“Artist’s books” in the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2021


Biennale Archittetura 2021. Venezia



Travel time: 28-31 October 2021
Location: Venezia, Italia

In the later autumn I traveled to Venezia to see the “Biennale Archittetura 2021”. The travel by plane it was not so cheaper, but after almost two years of isolation, I needed to go somewhere to see good art. And that was a good choice.

And here, on the first day of my stay in Venice, I “found” few beautiful “artist’s books”.

The Lion of Saint Mark

The first beautiful “artist’s book object”, carved in marble, I found in Fondazione Prada – the Lion with a book…  In the Wikipedia they wrote: “The Lion of Saint Mark, representing Mark the Evangelist”. Let us be absolutely clear, the Lion not representing Mark the Evangelist. In Christian tradition, Mark the Evangelist is symbolised by a lion. So, it is not the same. In the book the text: “PAX TIBI MARCE EVANGELISTA MEVS”, or “May peace be with you my evangelist”. Looking at the marble lion with the book I remembered another artist’s book carved from marble.

Rasa Januleviciute. “Odi et amo (I hate you, I love you)”. 2011

In the “Fondazione Prada Venezia” was an exhibition “Stop Painting” (22 May – 21 Nov 2021). “Was the recurring ghost telling the story of the end of painting a phantom problem? And if yes, can phantoms be real?” Wrote the curator of the exhibition Peter Fischli.

The artist Lutz Bacher was presented with “The Big Book”, created in 2013. It is about 150 cm high artist’s book from wood, paper, string, clips and ink.

“Bacher might have discusses this oversized constructed ‘book’ with its various pages of sketches and painterly bruchstrokes as evoking ‘the something and the nothing, the black and white, the zero and the one.’ ” Wrote the curator about the artist’s book of Lutz Bacher.

“Lutz Bacher (1943–2019) was an artist closely associated with Berkeley, California since the 1970s, and who lived and worked in New York City from 2013 until her death. The name Lutz Bacher was a pseudonym, and the artist did not publicly reveal a former name. She was once considered a figure with “cult” status—known for being “legendary but elusive” in the California art scene.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutz_Bacher

Beautiful brutal artist’s book, with wooden covers and some collage on it. And how not compare it with another artist’s book, created by Anselm Kiefer “Der Rhein” in the same 2013 year… But it was painted not with ink, but printed from woodcut on board and canvas (size 330 x 330 cm).

Anselm Kiefer. “Der Rhein”. 2013

In the next day I visited “Biennale Archittetura 2021” with the title “How will we live together?” 22 May – 21 November 2021.


“The question, “How will we live together?” is at once ancient and urgent. The Babylonians asked it as they were building their tower. Aristotle asked it when he was writing about politics. His answer was “the city.” The French and American Revolutions asked it. Against the tumultuous backdrop of the early 1970s, Timmy Thomas passionately pleaded it in his song “Why Can’t We Live Together?” – Hashim Sarkis. Curator of the Biennale.

In the “Central Pavilion” in the “Giardini” Giulia Foscari / UNLESS installed “Antarctic Resolution”.

Giulia Foscari / UNLESS “Antarctic Resolution”

It was some installation with big metal plate, a book “Antarctic Resolution” and few strange objects: suits and glasses. The project is on Antarctica and the problems with global warming, and all problems connected with it. The problem of climate change has been exploited in many artistic projects in “Biennale Archittetura 2021”, and that is normal. But here Giulia Foscari installed “Antarctic Resolution” in the form of an artist’s book in front of a big metal plate which time to time make the sound of ice breaking in Antarctica. The “Antarctic Resolution” was installed on very long “table”. It was opened in the center and also “closed”, one page covered the other page of the book and hide the information in next page, so it was no possible to see what is inside. The book with many pages on the climate change research in Antarctica, with many articles, documents, information and images were hidden. Like ice and snow hiding everything underneath, and you see only a beautiful white landscape that will soon disappear… The black “table” with some white lines and text on it (content of the book), become the part of this wonderful artist’s book installation or I would call it the “table artist’s book”.  And, like many artist’s books, it is a unique artist’s book.

The next “artist’s book” installation was in Arsenale. “The Complete City: La Palomera, Acknowledgement and Celebration”.

“The Complete City: La Palomera, Acknowledgement and Celebration”

Description of the project very strange (for me, but I have to say, many projects were “strange”, or like texts copied from “Glasgow summit”…): “Even though ‘barrios’ are the home of half of Caracas’ population, they are not acknowledged as part of the city. The program ‘Integration Process Caracas’ does not seek to earn this recognition by “improving” the ‘barrio’, but rather by showcasing the rich spatial and cultural dynamics that already exist. For example, the barrio La Palomera has a very green system of open spaces, with 1.75 hectares of walkways, staircases and squares that are ridden with lichens, shrubs and ivy growing spontaneously through pavement and wall crevices. At least two dozen vegetable and flower gardens, with plants used for cooking, curing illnesses and keeping insects away, embed a wealth of knowledge that has been passed down by ancestors who once migrated from rural areas. Recording their stories and understanding the nature of the barrio’s open spaces, through the ‘Ethnobotanical Dictionary of Plants’ from the ‘Gardens of La Palomera’, and a model of the gardens and public walkways, simply acknowledge what the barrio already is. Similarly, ‘barrio’ residents still practice traditional dances and music, once performed as parts of harvesting rituals. Participating in their celebration represents another opportunity for ‘non-barrio’ neighbors to acknowledge the city’s cultural wealth. Such gestures of symbolic and spatial recognition signify a fundamental premise in any urban process of integration.”

The project is a project, but the installation looks good. A column of red bricks, a heavy curtain like in David Lynch’s film, long-sized papers with printed images of herbs, books hanged in the space with black shadow. It creates a beautiful atmosphere with “flying” books and images from the books on the large format papers, like Chinese’s calligraphy or prints on a roll of paper.

Printmaking exhibition in China. 2015

And the last beautiful handmade book, which I found in Venezia during my short visit, was “Quran” in the exhibition “La Vita Nomadica” (The Nomadic Way of Life) in island San Giorgio Maggiore. This beautiful “Quran” was written by hand in Egypt in 1890 with two colors ink on paper with leather cover.


“Quran”. 1890

Maybe professional art critics would not call it artist’s books… Maybe. Maybe it is not an artist’s books at all. Maybe… How to look on it. But it is always nice for me to find some good and beautiful books, created by hands, or with a conceptual idea, or an installation that uses the idea of a book.




Prof. Kestutis Vasiliunas


More text on artist’s books


©  Photos: 2Cent.
© Artist’s Book Creators 2021

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