Among the Venice Biennale collateral events 2019, the 'Death of James Lee Byars' installation at the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Visitazione at Fondamenta Zattere must be highlighted for its striking spiritual impact. The exhibition consists of two elements: the golden room, plexiglass and Swarovski crystals where Byars used to perform in twenty five years ago and the sixteen loudspeakers installed by artist Zad Moultaka reproducing Vocal Shadows, a mix of funeral lullaby and unknown voices that accompany the meaning of the sparkling giant solid box. The exposition of Byars' work of art is curated by the Belgian Vanhaerentes Collection - the current owner of the work - with the support of Zuecca Project Space, a Venetian no-profit cultural organization.
The gold installation recalls the original performance made by the artist in 1994 at the Galerie Marie-Puck Broodthaers in Brussels, where, completely dressed in gold himself, with black hat and shoes, he laid down on the carpet of gilded leaves to illustrate the ephemeral life people have to take on.
While performing his apparently death, surrounded by five diamonds symbolising the vital points of head, hands and feet, he intended to exorcise his battle with cancer somehow and to make his mark for eternity. That is why his body print has consequently been replaced with a rectangular gilt plexiglass, to continue to spread his concepts worldwide.
Indeed, Lee Byars had absorbed numerous notions and views on alchemy and the symbolism connected to it, as well as many ancient philosophies. For instance, he considered gold as "[I]love and one of the most supernatural types of experiences for people[/I]". Also, he interpreted at his most the idea of harmony by considering the fact humans are microcosmos living in the immense macrocosm, the universe, and the cenotaph on show should be the ultimate expression of this state of mind. Without forgetting that aesthetics plays a leading role in the whole conceptual assemblage.
This outstanding set up should not be missed as it ends Sunday 24 November. Entrance is free and more info and details on James Lee Byars' life and works could be seen and read on the free catalogue available on spot.