ArtReview sent a questionnaire to a selection of the artists exhibiting in various national pavilions of the Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published over the coming days. Berlinde De Bruyckere is representing Belgium. The pavilion is located in the Giardini.
What can you tell us about your plans for Venice?
As a starting point, I went the Belgian pavilion to absorb the space and to experience the boundaries of its architecture. After several visits, I felt the need to make a new work. Something different. And now that we've reached the final stage and the work has been completed, it seems to unite so many aspects of my previous works. All the themes that have inspired me in the past, the materials I usually work with, everything is there, yet in a completely different way.
Are you approaching the show in a different way to how you would with a 'normal' exhibition?
To me it feels like I've been 'commissioned' to create a work for the pavilion; therefore the space has become a very important aspect of the work. The link to the city is equally important; the city of Venice and its history are very much present. And then of course there is the text [commissioned for the exhibition] by J.M. Coetzee, which inspired me greatly and that I have tried to translate into my work.
What does it mean to 'represent' your country? Do you find it an honor or problematic?
I am truly honored to represent Belgium this year. This is the third time I've been nominated to do so and I feel that now is the right time for me. The cooperation with the wonderful team I've been working with for so long has reached a level that gives me the self-confidence I need to fulfil such a task. The Venice Biennale is immense. My position here is a humble one. Having the opportunity to make this work, from the first steps in my studio to the final decisions in the installation, has been a true privilege. To be able to study, to work an entire year on this project, to read and re-read J.M.Coetzee's novels and to make a book with him, has nourished me creatively, like nothing has ever done before.
What are your earliest or best memories of the Biennale?
It's impossible to make a list. To me, visiting the Biennale is not just about the separate works. Above all, it is an experience – an opportunity to be immersed in an intoxicating and constant flow of beauty and other experiences. Two past installations I was very impressed by were Bill Viola's Ocean Without a Shore in 2007 and Take Care of Yourself by Sophie Calle in the same year.
You'll no doubt be very busy, but what else are you looking forward to seeing?
I'm very much looking forward to this year's edition of the Biennale, as I am especially fond of Massimiliano Gioni's work. He has a way of finding the strongest and most interesting concepts, and knows how to develop them to perfection. I had the opportunity to go to Gwangju in 2010 for the Biennale. 10.000 Lives was an exhibition that touched me deeply. The way Massimiliano builds his exhibitions, the way he chooses and connects certain artists, reminds of a honeycomb. A beautiful and elegant, yet full and fertile structure. I'm very much looking forward to experiencing the entire Encyclopedic Palace. As for the pavilions, I am especially looking forward to see Anri Sala at the French pavilion.