MARIANNE VITALE @ La Biennale di Venezia
Bottles and Bridges: Advances in Collective Obliteration
as part of the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, 2022 curated by Cecelia Alemani
23 April – 27 November 2022
Marianne Vitale creates monuments from the spectres of American industrial expansion: bridges, railroad tracks, freight train engines, dams, factories, outhouses – in an excoriating critique of the contemporary collapse of Western society. She burns, breaks, bruises, and builds anew, forcing us to interrogate our own histories through the objects we abandon in the name of progress. In her breakout video work Patron (2009), exhibited at the Whitney Biennial in New York City in 2010, Vitale spits military-style poetic commands at the audience, addressing the room as “patrons!” and demanding we open our mouths to be force-fed our medicine – a call to arms against “Neutralism” and complacency.
Vitale’s artworks are immense, brutal, and unapologetic. For fifteen years, she has been burning bridges, first constructing scale models of bridges found across North America in her studio, then taking them outdoors to burn them, eventually exhibiting their charred skeletons. In a 2019 performance, she torched a bridge atop a snow-covered mountain in Gstaad, Switzerland. Thought Field (2016) comprised 90 factory-length railroad tracks, weighing over 60 tons, creating an imposing landscape with a nod to the codes of Minimalism. Vitale’s recent residency in Savenay, France, which similarly redeployed the detritus of transport into a constellation of sculptures, resulted in a permanent outdoor installation set at the site of a WWI American-made dam, entitled The World, the Flesh and the Devil (2019).
For The Milk of Dreams, Vitale presents two bodies of work in a secluded garden part of the Giardini delle Vergini. Installed are seven of her now-iconic burned bridges cast in bronze, architectural ruins embedded in the landscape. If the bridges portray the ruptured connection nodes of a climate-ravaged future, Bottle People, a series of liquor bottles swaddled in fabric and cast in bronze, represent a transgressive bestiary of ancient microbial phantasms unleashed from the ashen earth. Dozens of these gesturing figures, suspended off walls as if levitating, portray agony, despair, hope and amusement, like characters from a Rabelaisian morality play. Caught in the midst of riotous motion, and arranged in a grid, they could be seen as on display for museological study. Together, the bridges and Bottle People stage a visceral hauntology throughout the garden.