By Deb A.
Praised as "a powerful and disturbing installation that poses urgent questions about our time" by the president of this year's Venice Biennale jury, Anne Imhof's Faust is an aggressive, seductive exhibition that takes up the entire German pavilion.
Visitors are greeted by barking Doberman pinschers and a long queue. Upon entering, they walk on a glass floor elevated just high enough for young, gaunt performers dressed in black to crawl and writhe under their feet. The performers move cooly below, amongst and even above the crowds in three sterile white rooms; whether chanting, intimating violence, or engaging visitors in uncomfortable eye contact, they remain emotionless. The entire performance, a statement on the commodification of human bodies, lasts for five hours.
Perhaps confirming the suspicions of the critics who were reminded of Nazi Germany, the 38-year-old artist explained upon receiving the Golden Lion for National Participation that Faust offers "a very transparent view on the past," while also looking to the future and addressing the need "to know what to stand up for, and when to raise our fists."
Fellow German artist Franz Erhard Walther was also honoured with a Golden Lion; he was named Best Artist.
The 57th Venice Biennale is open until November 26th.
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