Almost a year in the making, Music for Silence, the multimedia installation piece by Toronto artist Shary Boyle, opened for viewing, at least for the international press and VIPs, Wednesday afternoon at the 55th Venice Biennale.
Music is Canada’s official entry at the Biennale, long regarded as the most important showcase for contemporary international art on the planet, and is housed in the permanent Canadian pavilion built in Venice’s Giardini Pubblici in the mid-1950s. Canada has participated in the Biennale, which started in 1895, since 1952.
Hopes are high that the installation, curated by the National Gallery of Canada, will be an international breakthrough for the polymathic Boyle who, at 41, has seen her popularity and critical esteem rise steadily in her home and native land in the past 10 years. “This kind of opportunity for me in front of this much of an international audience that knows nothing of my work is powerful, profound and overwhelming,” she told a crowd Wednesday gathered at the Canadian pavilion.
Close to 90 countries have pavilions at this year’s Biennale, including such first-timers as the Holy See, Kuwait, Kosovo and Bahrain. The media preview continues Thursday and Friday, with the Biennale’s official, public opening occurring Saturday morning. By the time the Biennale concludes in late November, it will have attracted an estimated 500,000 visitors.
Boyle’s work has always been complex – a mix of the personal and the cosmic, the mythic and the theatrical, the Grimm and the grotesque. And it appears Music for Silence, kept under wraps until its Wednesday unveiling, is easily her most ambitious work, both in terms of conception and execution. True to her eclectic bent, the pavilion includes sculptures, porcelain figurines, paintings, drawings, photo-collages displayed on overhead projectors, a black-and-white film and much else, including a bronze child-like figure with three arms at the pavilion’s entrance and, inside, a cave and a giant, alabaster-white mermaid.