ArtReview sent a questionnaire to artists and curators exhibiting in and curating the various national pavilions of the 2017 Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published daily in the lead-up to the Venice Biennale opening (13 May – 26 November).
Nika Autor is representing Slovenia with Newsreel 63, curated by Andreja Hribernik. The pavilion is in the Arsenale.
What can you tell us about your exhibition plans for Venice?
Nika: The exhibition in Venice will consist of a newsreel with the title Newsreel 63 and a book. The book deals with questions of committed cinema and newsreel production, its historical and contemporary implications, and through that it also questions current social and political issues. Newsreel 63 is primarily focusing on a shred of video from a mobile phone, taken on the once-famous Belgrade–Ljubljana train line, where refugees now travel, not in couchettes but between the train’s wheels. The video drifts into a visual investigation of railways and trains in connection to the film history and tries to position the shred of video within that.
Andreja: The book combines diverse approaches on the mentioned topics and brings together a great number of scholarly texts as well as literary and visual elements. The title of the book is The News Belongs to Us! which also mirrors the question of news production, news ownership, news distribution and the power of news.
How is making a show for the Venice Biennale different to preparing a ‘normal’ exhibition? Or another biennial?
Nika: It is not. We’re approaching the project with the same level of responsibility and enthusiasm as we would in any other setting.
There are a huge number of biennial exhibitions across the world nowadays. Do you think the Venice Biennale still has a special status, and why?
Andreja: The Venice Biennial has a long history, and with that tradition and visibility, and this puts it on the top of the list of current contemporary art events. The scenery and geolocation of Venice makes it also one of the most attractive spots for art-interested visitors, but also tourists. Still, the growing number of biennial exhibitions and the associated ‘festivalisation’ of art is not unproblematic from the perspective of art and the type of art it invokes.
What does it mean to ‘represent’ your country? Do you find it an honour or is it problematic?
Nika: It is none of that. I do not identify myself with an idea of a country, and for sure I do not understand the project as mine, more ours. For me the identification with a concept of “nation” or “representative of a country” might be problematic, especially when one is dealing with questions of oppressed lives, hidden and silences topics, current struggles of refugees and labor issues, that are taking place also in Slovenia. At the same time the project is for us a possibility to talk about these topics. Due to the production budget, it was possible to gather great authors to compile an exciting book and a video.
The Venice audience is a diverse group. Who is most important to you? The artists, the gallerists, curators and critics concentrated around the opening, or the general public which visits in the months that follow?
Nika: Everyone who is interested in what our project has to say is important. We are also very much looking forward to presenting this project in Slovenia, where people who cannot come or afford to see the Biennial, will have the chance to see and discuss the work.
Did you visit the last Venice Biennale? What’s your earliest or best memory from Venice?
Andreja: I have visited the Venice Biennial regularly since starting out in the art field. It gets bigger and bigger every year, with more collateral events, so that it sometimes feels overwhelming. But it is also a great opportunity to see many good works and to be challenged by some.
Nika: I did not visit the last Biennial. I am not a huge fan of big shows, or of very crowded cities. My first visit to Venice, was when I in mid 90s, I won a prize on a childrens’ TV show – the prize included traveling by speed boat from Koper to Venice. I was very excited!
How does a having a pavilion in Venice make a difference to the art scene in your home country?
Andreja: I think it opens a question of responsibility in terms how to approach a presentation like this and in terms what are the expected results of the presentation.
Nika: To rent a pavilion space in Venice demands quite a big budget in relation to what we are used in the art field in Slovenia. Is that justified? I don’t know. What I know is that in the Slovenian art scene cultural workers and artists are usually underpaid or even unpaid for their work and cultural institutions are struggling with neverending financial cuts. A few years ago the Slovenian pavilion was transferred from a small gallery to the Arsenale. I am wondering if this has to do with the idea of visibility of a small country. Venice being so geographically close probably makes it seem “possible and manageable”, but at the same time it is so distant in terms of the enormous and gigantic art production that takes place at the Biennale, on a scale that Slovenia may never have. I wonder – should we strive for this or should we start looking in different directions in current Slovenian cultural and art politics?
You’ll no doubt be very busy, but what else are you looking forward to seeing?
Nika: I am looking forward to see Tintoretto again.
Andreja: I am looking forward to meeting some of old friends again.
Click here to read all the Venice Questionnaires so far
8 May 2017