The Czech Pavilion: Say Please

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At the Czech pavilion at the Giardini, you can have one of those experiences where the presentation gets badly in the way of the art. The artist is Irena Juzova. (Apologies, there are two accents in her last name, but as I’ve explained before, there are technical complications to doing accents over letters on this blog that would give sleepless nights to NASA.) In any case, Juzova has cast her own flesh in lukopren, a white silicone paste.

Much theoretical brooding is devoted to this idea in the catalogue and in the pamphlet provided at the show, neither of which finds it necessary to mention that in Western art its most important source is the flaying of Marsyas. (See: Titian, among others.) We’re assured that Juzova’s presentation of her epidermis is a critique of the various misuses of skin by commercial culture, which might be more convincing if there wasn’t a brooding, Vanity Fair-ready picture of her to greet you as you enter the pavilion. (And I don’t think she means that picture ironically.) And all along the walls, there are abrupt signs that order: Do Not Touch the Art.

I wouldn’t dream of it. To get the signs out of my head I wandered back over to the Felix Gonzalez-Torres show at the U.S. pavilion and scooped up a black licorice candy from one of his giveaway installations. It was delicious.