Koen Vanmechelen

Protected Paradise
Garden of Palazzo Franchetti, Venezia
Palazzo Franchetti / Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti/ Campo S. Stefano, 284, Venice
11 May > 26 November 2017

At the 57th Venice Biennale, the imposing, twelve-meter high installation Protected Paradise of Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen makes a striking statement about the stance of the human animal on a rapidly transforming planet. The mixed media installation towers above the magnificent garden of the Palazzo Franchetti, a few steps away from the Grand Canale. It consists of two bronze trees, a 5m chicken claw, glass, marble and glass fiber egg and an impressive cage made by Eco-oh! out of recycled material.

A caged egg symbolises a jeopardized present. Relentless attempts to protect it against the vicissitudes of life have taken away the oxygen and freedom needed to rejuvenate. The fossilized claw suspended above it and broken glass scattered around the cage exemplify the dangerous world from which we thought it needed protection. The stone branches embracing it are exact copies of each other. These clones are a dead-end. It is a scattered, broken world that needs healing.

But life always finds its way. The future rests on top of the cage. This egg, this recalcitrant object, born out of broken glass, has risen like a phoenix out of fire, water, sand and air. It will survive. It will determine its own future, unprotected, surprising. The egg is supported by a manmade cage, constructed out of recycled material, collected from the past but transmogrified.

Sculpting new life and a hopeful future from Nature Morte, that responsibility is ours. We should not write our own tragedy but navigate on the river of evolution. Past, present and future are the pillars of hope. A protected paradise is a contradictio in terminis.