The Venice Questionnaire 2015 #36: Alexander Ponomarev

Representing Antarctica at the 2015 Venice Biennale, Alexander Ponomarev answered our short questionnaire

Alexander Ponomarev, Voice in the Wilderness, 2014

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.

Alexander Ponomarev is representing Antarctica. The pavilion is at Fondaco Marcello, Calle dei Garzoni, Grand Canal.

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

Our Antarctic Pavilion is like a ship that has forced its bow into the Grand Canal and set out on the Venice adventure against the traditional rules of navigation. The fact that the Foreign Policy Magazine named Nadim Samman [the curator of the pavilion] and I among 2014’s Leading Global Thinkers for our project at last year’s Architectural Biennale obliges us to think globally.

My present display picks up the trail of earlier adventures in the Antarctic, the Sahara and Greenland. It is concerned with consent, voices sounding together in concord, salvation, faith and death. It is a sort of ‘return journey’, to quote Plato – another meaningful movement to myself; a vague result of a nomadic life.

Are you approaching this show in a different way as to how you would a ‘normal’ exhibition?

Practically, all my exhibitions are a result of complex interactions with geography, the socium and history. They are traces of some process. It is this parallel movement across the globe, on the one hand, and inside my thoughts and feelings, on the other, that crystallizes into installations and drawings. As Kahil Gibran wrote, ‘a work of art is Fog shaped to form an image’. I always try to sail ahead in my independent fog.

What does it mean to ‘represent’ your country? Do you find it an honour or problematic?

Representing my land was of course no problem when I exhibited at the Russian National Pavilion in 2007. It was a joy. Representing the 52 constituent countries of the Antarctic Treaty is of course a huge problem. For this reason I have reverted to my original working concept and started acting on behalf of fish, whales and birds!

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?

I treat none differently - I love and respect them all. However, professionals are always harder to deal with, because they delve deeper.

What are your earliest or best memories of the biennale?

I love Venice very much. My earliest and brightest impressions of the city are from entering the canal aboard a training sailboat, and seeing the Biennale poster at the Giardini Gardens. Thirty years later I sailed into the Grand Canal aboard my artistic submarine to the confusion, amazement and joy of locals and tourists.

You’ll no doubt be very busy, but what else are you looking forward to seeing?

The first thing that I always do when I come to Venice is go to see Titian’s Assunta in the Friari. I always try to explore the other exhibits in the biennale but, of course, without much success. Nowadays I stay a little longer the city each time.

How does a having a pavilion in Venice affect the art scene in your home country?

There is no cut-and-dry answer. Some people think that global warming has set in, that ice will melt and we will all be drowned. Others argue that, on the contrary, another ice age will start and we will be frozen stiff. Our pavilion is better attuned to these processes than others - processes that impact humanity as a whole, and that is why in my project I focus on Concord and voices sounding in unison!

Read all responses to the Venice Questionnaire 2015 edition published so far

Read all 30 responses to the Venice Questionnaire 2013 edition

Online exclusive published on 9 May 2015.