ArtReview sent a questionnaire to a selection of the artists exhibiting in various national pavilions of the Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published over the coming days. Joana Vasconcelos is representing Portugal. The pavilion is moored in front of the Giardini.
What can you tell us about your plans for Venice?
My project establishes a connection between Lisbon and Venice, based upon their shared historical relationship with the sea and fundamental importance in the past of linking the West with the East.
Are you approaching the show in a different way to how you would with a ‘normal’ exhibition?
This is what I designate as a total, all-encompassing artwork/floating pavilion/ship - a Noah’s Ark of Portugueseness. It takes the form of a typical working Lisbon ferry-boat featuring artistic interventions both inside and out, Trafaria Praia also features a stage for concerts and conferences and will be moored at the entrance to the Giardini, except when it navigates in the Venice Lagoon, which will happen twice a day.
What does it mean to ‘represent’ your country? Do you find it an honour or problematic?
I’ve exhibited my work in the Venice Biennale before (The Bride at the entrance of the Arsenale in 2005; at a collateral show in 2007; in 2011, in the Palazzo Grassi, at an exhibition of works from the François Pinault Foundation) but never as an official representative of my country. This is both a huge honour and a great responsibility.
What audience are you addressing with the work? The masses of artist peers, gallerists, curators and critics concentrated around the opening or the general public who come through over the following months?
My work does not reach out to a specific public in particular. One can never anticipate the public’s reaction and it seems to me it would be a mistake to subject the artistic choices to the expectations of a particular audience.
What are your earliest or best memories of the biennale?
My earliest memory is when the doors to the Arsenale opened and a vast crowd walked towards The Bride, which greeted visitors at the entrance of the exhibition Always A Little Further.
You’ll no doubt be very busy, but what else are you looking forward to seeing?
I look forward to seeing Venice from aboard the Trafaria Praia, as well as the central exhibition, at least a few pavilions such as the French, the German, the Cuban and the Spanish Pavillion, curated by my friend Octavio Zaya. As for the collateral events, I’ll be sure to see Glasstress: White Light/White Heat, an exhibition of Murano glass sculptures by contemporary artists, featuring a piece I created.