Love it or hate it, Allora & Calzadilla‘s entry to the US Pavilion of the 2011 Venice Biennale is a showstopper perfectly tuned for the art world’s version of the Olympics. Their big and brash work in front of the pavilion, “Gloria” (2011), is comprised of an overturned military tank and a tread mill that hosts US track and field athletes who perform for 15 minutes every hour.

When the Puerto Rican pair was initially chosen for the US Pavilion, many people thought it was unorthodox that such a young pair were selected to represent the US at this international biennial. I think it’s safe to say that they’ve proven themselves ready for the international stage with this thought-provoking piece.

US Pavilion curator Lisa Frieman of the Indianapolis Museum of Art explained that the installation “evokes the ideas of the glory of God, and the glory of military battle.”

The Guardian explains how the art work functions:
At regular intervals, a runner, affiliated to the national athletics body US Track and Field, ascends the tank and runs on the treadmill, causing the tank’s wheels to turn – noisily and impotently.

According to Carol Vogel at the New York Times, “the work also harks back to ancient Greece and Rome, when the notion of the idealized body was evident in athletics and in art.

Jerry Saltz offered his own take on the work:

It was Tanks ‘R’ Us: We Americans are making this incredible noise, flexing our might, playing police force to the world, entertaining ourselves and anyone who’ll watch, being grandiose and goony and needy, all the while trying to stay fit.

We’re still undecided in Hyperallergic HQ about the success of the work beyond the confines of a major art biennial, but you have to admit that the work is perfectly suited for its setting, where bigger is an attention magnet.

I don’t know why but I feel the desire to juxtapose Allora & Calzadilla’s work with this video that popped up on YouTube right after the death of Osama bin Laden. It only seems fitting.

USA! USA! USA!

UPDATE: Turns out the tank in “Gloria” has a twitterfeed. The description is priceless, “working on my back in the Giardini.” Though, I’m sure the tank won’t be the only one.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

7 replies on “Is America Tanking in Venice? [UPDATE]”

  1. Guess i’m glad I’m not there, or they would be getting some massive tomatoes tossed at them for this dumb piece of crap.

  2. the video looks like it was taken in the field next to a journalist I know who’s been trying to get paramilitaries to stop practice shooting next to his and other residences in Masachusettes. The reponse?  A skinned dead bear on his property.

  3. So not only does the ECA select two artists who don’t even live in the US to represent the US– they also select work that feeds on the stereotype of Americans being war mongers. When is the US art community going to rely on something other than anti-military and anti-US visual rhetoric? At a point it becomes tongue in cheek. I would have much rather seen a severed Osama head performing fellatio on President Obama while Team 6 stands in a circle jerk.. THAT would have been something to talk about.

    1. I don’t see this as a war monger thing at all. The tank is overturned and transformed into something else. I also don’t see this as anti-US rhetoric at all. It’s about the associations of power and might. Btw, Puerto Rico is the US. I don’t see why you don’t think they live in the US.

  4. Forgot to say if anti-military and anti-us visual rhetoric is the norm it should at least be interesting. This tank piece is ripped almost directly from a Dada poster!

  5. puerto ricans have long had US ‘military exercises'(get it?) on the island destroying the environment and leaving a graveyard of mines, warheads and equipment. Maybe the piece has something to do with that.

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