ArtReview sent a questionnaire to artists and curators exhibiting in and curating the various national pavilions of the 2015 Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published daily in the lead-up to the Venice Biennale opening.
Luis Felipe Ortega and Tania Candiani are representing Mexico. The pavilion is in the Arsenale – Sala d’Armi.
What can you tell us about your exhibition plans for Venice?
Luis Felipe Ortega: The main plan is as follows: an idea that will be realised in a sculptural form, a sound and video piece. The work will serve as a platform for dialogue with my fellow artists, academics, curators, researchers and spectators. This idea is posed for them, I want to share it as a journey/piece and path/reflection.
Tania Candiani: It will be powerful! You will find the result of an intensive collaboration based on a curatorial idea that connects Venice and Mexico as amphibious cities and reflects on the history of the Mexican pavilions since 2007. A coherent artwork by two artists, a sculptural and sound intervention in the Sala d’Armi that also spreads across the city.
Are you approaching this show in a different way as to how you would a ‘normal’ exhibition?
LF: I am not sure what a ‘normal’ exhibition is. Each of my projects is very particular since most of the times they have to do with a specific proposal and a specific place. Perhaps the difference will be the broad audience at Venice that will hopefully allow for great interlocution around the work. I am very interested in the possibility of real dialogue and particularly curious of how this plays out in Venice.
TC: Certainly, for many reasons, first of all, collaborating with another artist to produce a single artwork in an intensive discussion with the curator. Moreover, even if I am usually very aware of the site specificity of a project, this time the site has a particularly strong presence and even a leading role. Finally, a greater challenge is posed by the biennial as a platform, the strict time constraints, and how strongly I feel about the topics we are dealing with.
What does it mean to ‘represent’ your country? Do you find it an honour or problematic?
LF: From the start, with Tania and the curator, Karla Jasso, we decided not to use the term ‘national representation’ but national participation. Mexico is a complex country, with multiple and different cultures, stern social tension, and therefore it is impossible to ‘represent’ the country in an event like Venice. In terms of national participation, I think that the work we are showing may allow to measure the condition of contemporary art in Mexico in relation to other countries.
TC: I see it as problematic and I think this is symptomatic in the installation. I am aware that the pavilion will prompt a wide audience to discuss contemporary art practice in the country. It is a responsibility, a very complex one considering the political crisis of our country at the moment.
How are you approaching the different audiences who come to Venice – the masses of artist peers, gallerists, curators and critics concentrated around the opening and the general public who come through over the following months?
LF: The Venice Biennale, from my point of view, had lost a very important capacity, that of discussing and questioning the contemporary languages of art. It seemed that it had disregarded the historical, political, social and philosophical positions that precede us. I think the appointment of Okwui Enwezor responds to the need to provide a space of intellectual speculation for the art world.
TC: As any artwork, Possessing Nature has several layers of meaning. It is for the public to decide how deeply they want to get involved with our research and process which has become a complex fabric, a cohesive formation made of diverse threads of more subtle propositions. We hope that our work can be read at all levels of memory and compromise, and that it will succeed in provoking the questions we are seeking to activate. A catalogue will also be available, we have prepared it very carefully; it contains the keys to approach the work and presents our research clearly and in a more theoretical format.
What are your earliest or best memories of the biennale?
TC: I visited the Biennale for the first time in 2007, when Príamo Lozada was the curator of the Mexican Pavilion with the work of Rafael Lozano Hemmer. He was my mentor, and a very dear friend so for mine, participating this year has also a very personal meaning.
You’ll no doubt be very busy, but what else are you looking forward to seeing?
LF: I don’t know exactly what I would like to find, I usually don’t have this kind of expectations. However, I would like to see proposals that stress the need to rethink the notion of subjectivity that has been so diminished in the arrogant understanding of art as entertainment. Hopefully we will find plenty of interesting ideas to discuss.
TC: I am looking forward to the whole experience. I understand it in a political way, where points of view from different realities will coexist and share a context. I am looking forward an extremely participative discussion, an ‘arena of exchange’.
How does a having a pavilion in Venice affect the art scene in your home country?
LF: I live in a country with outrageous poverty rates and also the richest men on earth, so it is not easy to talk about participating in Venice without taking that into consideration. However, Mexico has strength and commitment that come from a historical dignity. The country’s participation in this platform reveals a desire to show that strength and commitment of knowing where we come from, our ancestors and cultural background. I think that history will fill me with strength in Venice and let me return to share that experience with my students, in a space where we can ask ourselves who we are and who we want to be (even if there is no answer to that question, what is significant is to re-raise and re-think it).
TC: It gives us an opportunity to broadcast the quality of work produced in the contemporary art scene in Mexico, somehow it is a chance artists can aspire to. We know this year’s pavilion will trigger a conversation, it is a source that poses many questions, which will hopefully continue to develop after Venice.
Online exclusive published on 8 May 2015.