Midas PR’s top Pavilions at the 58th Venice Biennale
16 May 2019
This May, Midas PR arts team travelled to Venice to launch the Giudecca Art District and its flagship installation, ‘Body as Home’ by the artist Aleksandra Karpowicz with October! Collective; and The Pharos Flower installation by Narine Arakelian at the 15th Century Scala Contarini del Bovolo.
In exploring Venice, our arts team brings you their top picks of the Biennale Pavilions and the Arsenale. The 58th Venice Biennale takes place from 11 May to 24 November 2019.
Iceland: ‘Chromo Sapiens’ by “Shoplifter” aka Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir at Spazio Punch, Giudecca 800, Giudecca island
You won’t be surprised to hear that Shoplifter aka Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, is known for her collaborations with Björk (see the Medúlla album art work). Her installation in the Icelandic pavilion is like a trip inside Björk’s brain as you enter via a pitch black doorway into a cave adorned with fluorescent synthetic hair. You’ll be hard pushed to resist rolling around on the floor of this fantasy cave, ore reclining on one of the low level hairy benches. Split into three areas, the colour scheme evolves from darks blues slashed with neon, to fluorescent pink and then dream like pastels. Go if you need a big furry hug from Björk; avoid if you have a fear of pet hair or enclosed spaces.
Estonia: ‘Birth V’ by Kris Lemsalu, curated by Andrew Berardini, Irene Campolmi, Sarah Lucas, Tamara Luuk, Giudecca Art District
Kris Lemsalui is known for merging fantasy and reality. In the Estonian Pavilion she gives birth to an immersive and fairy tale like installation, complete with a quote from Prince. “Birth V” is mainly concerned with life, and involved a team of writers, artists, curators and friends including the writer Andrew Berardini, and the artist and her mentor Sarah Lucas. The result is two large installations, described as an ‘accidental creature’ from which flows birth and life. The first creature is a multiple armed figure commanding a boat, fitting for the location in the shipyard of Giudecca. Entering the second space you’re confronted with a large scale installation that forms a floor to ceiling fountain that trickles water from each of its ceramic vagina like porcelain vessels which, surrounded by reaching hands, create a sense of ever an open and outward action, of pulling towards life and into the beyond.
Mongolia: ‘A Temporality’ by Jantsankhorol Erdenebayar (Jantsa), German artist Carsten Nicolai, aka Alva Noto and curated by Gantuya Badamgarav
The third appearance for Mongolia at the Venice Biennale brings A Temporality, involves sculptural installations by Los Angeles based artist Jantsankhorol Erdenebayar (Jantsa) and an interactive sound performance by Mongolian traditional throat singers, accompanied by renowned German artist Carsten Nicolai, aka Alva Noto.
Traditionally, Mongolians practiced throat singing to communicate with their inner selves, surroundings and animals. Nowadays man-made environments are superimposed over centuries of natural relationships, introducing concrete blocks, panels, glass and asphalts as the focal points for our interactions, represented here in the sculptural installations by Jantsa.
Ghana: ‘Ghana Freedom’ by El Anatsui, Ibrahim Mahama, John Akomfrah and Selasi Awusi Sosu
Designed by UK-Ghanian architect David Adjaye, this is the first Ghana pavilion at Venice Biennale. Entitled ‘ghana freedom’, the exhibition takes its name after E.T. Mensah’s song which marked the country’s independence in 1957. The exhibition showcases the creativity and beauty that’s been evolving in the country for decades.
At both pavilion entrances, you find monumental sculptures by El Anatsui and Ibrahim Mahama forming stunning facades, that reference key themes of the biennale: consumption, waste and the environment. Inside, portraits by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye converes with studio photographs and self-portraits by Felica Abban from the 1960s to 1970s; plus John Akomfrah’s three-channel installation, “The Elephant in the Room — Four Nocturnes” (2019). Further video work by Selasi Awusi Sosu, titled “Glass Factory II” (2019), offers fragmented and moving accounts of post-colonial histories through poetic visuals that survey the complex African cultural landscape.
Japan: ‘Cosmo Eggs’ by Motoyuki Shitamichi, Taro Yasuno, Toshiaki Ishikura and Fuminori Nousaku, curated by Hiroyuki Hattori, Curator / Associate Professor, Akita University of Art
The Japan pavilion in the Giardini combines video work with interactive installation to allow visitors to recline on a large orange inflatable while they ponder the question of how people living in Japan, a country plagued by natural and manmade disasters, can coexist with plants and animals in a new way. The pavilion takes as its starting point the ‘tsunami stones’ encountered by artist Motoyuki Shitamichi in the Yaeyama Islands in Okinawa in 2015. Shitamichi likens the tsunami stones, which look like meteorites or giant eggs, to public squares or monuments. The “Tsunami Stone” is central to the exhibition, while four black-and-white films by motoyuki shitamichi capture ‘tsunami boulders’ washed ashore from beneath the ocean. These are accompanied by automated sounds, controlled by an algorithm that never repeats, while ‘singing bird generator’ by the composer taro yasuno is performed on suspended recorder flutes.
Indonesia: “Reason and Negotiation Never Come Just Once” by Handiwirman Saputra and Syagini Ratna Wulan, curated by Asmudjo Jono Irianto and co curated by Yacobus Ari Respati
The Indonesian pavilion, located in the vast warehouses of the Arsenale, involves 400 lockers filled with interactive content about issues in Indonesian arts and culture, including a ferris wheel and a full-sized smoking room. Named after an Indonesian proverb emphasising the importance of process, the exhibition aims to kindly mock the contemporary and fast-moving digital world, where any information is immediately accessible by anyone. Moving through the dark space, lit up by these cabinets, there is an eerie sense of the archival and of freezing time so we can reflect on issues and our excess.
Central international exhibition, Arsenale: ‘Dillio Plaza’ by Slavs and Tatars
Not technically a Pavilion, but not to be missed is Dillio Plaza, by the collective Slavs and Tatars. The installation offers visitors to the vast Arsenale a chance to revive themselves with a fermented pickle-juice drink. As part of the artists’ investigation into the richness and complexity of the geographical area between the former Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China, ‘Slavs and Tatars’ aims to reclaim Turkic and nomadic origins of fermentation and a non-binary approach to digestion that combines preserving and managed rotting. The result is a swimming pool esque structure built of light neon green tiles with a copper and brass fountain, a blue glass watercooler containing pickle juice (‘Salamoia’), an out of order bottled sauerkraut juice vending machine and a large wall hanging of woollen yarn, entitled ‘Ha’mann in the hood’.