Enter the Underworlds of Peatlands: Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol’s Chilean Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale

Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol, Karukinka Natural Park, Tierra del Fuego, 2022. Photo: Ricardo Gallo

ArtReview sent a questionnaire to artists and curators exhibiting in and curating the various national pavilions of the 2022 Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published daily in the leadup to and during the Venice Biennale, which runs from 23 April to 27 November.

Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol is a collective project by sound artist Ariel Bustamante, art historian Carla Macchiavello, filmmaker Dominga Sotomayor and architect Alfredo Thiermann. The Chilean Pavilion is curated by Camila Marambio. The Chilean Pavilion is located in the Arsenale.

ArtReview What can you tell us about your exhibition plans for Venice?

Camila Marambio Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol is an experimental conservation device aimed at supporting the existing eco-cultural conservation efforts of the Patagonian peatlands. For Venice we are creating a multisensorial installation, a sensual instrument that will sink the viewer into an immersive experience of the peatlands of Tierra del Fuego, Chile. Conceived as a multivocal assemblage of ecology, Selk’nam language and art, it’s been designed and materialised by a highly skilled and sensitive artistic collaboratory: a core artistic team consisting of Ariel Bustamante (a sound magician, whose listening skills have been blowing me away since I first met him in 2008), Carla Macchiavello (an art historian whose language proficiency and sensory reading capacities fill pages of books and journal articles, all of them radically rethinking the Chilean imaginary), Dominga Sotomayor (filmmaker, whose dirty low-fi cinematic provocations and contagious enthusiasm for the subtly unsayable perfectly match the thick underworlds of peatlands) and Alfredo Thiermann (architect, whose work on sonic architectures with Ariel Bustamante inspired me to invite him). In asynchronous synchronicity this team began to give shape to what we call an enchanted airship, the heart of Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol. They have been accompanied by my curatorial team (the ecologist Bárbara Saavedra, the Selk’nam poet Hema’ny Molina, and the cultural producer Juan Pablo Vergara) and an outer ring of creative collaborators that includes a graphic and web design team consisting of Rosario Ureta, Mateo Zlatar and Carola del Río, a smellscape team, a scientific team, a team of art directors, a photo director, a lighting designer, a voice artist and a Selk’nam guide, among others. For a full list of the talent, I invite you to visit our website and make sure you listen to the Rumors.

AR Why is the Venice Biennale still important? 

Alfredo Thiermann I don’t think La Biennale di Venezia is still important, I believe its relative relevance remains more or less stable. By relative relevance I mean that it has mattered in specific terms, to specific interests, for specific actors along its history. It began as a stage for national pride and celebration of the emerging nation-state project, and in those terms it still operates in a similar fashion: some nations at the centre, others (like Chile) at the periphery and others simply not present. For our project, however, it has a very specific relevance, and one very different to the one I just described. Our project is invested in a tour de force for visibility, visibility of a landscape and ecosystem that is in danger, and visibility of a people that has been violently deprived of their most fundamental condition of existence: namely, the fact of being recognised as such, as a living and existing culture. Invested with such aim for visibility, Venice has a clear relevance for this project, because it can bring those issues to the fore, and in so doing it can influence, we hope quite directly, the political ethos of both entities that we are concerned with: the Selk’nam people and the peat lands, not only from Chile but across the globe. In that sense, our project inevitably must distance itself from the idea of national pride – indeed, it is the very idea of the state that has failed to protect and acknowledge the existence of both actors – and rather uses the platform of La Biennale to make things visible and audible. As a medium, La Biennale has the power to help us break the spell of invisibility, and it that sense it becomes extremely relevant.

AR Do you think there is such a thing as national art? Or is all art universal? What is misunderstood or forgotten about your country’s art history or artistic traditions? 

Camila Marambio I’m personally not interested in the idea of national art. The phrase ‘your country’ perturbs me. I am a Chilean mestiza woman. Chile is not ‘my country’. I don’t feel any claim of ownership over it, nor belonging. I was born on the unceded lands of the Akimel O’otham people in the USA to immigrant Chilean parents.

