The Venice Questionnaire: Dane Mitchell

The artist representing New Zealand on tree cell towers and remembering bygone things

Dane Mitchell, Post hoc, 2019, digital working drawing. © the artist

ArtReview sent a questionnaire to artists and curators exhibiting in and curating the various national pavilions of the 2019 Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published daily in the lead-up to the Venice Biennale opening on 11 May.

Dane Mitchell is representing New Zealand. The pavilion is located at Palazzina Canonica, Riva Sette Martiri.

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

My project for Venice is a sculptural installation entitled Post hoc, which materialises and broadcasts lists of phenomena that no longer exist, or have withdrawn from us. In doing so, it creates what you could call an intangible sculptural field across Venice. I am installing tree cell towers, communication towers that poorly mimic nature, in various historical sites so passers-by will be able to hear names of millions of bygone things, ranging from extinct animal species to former national anthems. The project highlights how progress is also a history of obsolescence, but nevertheless, Post hoc decouples any causality between extinction events and contemporary responsibility, to focus on the forgotten histories it momentarily revives.

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

Given the recent atrocities in Christchurch, New Zealand, I must admit that there is a weightiness to the notion of representation given the county’s collective grief. We’re a small country and the reverberations of this totally appalling event are palpable everywhere. Of course the work does not directly address this, but the sense of being from New Zealand is very much on my mind.

Is your work transnational or rooted in the local?

I think there is a timeliness and a universality to the concerns my work addresses and I often exhibit internationally, however, I’m certainly from somewhere – I’m Pakeha from New Zealand Aotearoa – and this isn’t without specificity.

How does a having a pavilion in Venice make a difference to the art scene in your home country?

It’s important. New Zealand often slips off the map – I mean this literally and metaphorically.

If you’ve been the biennale before, what’s your earliest or best memory from Venice?

Arto Lindsay leading a procession down the Riva dei Sette Martiri in 2009, which moved right past the two buildings and gardens that are now the site of the pavilion.

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

To be honest I haven’t had time to really look up. I did see the artist list for the curated exhibition announced recently and am looking forward to seeing the work of Handiwirman Saputra.

The Venice Biennale runs 11 May – 24 November