The time has come for the art world to descend on the picturesque sea-level city of Venice for the 57th Venice Biennale, the most prestigious international art exhibition there is. 85 countries from across the globe have created elaborate exhibitions inside pavilions spanning the Giardini and Arsenale, each spotlighting the leading artists and curators from their respective nations. Pavilions will be opening with ribbon cuttings and a slew of exclusive parties throughout this week, but already there’s a clear favorite: the German Pavilion’s exhibition of artist Anne Imhof’s pseudo-opera Faust, which has been turning heads and flooding social media with images of Adidas-wearing youngsters that to the uninitiated could either be simply some art or mistaken for the chillest art-fashion branding collaboration no one knew they needed.
Imhof’s durational performances, which have been shown at Berlin’s Hamburger Banhof and the Kunsthalle Basel, frequently feature a weary cast of millennial-aged dancers, often clad in athleisure gear, who roll about, strut, stand, smoke and whatnot, with a considerable amount of apathy, over the course of several hours and days. In October 2016, I witnessed one such Imhof-conceived spectacle at the Montreal Biennial. Angst 3, as it was titled, featured four hours-worth of live falcons, smoke machines, drones, cases upon cases of Diet Pepsi, e-cigarettes and Imhof directing a gaggle of metal band T-shirt wearing dancers via text from her smartphone. The performance’s imagery managed to cleverly evoke Delacroix’s painted harems and a more NC-17 version of a Nike loungewear campaign at the same time.
Flipping through official stills for Imhof’s Biennale performance, as well as Instagram’s trove of shaky videos, and it appears that Faust is shaping up to be a veritable feast of similar themes, plus a soundtrack of monastic chanting and screaming, freely roaming dobermans, precarious glass pedestals and a glass stage for performers to navigate, and a more decidedly health goth aesthetic.
An excerpt from a lengthy statement on the work from the German Pavilion’s website reads: “The mute howls bear witness to the ever-increasing pain of vanishing living beings and to the zombification of capitalist bodies. Dualistic conceptions and the frontier between the subject and the object of capitalism disintegrate…”
Absolute pure metal. Is Faust really performance art, or is it just one over-the-top, living, breathing, writhing campaign for a short-lived lifestyle that sadly came and went too soon? It’s probably best if you decide for yourself. Could it revive health goth among the jet-setting 1 percent—please? I believe there’s a strong chance it might, and I’ll be obsessively searching Instagram in the next few days to see if black-on-black track pants turn out to be the Biennale’s big look. In the meantime, here’s a glimpse—in pictures (above) and some videos culled from Instagram (below)—at Anne Imhof’s Faust for the German Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale.