Redeye To Venice

If you’ve never heard of La Biennale, well neither had I. Going into this assignment, here’s what I did know:
I’d have six days in Venice, my camera, and I’d be diving into the largest
contemporary art event in the world with a class from Wake. I’m gonna let this
video play out kind of the way I experienced the trip. Because for me, the
combination of being in a new city and not quite knowing what each day would
look like, made any sort of planning a real challenge. So I figured the best, and
really the only way to go about making this video, was to hit record and brace
myself for whatever the upcoming program had in store. My name is Sean Wilkinson.
I’m a 2015 studio art grad turned videographer, and this is what my week
in Venice looked like. – Okay. So number one, Square of San Trovaso, adjacent to the square next to the Church of San Trovaso. This is our first full day in Venice, and
right now we’re just walking around getting a feel for the city, exploring a
little bit. So right away, I met up with some
students and tagged along as they visited historic sites. It was the first
step in slowly learning our way around Venice. – No matter how many times you
travel down these alleyways, you can still go down a new one each night and get lost again. – So we lived right here, right? Stop number one is here. – The history of it is that it was sort of this trading post between the East and the West, so there’s all these cultures and
all this history all mashed up. It’s just one of the most incredible cities.
– When we got to Venice, obviously you’re so tired you, you have to take the vaporetto into the city. It’s amazing arriving to a Wake Forest property. – Fifteen students and lots of faculty and alumni would call Casa Artom home for the week. And with the
Guggenheim on the left, and the Grand Canal right off the back porch, staying there
felt like living in the heart of the city. – You wake up every morning, you know, and you make your coffee in the kitchen. – You hear the gondoliers singing.
– You can hear the gondoliers
singing. – It feels less like we’re a visitor and more like we’re actually
getting a real experience here. Each day was packed. The class,
taught by Page Laughlin, primarily took a focus on the Biennale, the global art
exhibition dating back to 1895. Every two years, art enthusiasts gather in Venice
to view the most current contemporary art, and this year we’d be seeing works
from 85 different countries. Despite the excitement surrounding the event, we’d be
getting to it a little later, once it opened to the public. In the
meantime, there were talks, seminars – this one given by an art history professor
who used to teach at Wake. Downtime took the form of cooking, lots of cooking, and
discussing artwork in anticipation of the opening. And then beyond their
studies, the students had a chance to see the professional side of the art world
through alumni. Earlier this morning, I met with the students here at the Casa
Artom. And we did a little seminar session, really just an informal discussion about
the Venice Biennale – who’s here, why they’re here, the roles that everybody
is playing while they’re here. I mean, you’re pretty busy during the Venice
Biennale, but it’s still worthwhile to take a couple of hours and meet with
students. Mary Leigh Cherry had a huge hand in planning the program with Page. She owns Cherry and Martin Gallery in L.A., and so aside from being at the Biennale as a part of the program,
she was also here for business, with a number of contacts and colleagues to meet. At that point in the trip, I was confirming permissions to film inside
the event, and she had early media access. So I went with her to get everything
sorted out. – Alright. Welcome to the Biennale. – I ended up getting a behind-the-scenes preview of what the
students could expect when they’d visit during the general opening. [crowd chatter] – I wanted to be able to provide them direct meetings with artists and curators of this year’s
Biennale, and I happen to have a lot of colleagues this year, so it worked
perfectly. When I asked for appointments, it was kind of like, ‘Oh okay, sure.’ But as
soon as I started saying, ‘It’s a group of Wake Forest University students, they’re
doing a course on the Biennale’ – all of a sudden, it was like, ‘We’ll see what we can
do.’ – What do you got cooking? – That’s when I want to bring those students by to meet you. – Ohhh right! You mentioned that. That’s the 13th, right? – Would that work? That’s the 13th, the first public day. – Yeah, oh yeah. Of course, I’ll be here. Yeah! Yeah yeah yeah. – And them Sean’s gonna film.
– Awesome! Grace period of like 15 minutes. Give or take. – Don’t worry, don’t worry. It’ll work out. – You know what I mean? Thanks. It should be good though. It was bold and brilliant, unlike anything I’ve seen before. – Taking the course on the Biennale has been a crash course on so many
different parts of the art world. – We studied the artists, the curators and
history of the pavilions, so when we got here, we hit the ground running.
– In some ways, it’s like an international showcase. – So many different people participate, and it gives them a stage and a voice to present what issues they find important.
– You do realize how international, global, the art world really is, and especially the contemporary art world. It’s exploded. [music] So one of the interesting challenges as a teacher in this class, and it’s been one of the things I’ve enjoyed in some ways the most, is how do you take a cross-section
of students – because it really is a cross-section of Wake students, they’re not at all all art students – introduce them to this major global phenomenon, give
them a grounding, then to come on site and essentially apply it – it has been one
of the most rewarding teaching experiences of my 30 years of
teaching. – Contemporary art is very contentious as far as everyone can assess it in a different way. Some things may not even seem like art to one person
and be a phenomenal piece to another. – Anytime I feel like, ‘Oh you know, I’ve
kind of got a hold on contemporary art,’ like, ‘I think I get it now,’ I walk into a
different pavilion and it’s like, ‘Oh wow, I never thought about it that way.’ – Suddenly like in this one area, you have
the most present issues of our lifetime presented in a visual way where people
can walk around and really engage in it. – While most of the event was housed in
two main areas, there were other exhibits scattered throughout the city for those
willing to look. And the students not only had the opportunity to view the art,
they could volunteer to experience it as part of an installation or a performance. – You know, we come here and we read all these reviews from critics, but it’s nice to be able to come here and form our own
opinions and to really interact with the art, which has been a lot of fun and
really unique because we haven’t had that experience at Wake. – It makes it hit home. It makes you feel that you’re really a part of the world, and not just
secluded in your studies by yourself. – The class had another week to continue
exploring the Biennale. They’d work on documenting their interpretations of
the art they had just seen as a bookend to their studies. For me, my time was up.
Just like that, it was my last day at the Biennale, at Casa Artom and in Venice. I’d spent the week running around, trying to keep up with the program and
all the moments in between. Honestly, it’s hard to process everything. For not knowing what to expect, it was more than I could have expected. I was blown away by the scale and the
ambition of the art. But since, I’ve found what I appreciate most was the access
that we had during that week. Walking around in that space in the city,
interacting with the art, and hearing from the artists and the curators
themselves – it made one of the biggest stages in the contemporary art world
approachable. I was not prepared for that kind of an experience, but I’m happy I
had the chance to capture it. So thanks for watching with me. And ciao.

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