The latest Venice Biennale is ideologically and aesthetically bankrupt 

Last week’s opening of the 60th edition of the Venice Biennale marks a watershed for the art world. In much of the festival’s gigantic central exhibition, curated by the Brazilian museum director Adriano Pedrosa, as well as in many of the dozens of independently organised national pavilions and countless collateral events, it more obviously than ever before didn’t so much matter what was on show, but why. The politics of visibility and representation has been eating away at the arts for at least a decade, most recently under the banner of ‘decolonisation’. The now nearly complete abdication of aesthetic criteria in favour of a decolonial organising principle is here finally

In search of Jeanne Duval: The Baudelaire Fractal, by Lisa Robertson, reviewed

The shared etymology of the words ‘text’, ‘textile’ and ‘texture’ – from the Latin verb textere, ‘to weave’ – has long been a fertile subject, its thread running through the work of theorists such as Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, Gilles Deleuze (from whom one of the epigraphs for this book is taken) and others. But this now critical commonplace provides a helpful entry point to the Canadian poet Lisa Robertson’s sometimes evasive first novel The Baudelaire Fractal, a work obsessed with textiles, tailoring, intertextuality and the woven physicality of language. The word ‘novel’ seems only really appropriate in its adjectival sense. It tells the story of Hazel Brown,

Lumpy, bulgy, human: Threads, at Arnolfini Bristol, reviewed

Trophy office blocks designed as landmarks are not welcoming to humans; their glass and steel reception areas feel more suited to robots. But this summer the cavernous lobbies of two City buildings – 99 Bishopsgate and 30 Fenchurch Street – have been humanised by To Boldly Sew, an exhibition of wall hangings by the winner of this year’s Brookfield Properties Crafts Award, Alice Kettle. As the owners of Renaissance palazzi and Jacobean mansions understood, wall hangings bring warmth and colour to a cold interior: once more prized than paintings, they doubled as decorations and draught excluders. Now, dignified with the name of ‘fibre arts’, fabrics are back in the fine-art

Biomorphic forms that tempt the viewer to cop a feel: Maria Bartuszova, at Tate Modern, reviewed

Art is a fundamentally childish activity: painters dream up images and sculptors play with stuff. It was while playing with an inflatable ball with her young daughter in the early 1960s that Maria Bartuszova had the idea of filling balloons with liquid plaster instead of air. The inspiration fed her muse for 30 years, seeding the mixed crop of biomorphic forms currently filling five rooms at Tate Modern. Trained in ceramics at Prague Academy of Arts under communism, Bartuszova turned to plaster after moving with her sculptor husband Juraj Bartusz to the industrial city of Kosice, now in Slovakia, in 1963. Plaster was cheap and plentiful: a 1987 photo in

A story of women and weaving – a new retelling of the Greek myths

What are myths for? Do they lend meaning and value to this quintessence of dust? Like religion, perhaps they help us battle through. In weighing this issue, Charlotte Higgins demonstrates again why the Greek variety have never lessened their grip on the western imagination. She structures her material around eight women — Athena, Alcithoë, Philomela, Arachne, Andromache, Helen, Circe and Penelope — and in particular around the scenes they weave. ‘I wanted the form of my chosen stories to be expressive in itself,’ she writes in the introduction. And it is. She draws in particular on the rich visual culture that has survived in ceramics, sculpture and frescoes. She also

Deserves to be much better known: Sophie Taeuber-Arp at Tate Modern reviewed

Great Swiss artists, like famous Belgians, might seem to be an amusingly underpopulated category. Actually, as with celebrated Flemings and Walloons, when you start counting you discover there are more of them than you thought. Paul Klee, for example, and Alberto Giacometti. A third, whose work is reassessed in a large exhibition at Tate Modern, was Sophie Taeuber-Arp. Clearly, unlike the other two, hers is far from being a household name even in fairly artistic homes. There are several reasons for this, one perhaps being the unwieldiness of that cognomen itself. She was born Sophie Henriette Gertrud Taeuber in 1889 at Davos, and as was then the custom, hyphenated her