EventsEventsPodcasts
Loader
Find Us
ADVERTISEMENT

Head to the Dolomites to see these 8 unmissable artists at the Biennale Gherdëina

Biennale Gherdëina 9, The Parliament of Marmots, curated by Lorenzo Giusti. Opening days 31.05-01.06.2024.
Biennale Gherdëina 9, The Parliament of Marmots, curated by Lorenzo Giusti. Opening days 31.05-01.06.2024. Copyright Photo by Tiberio Sorvillo
Copyright Photo by Tiberio Sorvillo
By Elise Morton
Published on
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

From a beetle on horseback to an underground forest, these artworks at the Biennale Gherdëina in Italy's Tyrolean Alps are as intriguing as they are powerful.

ADVERTISEMENT

Now in its ninth edition, the Biennale Gherdëina is showcasing over 30 artists and collectives – bringing new commissions, existing artworks and performances into dialogue with the spectacular UNESCO-protected Dolomites – as well as the rich Ladin folklore and culture that inhabits it.

Curated by Italian historian and art curator Lorenzo Giusti, with Marta Papini as assistant curator, 2024’s exhibition takes as its theme ‘The Parliament of Marmots’. This title borrows from a local Ladin myth about the Fanes – the legendary founding population of the Ladins, who were prosperous because of their alliance with the marmots with whom they shared the land.

Leaning into cultural connections between the region and the Mediterranean, participating artists – spanning a range of disciplines – come from across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Building on Ladin legend, they are engaging with the land as a space to encounter history and nature, but also on which to write new stories.

These are eight artists not to miss:

Diana Policarpo – Anguane’s Fountain (2024) and Anguane’s Fountain, Stream (COBRACORAL) (2024)

Diana Policarpo, Anguane’s Fountain, 2024. Mixed media sculpture. 280 x 120 x 120 cm. // Anguane’s Fountain, Stream (COBRACORAL), 2024. 6 multi-channel audio installation.
Diana Policarpo, Anguane’s Fountain, 2024. Mixed media sculpture. 280 x 120 x 120 cm. // Anguane’s Fountain, Stream (COBRACORAL), 2024. 6 multi-channel audio installation.Commissioned by Biennale Gherdëina 9. Photo by Tiberio Sorvillo

Perched on a picturesque hillside, the grand Castel Gardena is playing host to a number of artworks in the Biennale – among them Diana Policarpo’s Anguane’s Fountain (2024), which sits in the historic castle’s courtyard.

Policarpo’s ethereal sculpture, sprouting from an ancient fountain, was inspired by the shape of a carnivorous sponge from the depths of the ocean and serves as the artist’s tribute to the ‘anguanes’: female figures in Ladin mythology, traditionally associated with water and known as guardians of mountains, forests and waters. 

Furthering the artist’s delicate intertwining of the themes of feminism, folklore and interspecies relations, Policarpo’s sculpture is paired with an experimental, other-wordly sound composition that brings together human and non-human, verbal and non-verbal sounds.

Nadia Kaabi-Linke – Mushroom (2024)

Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Mushroom, 2024. Installation. Variable Dimensions. Commissioned by Biennale Gherdëina 9. Supported by IFA - Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen.
Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Mushroom, 2024. Installation. Variable Dimensions. Commissioned by Biennale Gherdëina 9. Supported by IFA - Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen.Photo by Tiberio Sorvillo

“If you go out [into the forest], pay attention to the ground. You will see that the roots are really very thick, very visible,” says Nadia Kaabi-Linke. Taking inspiration from treefall as the result of summer storms, the Tunisian - and Ukrainian-born, Berlin-based artist has transformed a cellar in the centre of Ortisei into an underground forest: tree roots appear to grow up from the ground, making their way through the concrete, the forest reclaiming an urban space once again as its own. 

“I wanted to create a work that brings friction between culture and nature. I wanted to see the roots grow within the structure of the building,” Kaabi-Linke reflects, encouraging visitors to stay inside long enough that their eyes adjust to the darkness. “It's not being bad, it's not being good, she just is,” Kaabi-Linke says of nature. “Our thing is just to be with her and to find our way of being. What if we just stop, breathe, and are like nature.”

Julius von Bismarck – Beetle on a Horse (2024)

Julius von Bismarck, Beatle On A Horse, 2024. Stone Pine Wood. 444 x 125 x 233 cm. Commissioned by Biennale Gherdëina 9. Supported by IFA - Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen.
Julius von Bismarck, Beatle On A Horse, 2024. Stone Pine Wood. 444 x 125 x 233 cm. Commissioned by Biennale Gherdëina 9. Supported by IFA - Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen.Photo by Tiberio Sorvillo

German artist Julius von Bismarck’s Beetle on a Horse stands proudly in the centre of Ortisei. Finding a monument to a hero on horseback is hardly unusual, but the hero in question here is rather different: a combination of a human and a bark beetle, a tiny creature that burrows inside trees and chews away at their bark. 

The forest pest has caused the disappearance of swathes of woodland in the Dolomites – visible on the hillsides surrounding the town – with climate change exacerbating the threat. Depicting the beetle as a triumphant conqueror, von Bismarck asks: is nature the real plague on the environment, or is it humans? “He's an ambassador for animals or other [non-human] lives that are teaching us something,” von Bismarck explains.

