Art on the Lagoon

Romanian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic (Venice Biennale Edition): The Romanians give us tableaux vivants of past works from Biennales.

In the brilliant Romanian pavilion, the artists Alexandra Pirici and Manuel Pelmus have paid a troupe of performers to act out an anthology of works from a full century of Venice Biennales, presented in the old-fashioned mode of tableaux vivants. This photo captures them enacting one of Jeff Koons's images of himself having sex with La Cicciolina, the porn star who was then his wife, as shown in Venice in 1990. At other moments the troupe performed the 1924 "Black Circle" by Kasimir Malevich (by lying in a circle on the ground) and a 2007 piece about the political neutrality of the Venice Biennale (a single dancer simply stood there, looking noncommittal). They also gave us charades of a national hero on horseback, in Venice in 1897, and of Edward Hopper's "Hotel Lobby" from the 1952 Biennale (some performers crouched as the lobby's chairs). On first encounter, the Romanians' anthology felt like a wonderful one-liner. On sticking with it, as I did for close to an hour, all sorts of profundities opened up. It came to be about all art as depending on human actions, about how interpretation always trumps the objects themselves, about how everything artists make can be leveled-out to a single cultural genre, and about the "migrant labor" of artists at any Biennale. (This last point I've cribbed from the project's rather good introductory text.) I also came to realize that Pirici and Pelmus's single "gesture" required as much craft and care as any high-realist painting: The performers have memorized all the dozens of works in their anthology, and will be presenting them daily through November.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit