Good Sports: Allora & Calzadilla Bringing Athletes, Industrial Design to Venice Biennale


From left, David Durante, Chellsie Memmel, and Dan O’Brien will perform at the U.S. Pavilion during the preview of the Venice Biennale.

Ready your tracksuits, art and design lovers! Fresh off their exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, where they dispensed with the bench and had their pianist play Beethoven‘s “Ode to Joy” from inside the instrument, artistic duo Allora & Calzadilla have outlined their plans for this summer’s Venice Biennale. The San Juan, Puerto Rico-based collaborators were chosen to represent the United States by the Indianapolis Museum of Art‘s Lisa Freiman, the commissioner of the U.S. Pavilion. It’s shaping up to be a sporty space: Allora & Calzadilla will be importing American gymnasts and track stars (courtesy of USA Gymnastics and USA Track & Field) to perform as part of three of the six new works commissioned for the exhibition.

Visitors to the U.S. Pavilion will be greeted by “Track and Field,” which will feature a massive overturned military tank. A functional treadmill will be grafted to the tank’s right track, and runners will go nowhere fast on it at regularly scheduled intervals throughout the exhibition. Two other installations, “Body in Flight (Delta)” and “Body in Flight (American),” will consist of realistically painted scale reproductions of the latest industrial designs for business-class airline seats. The wooden structures will stand in for the balance beam and pommel horse, and gymnasts and dancers will perform routines developed by Allora & Calzadilla. “These performative sculptures will use poetic shock and unexpected juxtaposition to raise questions about the relationship between the human body and art, militarism, commerce, sports, and international identity,” said Freiman, in a statement issued by the museum. Meanwhile, 1996 Olympic gold medalist Dan O’Brien, 2008 Olympic silver medalist Chellsie Memmel, and 2007 U.S. All-Around champion David Durante have signed on to perform at the pavilion during the three-day Biennale preview, which begins June 1.