Macau Art: Joana Vasconcelos’ Valkyrie Octopus
I first got acquainted with Vasconcelo’s work in Venice at the Venezia Biennale Arsenale in 2005 when I first moved to Italy. I didn’t realise 10 years later, it was also that same conversation art piece that was her big step into the International art world. Her motivations, inspirations and views on feminism, the role of the woman in society is clear in her choice of subjects and using very common every day objects to explore this identity in today’s world. They are usually on a large scale and thought provoking. Somehow, I wouldn’t quite have linked her beautiful large scale Valkyrie Octopus to MGM, a casino in Macau, but spatially, the work is stunning and fits right in as the multi-coloured giant Octopus sits commandingly on top of the gorgeous large scale aquarium centre piece that has been installed for over nearly two years now, getting the festive makeovers during Christmas and Chinese New Year.
One of my favourite centre pieces to date at MGM.
So, a little on the Valkyrie Octopus part of her ongoing Valkyrie series – Vasconcelos has created pieces for Versailles and Palazzo Grassi in Venice as well as the Tel Aviv Museum of Art – known for her organic forms and use of textiles. Valkyrie is rooted in Norse mythology featuring female heroines that flew over the battlefield – a survival of the fittest.
What I love about this psychedelic madness of a giant octopus is that it fills the space so beautifully and commands a presence on top of the aquarium centre piece that is dwarfed in the sky lit atrium. One of those moments from a cartoon where the queen octopus might be asking who you are as a trespasser. Vasconcelos have included “tetris” like seats for the public to sit on and view the installation at different angles and getting a sense of space and place in this surreal psychedelic madness, it’s both intimidating and organically intriguing at the same time – kind of like trekking through the forest where you’re listening to the cacophony of birds and enjoying nature – but for me I get this sense of having to be focused and alert to fully and mindfully take it all in.
If you look carefully the tiles on the “tetris” seats reflect the tiled background on the walls. And there’s plenty of Middle Eastern, Indian textile elements going out – like an Arabian night fantasy gone wild octopus style. This certainly kick starts my imagination!
A little anecdote that I got was that the abnormally long side of it is meant to look like a dragon and the feng shui master of the casino said she had to use softer, less bold colours to make it all work in the space.
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