55th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia – Participation of Portugal
Riva dei Partigiani/Laguna di Venezia (next to the Giardini’s vaporetto stop)
Curator: Miguel Amado
Commissioner: Secretário de Estado da Cultura and Direção-Geral das Artes, Governo de Portugal
For Portugal’s participation in the 55th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, the artist Joana Vasconcelos (born in 1971) is presenting Trafaria Praia, a project in which a cacilheiro, or Lisbon ferryboat, is transformed into a floating pavilion and artwork. The Trafaria Praia is moored next to the Giardini’s vaporetto stop and sails around the Venice lagoon at regular intervals daily. During the preview and also on June 1, the Trafaria Praia hosts a series of public programs related to Portuguese culture.
The Trafaria Praia project addresses the commonalities between Lisbon and Venice, both cities that played historical roles in broadening the European worldview during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It looks at the contact zone between them today by considering three aspects they share: water, navigation, and the vessel. Vasconcelos brought to Venice a cacilheiro, the Trafaria Praia, and is presenting it as a floating pavilion. She is, thus, deterritorialising territory, which is intended as an idealistic gesture—a metaphorical circumvention of the power struggles that often mark international relations.
Vasconcelos covered the outside of the ship with a panel of blue-and-white azulejos(hand-painted, tin-glazed ceramic tiles) that reproduces a contemporary view of Lisbon’s skyline. This piece takes its inspiration from the Great Panorama of Lisbon, which depicts the city before the earthquake of 1755 and is a quintessential expression of the baroque-style golden age of azulejo production in Portugal.
On its deck, she created an environment made of textiles and light—a complex medley of blue-and-white fabrics all over the ceiling and walls, from which crocheted pieces, intertwined with LEDs, emerge to create a womblike, surreal atmosphere. The installation suggests the deep ocean—something out of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, perhaps, or the Bible story of Jonah and the Whale.
On the quarterdeck, various areas are set up to host public programs, which take place in the mornings and late afternoons every day during the preview and on June 1. “What Art, What Future, What Future for the Art?” is a series of roundtables addressing topics about the Portuguese art scene. Speakers include Rosário Salema de Carvalho; Moritz Elbert/Colectivo de Curadores; Carlos Fortuna; Alda Galsterer; Filipa Oliveira; Luísa Soares de Oliveira; Paulo Cunha e Silva; and Raquel Henriques da Silva. “New Music, Old Traditions” is a series of concerts exploring Portuguese musical trends. Participants include Henriq and Severino; Jonas Runa with Spiridon Shishigin, Jin Hi Kim, and Eddie Prévost; Os Músicos do Tejo; and Quarteto Arabesco with Ana Quintans and Marcos Magalhães, as well as with Pedro Jóia.
The Trafaria Praiapublication brings together architectural renderings, photographs, and essays that document the project from the initial research stage to the final public unveiling, as well as the intellectual references that inform it. Contributors include Miguel Amado and the Portuguese scholars Onésimo Teotónio de Almeida; Francisco Bethencourt; Rosário Salema de Carvalho; Luís Miguel Correia; and Raquel Henriques da Silva. It is edited by Miguel Amado with Lúcio Moura/Atelier Joana Vasconcelos and designed by Vera Velez. It is published by Éditions Dilecta and Babel.
Vasconcelos is a commentator on the real. She investigates the present through a critical reading of Western mythologies and iconographies. She explores mainstream values, habits, and customs in order to examine identity with respect to gender, class, and nationality. She appropriates familiar objects and images and re-elaborates them, often calling upon artisanal techniques and employing craft-related materials. She reflects on the tensions between high and popular culture, the private and public spheres, the local and the global, tradition and modernity.
She has had recent solo shows at the New Art Gallery Walsall, UK; Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo; Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon; and Château de Versailles, France. Key group shows include the 51st International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia; Frac Île-de-France/Le Plateau, Paris; Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture, Moscow; and Palazzo Grassi/François Pinault Foundation, Venice. Key collections include the François Pinault Foundation; Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Création, Paris; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Léon, Spain; and the Museu Coleção Berardo.