“Everybody Talks About the Weather” and “Thus waves come in pairs”
              Laura McLean-Ferris
              One of the most remarkable things about living through a permacrisis is how much seems to go on as normal. Art exhibitions, for example, continue to get organized amid deranging heat, the lurid smoke of forest fires, and the wet wreckage of floods. In Venice, the precarious lagoon city now heavily reliant on a high-tech flood barrier system, two shows are currently on view that propose methods for curating art in this atmosphere of environmental collapse and change. Weather as metaphor, weather as context, weather as catalyst and catastrophe. There are a lot of exhibition-making strategies being tested in Dieter Roelstraete’s rangy “Everybody Talks About the Weather” at Fondazione Prada, but the show bears some relationship to the “report.” An LED screen with a grid of television weather forecasts from around the world is installed in the foyer, where a collection of glossy professionals with blow-dried hair gesture in front of colorful maps. This motif—newsy, mediatic, even a little silly—is echoed in the exhibition’s information panels, which resemble newspaper front pages with headlines, data, and “stories” about the artworks on show. This is the third in a series of major exhibitions across Prada’s venues that have marked a turn towards …
              Elmgreen & Dragset’s “Useless Bodies?”
              Cathryn Drake
              The sleek, sardonic work of Scandinavian duo Elmgreen & Dragset has found a consummate context in the Fondazione Prada, a private museum founded by luxury fashion entrepreneurs. The question mark in the exhibition title—“Useless Bodies?”—signals an interrogation of the human body as a viable organ in contemporary society, played out within the context of a western-centric ideal of beauty and vitality. The main space, called the Podium and employed in all the term’s senses of stage, soapbox, and platform, is arrayed with human figures engaged in related but disassociated activities. Classical marble nudes—tautly muscled athletes, a young shepherd with a dog, and a reclining gladiator among them—mingle with bronze sculptures of pubescent boys to suggest a diorama in an archaeological museum. The only woman represented is Pregnant White Maid (2017), regarding a petulant, pouting schoolboy (Invisible, 2017) with her eyes decidedly shut. All of the contemporary bronze figures are lacquered in opaque white or buffed to a brilliant glow, with the exception of a striking black Runner, from the first century BC, idealized with Caucasian features and a startlingly realistic gaze. Like a terrarium, the main space is transparent yet hermetic, enhancing a sense of highly visible isolation, not …
              “The Boat is Leaking. The Captain Lied.”
              Erika Balsom
              THE BOAT The metaphor of the ship of state is best known from Plato’s Republic. In the “collective exhibition concept” developed by Udo Kittelmann for the Fondazione Prada, this maritime trope of political community is evoked unmistakably yet only obliquely, mediated through the titular citation of Leonard Cohen’s devastating 1988 song “Everybody Knows.” Ancient foundations meet our contemporary crisis in a palimpsestic detour perfectly befitting this brilliant, bewildering, and highly intertextual exhibition. Across three floors, Kittelmann interweaves the work of three German artists, each preeminent in their respective field, each with a distinct interest in the politics of illusion and the textures of modern experience: photographer Thomas Demand, filmmaker Alexander Kluge, and scenographer Anna Viebrock. The result is less an experience of disparate practices, let alone single artworks, than it is an encounter with a holistic, albeit fragmentary, reflection on truth, falsity, and the public sphere in an age of “alternative facts.” If the political community is a ship, this vessel is our quotidian domicile. Yet the ship is also a heterotopia—a space with its own time, its own rules. Inside Prada’s baroque palazzo—itself set apart from the tourist bustle—Viebrock has meticulously recreated an array of such “other spaces”: a …

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