Sun Yuan and Peng Yu are alarming artists. Their work seems to be fuelled by a constant stream of rage which impacts directly on the spectator. For example they placed a tiger in a cage which was contingent with the gallery space. Those who ventured into the space were isolated in a kind of moat but they had to choose the moment to get out, presumably when the tiger was furthest away. In another piece snarling pitbulls strained to get at the dogs facing them, who seemed equally eager to tear them apart.
Dear (image 1) in the Giardini consists of a monumental white chair modelled on the Lincoln Memorial (the symbolic site of American freedom), from which a black hose emerges like a kind of umbilical cord. For several minutes all is calm, then hell breaks out. The hose whips and lashes against the cage as if it is possessed. The adrenaline begins to mount as the noise increases. Then, all at once, it subsides and there is silence.
Can’t help myself (image 2) is both more substantial and more complicated. A central robot repeatedly tries to sweep away the deep crimson liquid which has been poured into the enclosure. Of course it flows back but the machine is undaunted and goes on sweeping up sections. Its movements are mesmerising: sometimes aggressive but more often graceful, even balletic. It twirls, it pirouettes, it really swoops and soars.
This work stood at out at Venice. Most of the other work seemed pedestrian in comparison. Take note: these artists are hard to ignore.
The Venice Biennale is on until November 24.