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Lisa Hilton (right) takes part in ZenMaster Fu’s ambulant sleep project

Crossing the Punto della Dogana at the top of Dorsoduro to catch the vaporetto to the Biennale pavilions, I passed a uniformed maid cleaning one of Damien Hirst’s faux-archaeological torsos from his show Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable. She caught my eye morosely as she flicked her duster over the statue’s engorged penis. “Another day, another cock” might have been a better title for the 57th Venice Biennale. At Fondazione Prada, a Marigold-gloved sex worker is filmed lighting a cigarette as she manipulates a rubbery member; Jan Fabre’s otherwise poised retrospective at San Gregorio features one in a mosaic of human bone. At Campo San Vio, James Lee Byars’s Golden Tower looms over the Grand Canal. It’s — big. Along with the penises, the pavilions’ most dominant theme this year is, unsurprisingly, migration, though if the visitors are really interested in the refugee crisis they might more profitably spend theirtime in the lavatories, patiently manned by a squad of extra-communitari.

For those planning to visit the exhibition, curated this year by Christine Macel, the following handy checklist may usefully outline what is to be expected. Verbose art-speak explanation of the artist’s concept, video screen, vaguely Philip Glass-ish surround soundtrack, random found objects. Confrontation, transgression and disruption occur frequently and the imperialist gaze is never far away. There is also some delicious complimentary fudge at the Latvian pavilion, whilst at the Belgian exhibit, Dirk Braeckman makes a novel offering of analogue photography. Other than that, it’s mostly cock, not that this matters in the least, because Biennale is nothing to do with art and everything to do with a flatteringly intellectual knees-up in the most beautiful artwork known to man — Venice itself. Don’t ask too much of the installations and you’re guaranteed a good time.

View of “Qwalala” by Pae White, at Le Stanze del Vetro until July 30 (photo ©Enrico Fiorese)

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