At the entrance of the Australian pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale, earplugs are handed out to visitors as a safeguard against what lies inside: “Desastres” (April 23–November 27), an immersive experimental sound project by artist Marco Fusinato that synchronizes stark sounds and images. It features the artist, seated next to a freestanding, floor-to-ceiling LED wall, improvising on an electric guitar, generating short, piercing intervals of screeching feedback and noise.
Those sounds trigger a series of disconnected black-and-white images—including ones of vomiting cats, tilled soil, outer space, police brutality, and old-master paintings, sourced in the thousands from the internet by Fusinato, who chose them for, as he says, their “confounding and weird” qualities—to appear on the black screen in a random variation and a quick succession that mimics the cadence of the clamor. (A livestream of the performance, recorded on opening day, captures its viscerally disorienting uproar.) “The noise has a sculptural quality to it, and operates as an object in space,” Fusinato says. “It is designed to be a powerful animation that creates a maximalist, physical experience in the [viewer].”
Unlike most live performance artists at the Biennale, whose works only run through its opening week, Fusinato will play in the pavilion all 200 days of the event, embarking on a surreal durational performance that comments on labor, intensity, and perseverance. “This is not a static exhibition, but an evolving work where the composition of the work will take different forms,” the pavilion’s curator, Alexie Glass-Kantor, said at a press conference ahead of opening day. “Every time an audience experiences the work, it will be unique. Once the audience is gone, the artist will focus on the noise and the images at a pace that is both live and alive.”
The high-anxiety performance was born, Fusinato says, out of the “frustrations, pessimism, and turmoil” he felt during the extended Covid 19–related lockdowns in Melbourne, where he lives and was largely confined to his home. The work’s title, the Spanish word for “disaster,” is a nod to the life of Spanish artist Francisco Goya, who in his later years was banished to a farmhouse, and during that time, produced his well-known print series “The Disasters of War” (1810–1820), entirely from his imagination.
Fusinato is a trained musician with an interest in experimental music and underground culture. “My approach to music has always been conceptual, never technical,” says Fusinato. “The electric guitar is capitalism’s entertainment tool. Everyone knows its sound. But I didn’t have the patience to play conventional music, so I invented a new language.”
The desire to invent a different sonic vocabulary, he says, relates to his experience as the child of Italian parents who left the country to settle in Australia, where he was born. “They were outsiders to the dominant culture,” he continues. “There’s an irony to the fact that I am now in the same place my parents migrated from, to represent the country they migrated to. This is a collapse of time.”
Not every visitor will love the experience of relentless, dissonant noise. But those who resist the urge to run may find that there is a creative, poetic quality to the unpredictability of the sounds and images, and a powerful presence in the ways that the noise fills the space. “The noise is confounding; it creates friction,” Fusinato says. “But it also reminds us that the world is a violent place—and that we are alive.”
Though nearly six years have gone by since Leonard Cohen’s passing, the long shadow cast by his legacy as one of the 20tSuzanne,” to the high drama of “Hallelujah,” to the chilling minimalist and gospel juxtaposition of his swansong “You Want it Darker,” Cohen managed to constantly reinvent himself, leaving behind the rare achievement of a musical body of work whose mos
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