Every Island and Andrea Mancini on Representing Luxembourg at the 60th Venice Biennale

ArtReview sent a questionnaire to artists and curators exhibiting in and curating the various national pavilions of the 2024 Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published daily in the leadup to and during the Venice Biennale, which runs from 20 April to 24 November.

Andrea Mancini and Every Island (Alessandro Cugola, Caterina Malavolti, Martina Genovesi, Juliane Seehawer) are representing Luxembourg. The project is titled ‘A Comparative Dialogue Act’. The Pavilion is located in the Arsenale, Sale d’Armi, 1st floor.

Photo: Alessandro Simonetti, 2023

ArtReview What do you think of when you think of Venice?

Every Island & Andrea Mancini: We think of Venice as a place of sharp contrasts, in its landscapes (full vs void, decay vs opulence), in its temporality (winter vs summer): a place that does not make a lot of sense anthropologically and geographically, but which is still standing there, in all its contradictions and all the difficulties that these bring along. There is something about resilience there, in how the city or its inhabitants resists and prove to themselves and to the rest that life is somewhat possible there, besides Disneyfication, cyclical flooding, deterioration, climate, etc.

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

EI & AM: The main point is to turn the biennale into a productive space, so to host four sound artists (Bella Báguena, Célin Jiang, Selin Davasse, Stina Fors) to explore four intersecting approaches to the multiple ways identity, performance and sound can meet over the course of the exhibition. In this sense the plans are quite unconventional: the installation which we will present at the inauguration is more an infrastructure rather than a finished work, which is rather thought to be collectively produced over the four residencies. This will be a collective soundscape, made of interpretation and contamination of each other’s work: the collection of different performances and pieces created over the course of the biennale will be recorded on vinyl, which we plan to launch by the conclusion of the exhibition, in November.

AR Why is the Venice Biennale still important, if at all? And what is the importance of showing there? Is it about visibility, inclusion, acknowledgement?

EI & AM: There is surely a component in the visibility, in the amount of people that visit the exhibition each year. This defines quite a big responsibility, in the thought of one single project ‘representing’ a country in front of such an important audience. Nevertheless, it is quite unconventional in our case to have this responsibility; we tend to think ‘Venice’ comes as acknowledgement of the work and career of established artis, whereas in our case it is rather the opposite, as it comes quite at the beginning of our career – Every Island has only existed for two years, and the same could be said Andrea’s artist practice. It’s quite a beautiful idea from Luxembourg, to prioritise the message rather than the career or body of existing work.

We are conscious there is something arbitrary in the way certain artists or practices are put to the fore by the various countries participating to the Biennale, as processes of selection happen in extremely different contexts: but this makes Venice even more special, as the contamination between countries, pavilions, practices, researches happens on multiple levels, among practices which could not be more heterogeneous.

AR When you make artworks do you have a specific audience in mind?

EI: No, or rather, we are interested in engaging with as many people as we can. A founding element of Every Island practice is to consider the audience as a performer: to achieve this one need necessarily to include everyone, by using space as a tool to question roles, to allow transitions. The project we will present in Venice is hopefully particularly successful in this: we turned any element of the space into a sound device (to reverberate it, to stop it, to amplify it), defining an immersive space for the audience to engage in an ongoing, chaotic work made of the appropriations and interferences of multiple artists.

AM: I could also maybe add that in my practice, first as a musician and later with an interdisciplinary approach, the audience has always played a central role. In that sense, the celebration of community (both artistic and public) with open and shared values resonates with my work, its form and presentation.

Luxembourg Pavilion, A Comparative Dialogue Act, 2024 © Andrea Mancini & Every Island

AR Do you think there is such a thing as national art? Or is all art universal? Is there something that defines your nation’s artistic traditions? And what is misunderstood or forgotten about your nation’s art history?

EI & AM: Well, national art exists, to the extent that a country supports art and has tools to understand and prioritise topics to bring to the fore and showcase, which sadly are not fair or democratic everywhere. So, we tend to think traditional art is not very much bound to artistic or cultural ‘tradition’ per se, but to the set of infrastructures of support and debate that a country chooses or is able to invest in and organise.

AR If someone were to visit your nation, what three things would you recommend they see or read in order to understand it better?

AM: Even though I have been living outside of Luxembourg for many years I think what defines the country best is its geographical situation and tiny size which implies an openness to its neighbours, their languages, cultures and traditions.

AR Which other artists have influenced or inspired you?

EI & AM: More than artists we find a lot of inspiration in things around us, in the cities we live in and their tensions, in standardised solutions or elements that define certain languages, and in the way we can turn these around to distort them, defining more personal or open-ended meanings.

AR What, other than your own work, are you looking forward to seeing while you are in Venice?

EI: Surely the Belgian Pavilion with the work of Petticoat Government, which groups quite very diverse practices, which in a way also deals with the idea of a collective, and with themes which echo our practice.

AM: Definitely the Japanese Pavilion by artist Yuko Mohri whose kinetic sound installations have been quite inspiring for me, but also the South Korean Pavilion with Koo Jeong-a.

The 60th Venice Biennale, 20 April – 24 November

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