Biennale Gherdëina VI | Impressions

Last weekend I visited the sixth Biennale Gherdëina in Ortisei, located in the heart of South Tirol. The exhibition under the title “Writing the Mountains” is curated by Adam Budak and features seventeen contemporary artists with new commissioned works spread across the beautiful mountain landscapes as well as in the center of the village. 

Meet wonderful Doris Ghetta, the Director of Biennale Gherdëina, the main driving force behind the exhibition and the best tour guide I could ever hope for to experience the Biennale. The exhibition left me with almost forgotten happy feeling after experiencing something very beautiful, unique and somewhat unnoticed by the art travelers as well as local tourists. I hope to leave you inspired to jump on the train and spend the best weekend of your summer in the mountains together with great art.

Scheduled to be inaugurated on June 23rd, 2018 – the day of the 268th anniversary of the birth of a Father of the Dolomites, Dieudonné Sylvain Guy Tancrède de Gratet de Dolomieu usually known as Déodat de Dolomieu, French geologist who in 1792 discovered a calcareous rock which would be named after him along with the grandiose mountain range of northeastern Italy – the 6th edition of the Biennale Gherdëina is a venture into the polymorphous nature of the mountains and their language.

Conducted under a desire of WRITING THE MOUNTAINS, the exhibition combines liminal disciplines of cultural geology, communal ecology, performative science and relational practice of engaged aesthetics, challenging conventional forms of representation and perception as in a reference to the vocabulary of nature, landscape and a community.

ALICJA KWADE | Absorption (Dolomite), 2018
Dolomite stone, aluminum, bronze patinated, powder coated steel, 250 x 290 cm, unique, Courtesy of the artist and König Galerie, Berlin / London

Kwade’s new work, Absorption (Dolomite), conceived especially for the Biennale Gherdëina VI and displayed at the crossway of the pedestrian zone, appropriates original Dolomite stone and invites it into a series of transformations through scanning and duplication. The artist engages the viewer in a vertiginous interplay of perception as the walls of the mirror expand space and reflect the surrounding area, literally absorbing it, as the title suggests. Thus Kwade theatricalizes nature and the human being’s participation in it, creating a situation of sensual and cognitive tension.


EGILL SÆBJÖRNSSON | Can Boulders Love?, 2018
Mixed media installation (video animation, sound, rocks)

Can Boulders Love? is Egill Sæbjörnsson’s new work conceived en lieu using video animation and sound projecting onto real objects, mainly rocks found in the neighborhood of Val Gardena. Icelandic artist is well trained in mountain’s languages as he has been for years involved in polyloguing with stones and other natural matter. In his book Stones According to Egill Sæbjörnsson, he says “we need to erase the line distinguishing between dead and living material, as everything on the planet has happened in an unbroken lineage”. He adds: “Humans are walking and talking stones”. Everything on the planet Earth derives from Magma, from rocks and crystals to single cells, bacterias and animals.

2011, steel, rigid foam, epoxy resin, glass fiber mat, synthetic resin-paint, Courtesy HHW Private Fundation, Vienna and Galerie Meyer Kainer, Vienna

The imperfect, unfinished and contradictory characterize the sculptural objects of Franz West, and the constant possibility of linking two very distant ideas, namely philosophy with fine irony. The work was created in 2011 as an artistic seat, raised at two points exactly at the right height to sit down. The sculpture is on display in a private garden in the old town of Ortisei, there for passers-by to act as conscious spectators, maybe even to become involved in a veritable conversation. Communication and interaction with his artworks have always been leitmotivs of Franz West’s artistic production, their culmination being a passionate exchange between the plastic form of the object and the individual human being.

CLAUDIA COMTE | Morphing Sculpture 1:
Donut, Cactus and Snake (Viscosity Range), 2018
Larch wood, 3D milling, 300 x 150 x 100 cm, Courtesy of the artist and König Galerie, Berlin / London

The new work of Claudia Comte, conceived for the Biennale Gherdëina VI, Morphing Sculpture 1: Donut, Cactus and Snake (Viscosity Range), is a totemic collection of forms, a polyphonic assemblage of shapes, interacting one with another in a seemingly uncontrolled way, a formal carnival of sorts… Comte’s is both – an unconstrained joy of making art as well as an attempt to rethink the relationship between the human being and technology, between the man-made and natural materials. Each work is a study on the nature of transformation and metamorphosis. Comte investigates the properties of the materials, their physicality, as well as their magical properties; wood is her favorite medium in conversing with the nature and the universal reservoir of forms. 


