Is America Tanking in Venice? [UPDATE]

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.


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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