07 Sep 2017

Phyllida Barlow

Biennale di Venezia, British Pavilion, Giardini

Reviewed by William Corwin

Embracing a Neolithic aesthetic, Phyllida Barlow has built an archaeological wonderland a la Indiana Jones in the British Pavilion, replete with precarious boulders, barricades of projecting stalactites, and human-dwarfing pillars. As one crouches and squeezes from room to room, the fear factor is minimal. The installation captures the impressiveness of labor-intensive, archaic architectural and sculptural gestures. But she leaves all the packing tape seams, screw heads, and plywood edges prominently on display. It's all a sham.

But it's a sham in the same way that Stonehenge and Göbekli Tepe are shams. Barlow's DIY folly is a temple to all the ancient false hopes and fears that we have never stopped having. There is no Holy of Holies (though something like it is maybe the artist's presence herself, via some sketches on display), but there is still the intrinsic fun of making and sneaking through a groovy sacred space.

Exhibition Phyllida Barlow link
Start date 13 May 2017
End date 26 Nov 2017 (in 8 days)
Presenter Biennale di Venezia link
Venue British Pavilion, Giardini, Venice, ITA map
Image Phyllida Barlow, folly, installation view, British Pavilion, Venice, 2017, photo: Ruth Clark © British Council, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
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