Archive for the ‘Venice Biennale’ Category


Bonnie Ora Sherk and A Living Library Represented at Open Table (Tavola Aperta) in Venice Biennale 2017

[caption id="attachment_8142" align="aligncenter" width="610"]Bonnie Ora and Marie Voignier with other guests at the Open Table (Tavola Aperta) on October 07, 2017 at the Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy. Bonnie Ora and Marie Voignier with other guests at the Open Table (Tavola Aperta) on October 07, 2017 in the Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy[/caption]

As part of the 57th edition of The Venice Biennale, curated by Christine Macel, Chief Curator of the Pompidou Center in Paris, Bonnie Ora Sherk, along with Marie Voignier, another artist featured in this year’s Biennale, were interviewed by Maria Pesavento, at the Open Table (Tavola Aperta) on October 07, 2017 at the Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy. 

[caption id="attachment_8186" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Coincidentally enough, Bonnie Ora's ensemble echoes the table decor at Tavola Aperta in La Biennale 2017 Coincidentally enough, Bonnie Ora's ensemble echoes the table decor at Tavola Aperta in La Biennale 2017![/caption]

Bonnie Ora discussed her work and installation in the Arsenale, in the Pavillion of the Earth in La Biennale, called, Evolution of Life Frames: past, present, future with the visitors, over a casual lunch at the Tavola Aperta.

Link to full video discussion on La Biennale Website: 

Excerpts from her talk:

  • The installation - Evolution of Life Frames: past, present, future:
[caption id="attachment_7668" align="aligncenter" width="610"]View of Bonnie Ora's installation called 'Evolution of Life Frames: past, present, future' in the Arsenale in La Biennale View of Bonnie Ora Sherk’s installation – Evolution of Life Frames: past, present, future in the Arsenale in the 57th Venice Biennale 2017, Viva Arte Viva, curated by Christine Macel[/caption]

Bonnie Ora explained two major works exhibited at La Biennale — Crossroads Community (the farm) and A Living Library. Crossroads Community (the farm), a pioneering artwork, involved development of an urban farm and art center that incorporated a major freeway interchange in San Francisco, beginning in 1974.

Giving an overview about A Living Library, she elaborated:

“A Living Library is a planetary genre. I work with place-based ecological transformation of communities and schools, and each unique intervention, or each Branch Living Library & Think Park, is place-based, linking the local resources of the community — human, ecological, economic, historic, technological, and aesthetic. When we look at those assets in each community through the lens of time: past, present and future, no matter where we are, we find incredible richness.  I work with the community to develop a Master Plan for transformation that incorporates the local resources. The processes of creating a Master Plan with the community is also a learning program for the community. The work has to do with the transformation of places that interlinks with systemically integrated hands-on programs and learning opportunities for all ages.”

[caption id="attachment_7672" align="aligncenter" width="610"]Venice Biennale 2017 Bonnie Ora and her installation during the opening of La Biennale on May 10, 2017 in the Arsenale[/caption]

In her installation on A Living Library, three Branch Living Library & Think Parks are shown in addition to an Overview Section: the OMI/Excelsior Living Library & Think Park (San Francisco), the Bernal Heights Living Library Nature Walk (San Francisco), and the Roosevelt Island Living Library & Think Park (New York City).

“The big idea is to develop Branch Living Library & Think Parks in diverse parts of the world - locally and globally - and to link them through Green-Powered Digital Gateways, multi-functional, or multi-Funcshuional sculptural elements in the landscape that allow for bringing water forth from the earth as may be needed, showcasing local resources and processes of communities through multimedia archives, and also allowing for live interactive broadcast between places.”

[caption id="attachment_7669" align="aligncenter" width="610"]Venice Biennale 2017 Drawing/Collage made in 1974, shown as part of Bonnie Ora Sherk's installation in the Arsenale, was the First Proposal for Crossroads Community (the farm), that the artist carried, rolled-up,  under her arm, to show to legislators, city agency heads, and community leaders to gain their support. The Farm, as it became known, was a pioneering collaborative artwork and was one of the first Alternative Art Spaces in the United States.[/caption]
  • About her early work: Bonnie Ora called her early work “Environmental Performance Sculpture —using a found or created environment, and creating a performance in the place systemically, which then integrated all elements creating a whole experience”.  As a pioneering conceptual artist in the 1970s, some of her notable performance pieces include:  Sitting Still Series, Portable Parks 1-111, and Public Lunch.

Discussing her work with live animals in Portable Parks 1-111, Public Lunch, and Crossroads Community (the farm), she emphasized:  “I wanted to create opportunities for people to understand the native intelligences of different species of animals, and to get over the human presumption that we are the center of the universe.”

  • Goal of her work: “My work now really lives in the community, more than in art institutions,” Bonnie Ora said. “The goal of the work is actually to educate people about ecosystems, natural system, interconnected systems; particularly young people and to make environments and processes more ecological.” She further mentioned working with thousands of PreK-12 students in public schools, educating them through hands-on learning, involving them in the ecological transformation of their local places, and empowering them through real-world experience. 
[caption id="attachment_7670" align="aligncenter" width="610"]Venice Biennale 2017 Visitors tour Evolution of Life Frames: past, present, future in La Biennale, May 2017, in Venice, Italy[/caption]

Elaborating on the goals of A Living Library and Life Frames, Inc. the non-profit sponsor of A.L.L. that she founded and directs, Bonnie Ora continued to say:

“A Living Library provides a framework for understanding linked systems — biological, cultural, and technological – It is time for us to begin working together and thinking this way.  The work is systemic, ecological design and it has to do with the transformation of places, and then transformation of people in the places. It is time for us to evolve as human creatures and understand how we all are interconnected, with each other and other species.”

