Surprise over something new. Wandering through the pleasantly cool side streets of Venice, following the signs as if I were in some adventure game, I found the way to Palazzo Malipiero, the home base for the national expositions of Central Asia, Iran, Cyprus, Montenegro, and Estonia. A small room in this building now occupies an important place in my memory. I went to Venice with the hopes of finding something at this “best of the best” exhibit, and curator Bice Kuriger’s “best of the best” selection at the Arsenale, that would surprise my receptors at several levels. In an interview with the Latvian art magazine Studija (June/July 2011), Kuriger mentions a “a surprise created in a complex and intelligent way” as the most powerful form of expression for art today. I hoped to see that, in the works of art, the selection of materials, colors, media, and ideas would form an unexpected and surprising complex, so that I could assert that here was something new—and in a positive sense. I didn’t find many examples like this at the Biennale. 

But one of the surprises was a small room inside the Palazzo Malipiera, which enticed me with something so different from what I had seen before. Up until that moment I was convinced that it was the Iranian section of the pavilion. All indications pointed to this. Yet now, as I try to specify the names of the artists, I find that that the part of the exposition has mysteriously vanished from any information resources. Perhaps somebody can help me figure out who the authors were? At the exhibit, I found myself lingering for a long time, shuffling from one part of the room to the other and back again, my eyes glued to the work. Bums who looked like they came from the streets of New York were sitting and talking by brown paper bags on strips of cardboard, their faces hidden inside hoods. Their faces were made of plaster, yet they moved as if they were living. Videos of faces were projected onto the plaster casts. The eyes shifted, the mouths moved, and the gestures attested to the unmistakable presence of a living person. But nonetheless this wasn’t true. The impression was so strange that I got pleasant rush of goosebumps.