Atelier dell’Errore – Vela Alpina (2024) and Marmottoloide (2024)

Atelier dell’Errore, Marmottoloide, 2024. Mixed Technique and Gold Leaf on Polyester and Carbon Fibre. Variable Dimensions. Commissioned by Biennale Gherdëina 9.
Atelier dell’Errore, Marmottoloide, 2024. Mixed Technique and Gold Leaf on Polyester and Carbon Fibre. Variable Dimensions. Commissioned by Biennale Gherdëina 9.Photo by Tiberio Sorvillo

Responding to the theme ‘The Parliament of Marmots’, Reggio Emilia-based neurodivergent art collective Atelier dell’Errore has transformed the Biennale’s office space in Pontives with their depictions of what artistic director Luca Santiago Mora calls ‘Marmottoloids’ – futuristic creatures with a distinctively punk feel, each with their own story.

In addition, the group – whose only rule, as Mora explains, is that “not one mistake can be erased during the artistic process” – are presenting their ‘Vela Alpina’ (‘Alpine Sail’) on a lamppost in front of the Biennale’s headquarters.

This piece, based on a material that reworks thermal blankets used by migrants on the shores of the Mediterranean into an effective sail, is at once a nod to the sea that shaped the Dolomites 250 million years ago and a flipping of the narrative: what was once a material of rescue, is now a symbol of hope, progress and empowerment.

Nassim Azarzar – The Edge of the Forest (2024)

Nassim Azarzar, The Edge of the Forest, 2024. Wallpainting. Variable Dimensions. Commissioned by Biennale Gherdëina 9.
Nassim Azarzar, The Edge of the Forest, 2024. Wallpainting. Variable Dimensions. Commissioned by Biennale Gherdëina 9.Photo by Tiberio Sorvillo

Having developed the visual language of this work during long-term research in Morocco, Nassim Azarar combines North African forms and colours with the landscapes and folklore of the Dolomites to create a striking mural on the facade of the historic Hotel Ladinia.

Born in France to Moroccan parents, Azarzar adorns the building with an abstract work reminiscent of a Moroccan mosaic – each painted section with its own story to tell, though combining to convey a deep connection between humans, nature and the wider universe.

ADVERTISEMENT

Laurent Le Deunff – Chouette des neiges, Crocodile, Escargot (2024)

Laurent Le Deunff, Chouette des neiges, Crocodile, Escargot, 2024.
Laurent Le Deunff, Chouette des neiges, Crocodile, Escargot, 2024. Installation with Concrete Sculptures, Earth, Tree Bark, Dead Leaves, Moss and Various Species of green Plants and Saplings. Variable Dimensions. Courtesy of the Artist and Semiose, Paris. Photo by Tiberio Sorvillo

When you walk in the door of the Biennale Gherdëina offices, an unexpected sight greets you: something between a fairytale forest and a pet cemetery. Laurent Le Deunff’’s ‘Chouette des neiges, Crocodile, Escargot’ uses tree bark, moss, plants and saplings to create an enchanting secret garden in the building’s lobby, inhabited by tombstone-esque monuments to a snow owl, a crocodile and a snail. As Le Deunff explains, he made these effigies using the ‘rocaille’ technique, in which concrete is carved to look like wood – particularly pertinent in an area like Val Gardena, known for its tradition of woodcarving.

“This art of rocaille…this sort of sculpture with a head on a pedestal, usually it's for a human representation,” the artist says. “It's like a cemetery here … but the art is dedicated to non-human animals.” Full of surprise and more than a touch of humour, Le Deunff’s work is a reminder both of the connections between human and non-human animals, and that things may not be quite what they seem.

Ingela Ihrman – First Came the Ocean (2024)

Ingela Ihrman, First Came the Ocean, 2024. Environmental Installation, 25 x 5 m. Courtesy the Artist and Ögonblicksteatern i Umeå, Sweden. Commissioned by Biennale Gherdëina 9
Ingela Ihrman, First Came the Ocean, 2024. Environmental Installation, 25 x 5 m. Courtesy the Artist and Ögonblicksteatern i Umeå, Sweden. Commissioned by Biennale Gherdëina 9Photo by Tiberio Sorvillo

High on the Juac plateau, Swedish artist Ingela Ihrman presents the Biennale’s only intervention in the middle of nature.

Her installation 'First Came the Ocean' sees trunks and branches of fallen trees, victims of recent storms and the bark beetle epidemic, form the mammoth skeleton of a marine animal – a reflection on what the Alps were coral reefs and the meadows of the plateau were the seabed.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I've been making human skeletons: one in Sweden, one at the Eden Project a few years ago. That becomes very sad – almost like grieving a human body,” Ihrman says, contrasting that with the (rather more meditative and abstract) making of the skeleton of “an animal that doesn't exist.”

Ruth Beraha – Il Cielo è Dei Violenti (2024)

What Ruth Beraha's sound installation 'Il Cielo è Dei Violenti' lacks in images to show here, it makes up for in impact. The artist’s immersive audio work – made in consultation with a local ornithologist – takes over a disused theatre hall.

Experienced in the dark, the installation begins with idyllic birdsong, followed by the calls of indigenous and migratory birds and developing into a frantic, almost violent cacophony of bird calls and beating wings.

Though the gentle song of the first bird also ends the soundscape, the audio’s dystopian crescendo is a less-than-gentle reminder of the power of nature. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The ninth edition of Biennale Gherdëina: The Parliament of Marmots runs from until 1 September 2024 across venues in Ortisei, Pontives, and Selva Val Gardena.

Share this articleComments

You might also like