Last year, several websites fell for an April 1 Internet hoax announcing that James Franco had been selected as the U.S. representative to this year’s Biennale. He wasn’t. Nonetheless he’ll be close by with a project on the Isola della Certosa, the former home of a centuries-old monastery. The ruins that dot the island will form the backdrop for “Rebel,” a collaborative Franco farrago of film, installation, painting, and sculpture based on the fatal glamour of James Dean. Among the plans of Franco and his suitably macho cast—which includes Douglas Gordon, Paul McCarthy, Ed Ruscha, and Aaron Young—is an installation of a customized, life-size replica of the Chateau Marmont’s Bungalow 2, where Nicholas Ray developed Rebel Without a Cause. Six thousand miles from Los Angeles and that other Venice, Tinseltown is still a predominant muse.
Two other things foreign to Venice: billboards and bamboo. The former will be found during the Biennale’s opening week in a project created by Moscow’s Garage Center for Contemporary Culture and curated by Neville Wakefield. Short digital works by artists (from Maurizio Cattelan and Ryan Trecartin to Barbara Kruger and Mika Rottenberg) will be broadcast as part of a short-lived look at advertising in a city where it is almost completely absent. The latter will be found next to the Peggy Guggenheim museum, courtesy of Doug and Mike Starn. The twins’ Big Bambú combines 1,500 bamboo poles imported from France with 1,000 poles grafted from their project on the roof of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art last summer. The result is a 50-foot tower of green and a jungle in the heart of Venice—yet another meeting of old and new.