The Venice Questionnaire #29: Susanne Gaensheimer

By ArtReview

Between the Devil and the Wide Blue Sea, a film by Romuald Karmakar, Film still, 2005 © Pantera Film GmbH

ArtReview sent a questionnaire to a selection of the artists exhibiting in various national pavilions, and some of the curators, of the Venice Biennale, the responses to which are being published daily in May, in the run up to the Biennale opening. Susanne Gaensheimer is curator of a group show for the German pavillion which is swapping venues with the French pavilion, in the Giardini.

What can you tell us about your plans for Venice?

After having worked with Christoph Schlingensief in 2011, this time I invited four international artists from different countries: Ai Weiwei, Romuald Karmakar, Santu Mofokeng and Dayanita Singh. They have all been working in Germany for many years, but more importantly their works share a critical reconsideration of cultural and social self-conception in a globalised world. Both everyday life and the cultural landscape of Germany are determined by different religions, economies, and political approaches. This defines our everyday and leads to mutual enrichment as well as to confrontation. At the same time it is evident that our society can no longer function without dialogue, collaboration and the addressing of different philosophies and actual realities. For me, working together with a group of artists from different countries for the Venice Biennale is also a logical continuation of my work with Christoph Schlingensief. The artists whom I invited and their works are representative of a number of issues resulting from the convergence of diverse ideologies and conceptions of life, which impact us most immediately today. In the context of the Venice-project it is important to me that these artists manage to expand our perspectives and give us access to the view of the 'other’, sometimes in an uncomfortable way. Although they develop their works out of specific, local contexts, they establish a kind of universal visual language by integrating their individual experiences of internationality. And this, I believe, is also one possible representation of a Germany that I am interested in.”

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

Yes, absolutely. The question of how one can possibly represent a country is one that, as far as I know, is only relevant here in Venice.

What does it mean to ‘represent’ Germany curatorially?

Thinking through questions of nation and identity with as much help and support from those who have genuinely contributed to these kinds of questions. There is no better help possible than the works by Ai WeiWei, Romuald Karmakar, Santu Mofokeng, and Dayanita Singh.

What audience are you addressing with the work? The masses of artists, gallerists, curators and critics concentrated around the opening or the general public who come through over the following months?

I think both, we all aim for all possible publics.

What are your earliest or best memories of the biennale?

The German Pavillon with Hans Haacke and Nam June Paik will allways stay with me. Icecream with my kids is another fond memory!

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

II will try to see as much as possible this time. Especially the pavilions by countries who I have not seen yet, like Zimbabwe.