I think I’m not alone in feeling this. ‘Chileans’ are not one people. If anything, we are a mixed race, with deep wounds caused by colonisation, exile and global extortion. We love our land but suck it dry of its abundance in acts of masochistic passion. I feel strongly about the need to acknowledge the plurinationality of Chile as a way to redistribute value to our multilingual bioregional roots.  I am passionately in love with Chile’s rugged mountains, its wetlands, its coastline, its mineral-rich soil, its telluric currents and its translucent sky, just to name a few of my favourite of Chile’s body parts. My deepest desire is that Chile call me “my Camila” (and it has). On priceless occasions, I’ve heard it whisper in my ear, “mi Cami, vente”. 

The poets of Chile – and I don’t just mean the well-known published poets, but also the oral poets, the visual poets, the weavers, the cooks, the gardeners, the carpenters, the cleaners, all who conjure up daily odes of hilarity to deal with our irreconcilable cultural bifurcation – have taught me that Chile has many tongues.

AR Which other artists from your country have influenced or inspired you? 

Alfredo Thiermann Our group is very heterogeneous in terms of people’s intellectual and artistic backgrounds as well as in terms of generations, our interests span from science to art and across different times and epochs. I think if we were to make a list of influences, it would source from many fields of practice, certainly from different countries and regions, and it would probably span a wide time spectrum. I think what unifies this group in terms of influences and inspirations, however, is a loosely defined idea of culture that is not divorced from nature. We are all connected to Chile in different capacities, and many of us operate from a distant perspective, but what is common is a mode of being, seeing and acting upon the world that is marked by a shared experience of a vastly heterogeneous territory with a certain attitude of resilience, a mode of being situated from the periphery. I think this project is a celebration of the possibility of diversity and an honouring of ancestry.

In chorus Some of our artistic influences and inspirations are Alicia Vega, Fidel Sepúlveda Llanos, Carmen Couve, José Perez de Arce, Vanessa Vázquez Grimaldi, Soledad Fariña, Raúl Ruiz, Gabriela Mistral, Rainer Krause, Manuela Infante, Adriana Valdés, Pedro Lemebel, Cecilia Vicuña, Roberto Bolaño, Ana Taulis, Nestor Olhagaray, Violeta Parra, Rodrigo Pérez de Arce, Francisca Benítez, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Carmen Beuchat, Elicura Chihuailaf, Natasha de Cortillas.

AR How does having a pavilion in Venice make a difference to the art scene in your country? 

Ariel Bustamante I don’t know. It’s hard for me to define the Chilean art scene, at times it seems coherent and stable, at other times undefined and incohesive. In any case, whatever shape it takes, the Venice Biennale presents an opportunity to think collectively, question and broaden the realm of contemporary art practices in our country.

AR If you’ve been to the Biennale before, what’s your earliest or best memory from Venice?

Dominga Sotomayor My first time in Venice was in February 2004. I was eighteen years old and it was my first time in Europe. We arrived by train from Florence with a friend after having travelled by ferry from Barcelona to Genoa. There was torrential rain; it was flooded and dark. We walked on wooden planks with our legs wet up to our knees. On the corners we were frightened by masked and wet characters, we realised that it was Carnival. It was a delirious experience. I only remember blurred landscapes and umbrellas. We ended up sleeping in the train station.

Then I was once at La Biennale, for the 2011 edition. I loved it. I particularly remember The Clock, by Christian Marclay. I spent a long time watching that collection of fragments of different films; I thought it was incredible. And the last time I went there was for the International Film Festival in 2017. I took part in the meeting of cinemas organised by CICAE in the former San Servolo asylum. We were invited because in Santiago de Chile, together with two friends, I founded the Centro de Cine y Creación (CCC), a neighbourhood cinema and creation centre. We presented CCC Santiago in Venice and it was incredible to meet the owners and programmers of different cinemas around the world and their experiences. From that trip I especially remember crossing over to the Lazzaretto Vecchio for the Venice Virtual Reality competition, which was also part of the festival. That was the first time I saw virtual reality works.

AR What else are you looking forward to seeing?

Carla Macchiavello The many sister/friend/outlier pavilions, groups, peoples that are accompanying, attending, supporting and augmenting potent, crucial voices that have not necessarily been paid attention to, yet. Voices that are – have been for so long – claiming for their own forms of representation and autonomous ways of being, to be heard, seen, felt, carefully. I am looking forward to engaging in dialogue with them, weaving alliances, connections, supporting each other in these complex webs that are being created of caring practices, which also include those of art. And not just ‘seeing’ but smelling, touching, sensing as fully as one can.

Most recent


We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. This includes personalizing content. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, revised Privacy.