The Boat is Leaking

“…a multistory building of powerful imagery lending expression and meaning to the quotidian and to the world yesterday and today, as it oscillates between apparent normalcy and catastrophe, in a society ranging between lust for life and loss of trust…” Udo Kittelmann


‘The Boat is Leaking. The Captain Lied’, a line taken from a rather bleak Leonard Cohen song, seems to be an appropriate comment both on the fragility of Venice’s relationship with the surrounding lagoon, as well as the turbulence of our contemporary era. It speaks of the distrust felt towards those in power, something we at Scotland and Venice think about regularly when faced with ‘Spite Your Face’ of course.

In this way, the title immediately places us within contemporary thought yet the location within the Baroque palazzo sitting just on the Grand Canal of the Cornaro family, a Venetian family that had roots tracing back to the Romans, takes us back in time. It is as if we have entered a timeless location, entrapped in a loop of repeated histories.

The exhibition, curated by Udo Kittelmann at the Prada Foundation, presents the work of German artists Thomas Demand, Alexander Kluge and Anna Viebrock. The art on display is an amalgamation of the photographic, cinematic and theatrical, a fusion of three very different disciplines that creates an unnerving spectacle within the palazzo. Marble columns meet plastic furniture; temporary construction boards meet three hundred year old frescoes. Kittelman has created an unreal world: it is pieced together by Viebrock’s falsely scenic sets; reflected in the subtle constructions in Demand’s photographs; and deepened by Kluge’s experimental, investigative filmmaking. The curator describes such multi-media assemblages as ‘constellations’ that leave a ‘trail of clues’ into the past and the present (and the future?).

We are led through these uncanny realms via doors that confuse and muddle are sense of direction. It plays with our understanding of what an artwork is: is that a real door or an artwork? If it is the latter can we open it, can we go through it or can we merely peer through at the world locked behind it? Our notion of reality is toyed with. We walk through, and past, and get lost in, courtrooms, cinemas, offices and gardens. It becomes a sensory and emotive experience, not based on reason but physiological instinct.