  • Documentation of the work: Replying to a question regarding documentation of her work, Bonnie Ora said, “I take lots of pictures all the time, because it is all process. Everything is process and it is changing every minute, and so much is going on. Also, the students take pictures and other people take pictures. This work is evolutionary, and I am envisioning the multi-media digital archives that will incorporate these images that show processes and resources over time, on the Green-Powered Digital Gateways.  We want to hold on to this history and content, and celebrate it.”

In answering this question, she referred to the work underway now in the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School in San Francisco, and its transformation from a barren concrete expanse to a series of California Native Learning Zones filled with trees and understory plants, and she explained how the documentation is important to really see and understand the work over time.

  • Replying to a question about her biggest challenges: “I swim a lot because I find it is important to swim around the challenges. The biggest challenges are usually the adults who don’t understand or value the work. Related to that may be the lack of money, however, if you do something that is really good and powerful, it is magnetic, and everything comes to you. I actually have a lot of faith in the Universe. I believe that things happen as they should happen. So, I don’t get really worried about a lot of the details, and I don’t take it personally.”

To watch the full conversation at Tavola Aperta in La Biennale 2017, please go to

Also see:  Evolution of Life Frames: past, present, future on Venice Biennale Website


Bonnie Ora Sherk and A Living Library Receive International Recognition at Venice Biennale 2017

Venice Biennale 2017

Bonnie Ora Sherk and A Living Library (A.L.L.) have been recognized and featured in one of the most prestigious contemporary art exhibitions in the world, The Venice Biennale 2017. The 57th edition of La Biennale, also known as the Olympics of the Art World, opened on May 10, 2017 and will continue through November 26, with an estimated attendance of more than 500,000 visitors. A Living Library is exhibited as a part of Bonnie Ora Sherk’s installation Evolution of Life Frames: past, present, future, in the Arsenale in the Pavilion of the Earth, dedicated to the environment, ecological, and communitarianism movements one of the nine themed sections of the exhibition curated by Christine Macel, also Chief Curator of the Pompidou in Paris, France.  Additionally, Bonnie Ora has been invited to return to Venice and La Biennale to give a public talk on her work on October 7, and then will give another public talk and workshop on A Living Library in Zurich, Switzerland on October 12 and 13th at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste / ZHdK.

Her two-part installation in La Biennale also features Crossroads Community (the farm) — a pioneering collaborative artwork involving urban agriculture, multi-arts, and environmental education — that resulted in Potrero del Sol Park, adjacent to the Chavez/ 101 Freeway Interchange. From 1974 to 1980, Sherk was the Founding Director and President of Crossroads Community (the Farm) which has been recognized as one of the first Alternative Art Spaces in the United States. Her installation includes the original drawings she made for the Park. A video featuring her and her way of working has been published on the official website of The Venice Biennale 2017.

As Founder and Director of Life Frames, Inc., the non-profit sponsor of A Living Library, Sherk has been relentlessly working towards raising awareness about the importance of ecological green space with integrated education of natural systems, and encouraging participation from all sectors of community with each local Branch Living LibraryA Living Library, or A.L.L. for short, links local resources and systems - biological, cultural, and technological – resulting in place-based, ecological transformation of communities and schools with integrated community programs.

Partnering with the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, Bonnie Ora and Life Frames developed A Living Library Nature Walk,  that has emerged as a powerful and successful prototype for connecting communities in the Islais Creek Watershed, the largest in San Francisco. The project aims to expand and interconnect the eleven neighborhoods of the Watershed that includes Bayview, Bernal Heights, Crocker-Amazon, Mission, Noe Valley, Potrero Hill, Portola, Sunnyside, Excelsior, OMI, and Glen Park through new, narrative resilient landscapes.  Further, it plans to transform the two neglected and flooding freeway interchanges of the Watershed — Chavez/101 and Alemany/101 — into Northern and Southern Gateways to the Watershed.

Since 2002, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department has been collaborating with Bonnie Ora on the Bernal Heights Living Library Nature Walk. Congratulating A.L.L. on its recognition at La Biennale, Phil Ginsburg, General Manager, SF Rec and Park, said, “The Living Library Nature Walk showcases how parks can connect our communities, as well as the innovation of sustainable landscapes that can tackle many environmental challenges including climate change, wild habit restoration and so much more. The fact that this project and the associated SF parks will be on display to receive international recognition, is a testament to Bonnie’s commitment to the coalescence of arts and nature.

While improving the beauty and health of the public realm of each neighborhood, A Living Library also provides multiple learning opportunities for communities and schools with hands-on education about climate change, flood mitigation, watersheds, natural systems, native species, green skills job training, environmental justice, and ecological transformation.

Sherk describes A.L.L. as “Cultivating the Human and Ecological Garden”, a planetary genre meant to be created in diverse communities of the world, and interconnected through Green-Powered Digital Gateways, so that the diversities and commonalities of cultures and ecologies can be shared. She views the recognition of A.L.L. at La Biennale as a wonderful opportunity and honor, and looks forward to extend its reach locally and globally.

References: Venice Biennale 2017 Venice Biennale 2017 Venice Biennale 2017   Venice Biennale 2017 Venice Biennale 2017 Venice Biennale 2017
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