GIUSEPPE PENONE | Scrive, legge, ricordaAlfabeto. Cuneo di ferro da piantare in un albero, l’albero crescendo lo assimilerà. 1972
3 photographs, each 20×20 cm, anvil 5×43 cm, Courtesy of the AGIVERONA Collection


GREGOR PRUGGER | Wanderstöcke, 2015
Wood 164 cm, 170 cm, 186 cm, 166 cm high
Tief verbunden, 2018 

NICO VASCELLARI | I Hear a Shadow, 2009-2011
Bronze, iron, acids, 430 x 210 x 117 cm, Unique
Courtesy of the artist and Mariano Pichler

Biennale Gherdeina 6th reenacts Vascellari’s performative sculpture, I Hear A Shadow, conceived between 2009 and 2011 as an organic, visual and acoustic chamber of mystical experience. A monumental monolith, the bronze cast of the detonated top of a marble mountain occupies a major place of a twilight drama to come, accompanied by collages and slide projections that enhance a multi-sensory, almost psychedelic and kaleidoscopic effect.

ŠTEFAN PAPČO | Anorak (from the series Absolute), 2017
Bronze, steel, 320x135x135 cm, ed. 1/3, Courtesy of the artist and ZAHORIAN & VAN ESPEN  Bonekan (from the series Absolute), 2017
Bronze, steel, 360x130x130 cm, ed. 1/3Courtesy of the artist and ZAHORIAN & VAN ESPEN

A series Absolute presents silent anti-monuments – sculptural versions of the mountaineers’ belongings, fetishizing their presence through the items of typical high mountain clothing which protects the climbers against extreme wind and low temperature. Papčo personalizes as well as mythologizes his protagonists, emphasizing the ethical and corporeal aspects involved in the challenge of a vertical space. The mountains appear as simultaneously a physical/ethical entity, a site of an extreme existential experience, as well as a mythical construct – a phantasmagoria, a desire, a dream, a mental excess.

JIŘÍ PŘÍHODA | Diogenes’ Barrel (Poetry Pavilion), 2014-18
Materials: wood, plywood, Corralit, concrete fondation, Dimensions: w. 732cm, h. 495cm, l. 650cm, Courtesy of the artist

Jiří Příhoda’s Diogenes’ Barrel (Poetry Pavilion), conceived for the 6th Biennale Gherdëina, is both a chamber of contemplation as well as a performance space for the readings of poetry, written and composed by Alessandro De Francesco. Doubled cylindric structure reflects the dialectics of inside and outside, rendering simultaneously open and enclosed space, a sanctuary within a breathtaking scenery of the Val Gardena’s Col De Flam with a carefully framed view towards the mythical Sassolungo. Executed mostly of wood, the pavilion’s roof is made of a luminescent artificial stoneware Corralit, absorbing daylight and glowing in the dark, thus generating a magical effect on long Summer evenings and nights.

20 spruce trunks, each trunk 600 x 40 cm, Courtesy of the artist and König Gallery, Berlin/London

Comte’s new work for the Biennale Gherdeina is a tour de force of sculptural gesture in regards to its scale and conceptual ambition – a pure expression of precision, radicality as well as a humor Comte just talked about…The artist considers the Dolomites’ mountainous hills as a blackboard where the palindromic WOOOW is spelled out with its boldness and grandiosity by 20 spruce trunks each 6m high. But WOOOW is not only a palindrome, it is also an onomatopoeia, meaning the word can be read with a particular sound in mind, a sound, enhanced by its picturesque surroundings, conjuring sentiments of reverence and awe. WOOOW holds no hierarchy of viewship, it can be read from all orientations, forwards and backwards, in this regard the work’s form of address can be thought of as democratic or egalitarian.



You will find more information about biennale here:


  • by plane:
    Verona, Bergamo or Innsbruck, then shuttle to Ortisei
  • by train:
    nearest station: Ponte Gardena, then bus or taxi to Ortisei
  • by car:
    from south –> highway A22 exit Bolzano Nord, then SS242 to Ortisei
    from north –> highway A22 exit Chiusa, then SS242 to Ortisei

Pedestrian area of Ortisei, Circolo Artistico di Ortisei, Parcours Col de Flam, Hotel Ladinia, Backstage Museum de Gherdëina

OPENING HOURS: Circolo Artistico di Ortisei: 10 am – 12.30 pm/ 3 – 7 pm

  • Hotel Ladinia: 10 am – 12.30 pm/ 3 – 7 pm
  • all other venues are accessible all the time

GUIDED TOURS: every Thursday at 4.30 pm from Circolo Artistico Ortisei, Via Rezia 102

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s