Bedwyr Williams @ Welsh Pavilion, Venice Biennale

Review by Adam Benmakhlouf | 13 Nov 2013

There’s something eccentrically humungous about the garden observatory cum shed that's been ceremoniously dropped into a small Venetian chapel by Welshman Bedwyr Williams. Visible through the observatory's slightly ajar half-door is a small thermos of tea balanced on a laptop showing Windows 95's 'Flying through the stars' screensaver. A modest set-up, it looks heavenwards to the chapel's ceiling: two bearded Jesuses happy in the clouds with a mess of cherubs.

Eccentric landscaping continues as the reverent glow of the next room beckons: a blue-lit pond with floating rock forms. Breaking the atmosphere of charged somnolence, Italians – suspicious of posterior strangers – move at a worried pace through a corridor that's completely dark except for a few small drill holes.

Claustrophobia continues in the next space, cut up by sculptures of large, geometrically-cut rocks. Barely fitting, they've got a precarious, seemingly haphazard arrangement. As though some nutter's sculptural masterwork (a garbled geometric stonehenge) has just crashed through the ceiling.

Then, feeling like the climatic moment, comes the film. Its sequence of mini-narratives include dentistry, a boy's wallpaper-inspired 'angsty trance' and sadomasochistic boot-licking. Cohering non-rationally like a well-composed painting, its various elements are related as much by the materiality and texture of gelatinous visuals as by the wordplay of its beautifully written text – featuring, for example, "the shoes of a Cherokee attorney."

To spite its otherwise well-staged, slick presentation, William loops the exhibition round itself, exposing the unfinished, pocked backside of the drill hole corridor. Concluding itself through the storeroom, with paper towels and a speaker playing the sounds of a toilet flushing nearby, why isn't this just a moment of self-deprecation? Instead the punchline comes in how far the show as an experience so far exceeds its own modest parts. What could you do with just chipboard and timber?