Art on the Lagoon

Mathias Poledna at the Venice Biennale is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic (Venice Biennale Edition): Mathias Poledna uses Dumbo-era craft to score current points.

(Photo by Lucy Hogg)

This is a moment from "The Imitation of Life", Mathias Poledna's projection in the Austrian pavilion of the Biennale gardens. It's a three-minute animation of a singing donkey in a sailor suit goofing around in nature, done in the most traditional Disney style and screened on classic 35mm film. It could absolutely pass for a pre-feature short from the 1930s, although all its characters are newly conceived by Poledna and its cels were drawn and painted in 21st-century Hollywood. That makes the piece a strange hybrid, sitting somewhere between appropriation and nostalgic craft. Or maybe it's a kind of remade readymade, and gets its power from using Disney as "serious" contemporary art. Among other things, its endless scroll of credits makes you realize how few resources are normally poured into fine art, compared to even a minor animation. The donkey sings the phrase "I've got a feelin' you're foolin' with me", which makes me think he stands for all of us watching the work – or at least for all jackass critics.

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