In each of six different sites, you must ask (specifically) for the Aballí work and will be given a book, previously designed by Ignasi with images and texts elaborated in relation to the site. Following the route and going from place to place, I felt privileged to walk in Ignasi’s footsteps: turning around corners, entering galleries, bookshops and places that may have escaped my attention otherwise.

My 3 days in Venice were packed with impressions and food for thought in all possible ways. Anyone who has the chance to go there before the end of November this year, should.


    Catalan Pavillion


    Spanish Pavillion