Thar She Blows! Reinventing Moby Dick for the Venice Biennale

Wu Tsang photographed in Venice by Diana Pfammatter for Elephant

A smack of jellyfish drift slowly across a 16-metre LED. Every so often, a lone creature zooms into close-up and its form breaks into glitchy pixels before it drifts off again to rejoin the group. This is Of Whales, a tranquil VR video work by Wu Tsang shown in the Giaggiandre, one of the quietest spots in the Arsenale, under vast brick canopies that stretch out into the sea with gently pulsing waves reflected onto their underbellies.

The jellyfish form part of Tsang’s VR-looped sperm whale deep dive, which takes in sun-splattered waves, moments of fellow sea-life swimming past, and more abstract forms that vibrate in time to a soothing soundtrack. Of Whales forms part of a body of work inspired by Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick. At the opening week of the biennale, TBA21–Academy and The Hartwig Art Foundation presented at Teatro Goldoni the Italian premiere of Tsang’s stirring silent feature film Moby Dick; or, The Whale with a live score by the Zurich Chamber Orchestra. Of Whales offers a below-sea-level insight into the cetacean’s experience while Moby Dick; or, The Whale explores life onboard the ship.