Planning for Venice

Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Falling Stones Garden, installation view at Desert X AlUla. Photo: Lance Gerber. Courtesy the artist and Laurie Shabibi, RCU and Desert X

Find out who will be presenting which country at the biennale, as they are announced

In the lead up to the 59th Venice Biennale, which has been postponed to 2022, we will update the list of every participating country’s representing artist as the news is announced. Stay tuned!

Marco Fusinato will head to Venice as Australia’s representative. The artist and musician previously showed at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015 as part of Okwui Enwezor’s international exhibition, All the World’s Futures.

Artists Ashley Hans Scheirl and Jakob Lena Knebl, who have worked together before, most recently at the 15th Biennale de Lyon, will represent Austria. The duo was chosen for the pavilion by Mumok director Karola Kraus who said that they ‘negotiate current, explosive and innovative topics in sensual works with broad impact. Their works, which are characterised by the diverse interrelations between art, performance, design, fashion and architecture, address current discourses that are received internationally.’

Francis Alÿs will represent Belgium, exhibiting work that has grown out of the artist’s repeated trips to Iraq. The artist first went to country in 2016, embedded with the Kurdish Army in Mosul. ‘What does it mean to make art while cities such as Nimrud and Palmyra are being destroyed? If the logic of ISIS is ‘destroy in order to exist’ then does this mean that we must create in order to survive? Is art only a means with which to transcend the catastrophe of war?’ he asks. Alÿs was born in Antwerp but has lived in Mexico City since 1986. The pavilion will be curated by Hilde Teerlinck, director of the Han Nefkens Foundation

The National Gallery of Canada has selected Toronto-based artist Stan Douglas to represent the North American country, citing his ‘continuing re-imagination of the mediums of photography and multi-channel film and video installation’ in a statement. Douglas has been involved in four previous editions of the biennale.

Pilvi Takala
has been chosen by Frame Contemporary Art Finland to represent the country. Berlin and Helsinki-based, the artist is best known for her videos documenting performance interventions, ranging from dressing as Snow White to visit Disney Land Paris (and being turned away) to taking a job at the marketing company and refusing to do any work. The pavilion is to be curated by Christina Li, who, now Hong Kong and Amsterdam-based, was previously the director and then curator-at-large of Spring Workshop.

Zineb Sedira will represent France, making her the first French-Algerian-British to do so. The London-based artist works with film and photography to explore ideas around cultural identity and belonging.

Maria Eichhorn
will represent Germany. Typically interested in questions of economy and ownership, Eichhorn’s contribution to Document 14 consisted of a research institute that documents the dispossession of Europe’s Jewish population after World War II. Yilmaz Dziewior, director of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, appointed to curate the pavilion, said ‘In my view there are few artists who address themselves to German history and its impact on the present in as multifaceted and intensive a manner as Maria Eichhorn.’ 

Great Britain
The British council has chosen London-based artist Sonia Boyce to represent Britain. Boyce works with many mediums, highlighting and challenging notions about the representation of the black body and how they intersect with ideas about class and gender, particularly in Britain. She will be the first black woman to represent Britain at the biennale.

Sigurður Guðjónsson is Iceland’s pick. Guðjónsson works with audio-visual installations that simulate synaesthetic experiences, creating unusual links between vision and hearing to extend the audience’s perceptual field.

In her quiet and often minimal work the sculptor and video maker Niamh O’Malley is known to explore the materiality of landscape as well as conceptual ideas on how we sense the world around. The pavilion will be curated by Dublin’s Temple Bar Gallery. 

The Netherlands
Melanie Bonajo will represent the Netherlands, producing a new film which ‘considers the ‘human body and hauls it up out of the claws of capitalism. The work won’t be shown in the country’s usual Rietveld Pavilion in the Giardini but the Chiesetta della Misericordia, a deconsecrated 13th century church. For one year only the Mondriaan Fund, which organises the country’s participation in the biennale, has invited Estonia to occupy their usual venue. Director of the fund, Eelco van der Lingen, said the move was a gesture towards the inherent imperialism of the pavilion system. ‘It’s often been said that the Giardini reflects a former balance of powers, but no country gives up its place on the main stage of the biennale. At the same time, it’s good for us to step out of our comfort zone for once and explore the freedom outside the walls of the pavilion. This also gives the Dutch entry the opportunity to come up with a plan that doesn’t need to take into account the context of Rietveld, the pavilion, or the Giardini.’ The modernist The modernist Rietveld Pavilion was built in 1954. The last new pavilion to be built in the Giardini was South Korea’s in 1995 (the Australian pavilion was rebuilt in 2015) and there is no room in the gardens for any further buildings.

New Zealand
Samoan-born artist Yuki Kihara has been selected to represent New Zealand. Kihara, who studied fashion design and technology, uses an interdisciplinary approach to highlight and question historical narratives regarding people of Pacific descent.

Latifa Echakhch will represent Switzerland, having already done so once before at the 54th edition in 2011. Echakhch is best known for her installations, which make use of ordinary objects, decontextualising them to allow for open interpretation.

Sakuliu Pavavaljung will represent Taiwan, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum has announced. The artist’s work, often political in nature, spans painting, sculpture, architecture and installation. It is the first time Taiwan has chosen an indigenous artist to represent it at the biennial. Pavavaljung comes from the Paiwan people in the village of Tavadran in Pingtung County in southern Taiwan. Patrick Flores, professor of art studies at the University of the Philippines and a curator at the Vargas Museum in Manila, will curate.

United Arab Emirates
Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim will represent the Emirates in an exhibition to be curated by Maya Allison, executive director of the New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery. The Sharjah-born veteran artist was a member of the UAE’s avant-garde art scene of the early 1980s. His work ranges interventions in the environment, most recently, during his participation in the Desert X AlUla festival in Saudi Arabia in 2020 when the artist filled the rocky landscape with dozens of brightly coloured boulders, to gallery-based abstract sculpture and paintings that draw inspiration of from organic forms. ‘I am inspired by the coasts, sierras and mountain lights of my home in Khor Fakkan, where my family has lived for generations,’ says Ibrahim. ‘Here in the UAE we are surrounded by diverse and ancient landscapes as well as advanced urbanization. This tension is one of the concepts I explore in my work through organic materials, by allowing my subconscious to find the forms. I am delighted to be able to share my locally-rooted practice with a global audience at the Venice Biennale.’

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