Yuri Ancarani @ The Encyclopedic Palace, Venice Biennale

Review by Melanie Letore | 31 Jul 2013

Yuri Ancarani's video in the Arsenale is not for the squeamish: the piece Da Vinci takes place in an operating room. The title comes from a human-controlled surgical machine used by hospitals to carry out minute movements inside the body. It looks like a giant high-tech spider, but depending on when the spectators enter the viewing room, this might not be what they see first. They might instead be forced to recognise the slimy and veinous interior of a human abdomen.

The da Vinci robot, manned by a surgeon, prods, cuts and burns organic tissue as the endoscopic camera follows it around the inner passageways of the body, at times simply to obtain a better view on the action. This footage is interspersed with shots of the surgeons monitoring what is probably a screen, waiting, or replacing parts in the machine. Ancarani constantly moves between inside and outside, and the sounds that belong to each world: loud heart-beating or beeps.

Ancarani presents a blatant opposition or alliance between man and machine in the medical world as the supposed prowess of surgeons now co-exists with extremely advanced technology. The robot itself is given a few minutes of eerie glory towards the end of the video as it is filmed moving on its own. It is deified, seeming too perfect, too precise to be man-made. The film concludes on a younger doctor's training, just as he has failed and made what would probably be a fatal mistake in the real world.

Simple questions are raised and left unanswered: what is left for humans to do except assist machines? What happens when humans do not control the robots they are entrusted with? Well, this piece is only documentation: the questions will be answered with time. [Melanie Letore]