In Sibande’s practice as an artist, she employs the human form as a vehicle through painting and sculpture, to explore the construction of identity in a postcolonial South African context, but also attempts to critique stereotypical depictions of women, particularly black women in our society. The body, for Sibande, and particularly the skin, and clothing is the site where history is contested and where fantasies play out.  Centrally, she looks at the generational disempowerment of  the black woman and in this sense her work is informed by postcolonial theory, through her art making. In her work, the domestic setting acts as a stage where historical psycho-dramas play out. Sibande’s work also highlights how privileged ideals of beauty and femininity aspired to by black women discipline their body through rituals of imitation and reproduction. She inverts the social power indexed by Victorian costumes by reconfiguring it as a domestic worker’s “uniform” complexifying the colonial relationship between “slave” and “master” in a post-apartheid context.  The fabric used to produce uniforms for domestic workers is an instantly recognizable sight in domestic spaces in South Africa and by applying it to Victorian dress she attempts to make a comment about history of servitude as it relates to the present in terms of domestic relationships.

Pavilion of South Africa
Desire: Ideal Narratives in Contemporary South African Art
Exhibitors: Mary Sibande, Siemon Allen, Lyndi Sales
Commissioner: Lethole Mokoena
Curator: Thembinkosi Goniwe
Venue: Torre di Porta Nuova, Arsenale Nuovissimo

Desire: Ideal Narratives in Contemporary South African Art. Pavilion of South Africa at the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. Interview with Lethole Mokoena

Desire: Ideal Narratives in Contemporary South African Art at the 54th edition of International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. Interview with commissioner Lethole Mokoena by Ilari Valbonesi.

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Desire: Ideal Narratives in Contemporary South African Art, curated by Thembinkosi Goniwe marks democratic South Africa’s debut at the Venice Art Biennale. Over the past 17 years, since throwing off apartheid rule and entering into the ‘club of nations’ with constitutional democracies, South Africa has emerged as a symbol of how best to fan freedom from the ashes of bondage.

Whether working within or outside South Africa,  the artists Mary Sibande, Lyndi Sales and Siemon Allen explore conditions that give rise to lack of and longing for personal and societal change: to desire, whilst also participating in and contribute to an ever-widening ‘global history of art’.

Artists: Mary Sibande * 1982 Barberton, South Africa. Lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Siemon Allen * 1970 Durban, South Africa. Lives in Washington DC, USA; Lyndi Sales * 1973 Johannesburg, South Africa. Lives in Cape Town, South Africa

Venue: Torre di Porta Nuova, Arsenale Nuovissimo

Mirko Bratuša’s sculpture installation Heaters for Hot Feelings

Mirko Bratuša’s sculpture installation Heaters for Hot Feelings is composed of eight tactile, anthropo- and biomorphic pieces each of which about 2 m (7 ft.) high. Hidden electrical fittings heat, humidify and cool the fired clay sculptures. The heat generated by the cooling of the first sculptures will be used to heat the others. A network of connections is set up as a system of artificial bodies, which indicate their mutual dependence. The metaphorics of an artistic system constructed in this manner are universally applicable to modern society, in which everything happens in mutual relation: amassing wealth on one side of the planet leads to poverty on the other, exploiting nature causes natural disasters, social unrest changes political systems.

About Mirko Bratuša (1963): He graduated in Sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana in 1989, and continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich with Professor Leo Kornbrust from 1990 to 1992, and in 1993 at the Academy of Arts in Düsseldorf with Professor Tony Cragg. Among his many solo exhibitions are recent presentations at Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid (2005); Glesia Gallery, Ljubljana (2006) and Božidar Jakac Art Museum, Kostanjevica na Krki (2010).

Mirko Bratuša is part of a generation of Slovene sculptors which appeared at the end of the eighties under the heading of New Slovene Sculpture, following the model of New British Sculpture. The internationally best-known of this generation is sculptor Marjetica Potrč, and Tobias Putrih is noteworthy among their successors (both have exhibited previously at the Slovenian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale). Mirko Bratuša stands out atypically from this generation through his whimsicality and fascination with materials. His restless experimental spirit has led him to combine “old” sculptural media such as clay, wood and bronze with new industrially produced materials such as polyurethane, kerrock, electrical fittings and cooling systems. Since 1992 he is setting sculptural installations which are often interactive and include unusual technical tricks. His works hide a touch of humour, through which he presents his figures as the ironically “bright” future of posthuman society.

Was Fehlt? (A Church of Fear vs. the Alien Within) | Radio Play on Christoph Schlingensief | German Pavilion at 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia.

For for Sounds like Venice, Cushman and Johannes Wilms | and | prepared a special episode entitled Was Fehlt? : a one voice, multiple character radio play dedicated to Christoph Schlingensief, artist, filmmaker, and theater experimentalist who died at only 49 years of age in August of 2010, and represents the German Pavilion at 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, Golden Lion for Best National Participation 2011.

Biographical data and short descriptions of Schlingensief’s works are combined with fake artistic suggestions, with comments, historical data, poems, field recordings and sounds of various kinds. The air of this intense radio play ranges in- between high culture, united trash, fun and serious contemporary sound art and literature.

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From the early 1980s onwards, Christoph Schlingensief explored a variety of different media in his work. He made films, was involved in political action, theater, art projects, and opera. Even though he originally decidedly left behind the legacy of what was known as Neue Deutsche Film (new German film), on many levels we can compare his work to that of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. In particularly, this is true as regards team work, an approach that, though common in the world of film and theater, still tends to be the exception in the visual arts, and yet influenced his work for decades. Schlingensief used language as the fundamental starting point for his work, across the board.

About the German Pavilion.

In the main hall of the German Pavilion, the stage of the Fluxus oratorio A Church of Fear vs. the Alien Within has been installed, which Schlingensief conceived for the 2008 Ruhrtriennale, where he portrays his illness openly and unsparingly, using his own painful experience to examine the existential circle of life, suffering, and death. The play‘s stage with its many film and video projections, and a multitude of spatial and pictorial elements, has the character of an encompassing spatial installation.

In the right wing of the pavilion‘s two side wings, a cinema presents a program of six selected films from different moments in Schlingensief‘s career are played on a large screen: Menu Total (1985–86), Egomania (1986), the Germany trilogy of 100 Jahre Adolph Hitler (1988), Das deutsche Kettensägenmassaker [The German Chainsaw Massacre, 1990], and Terror 2000 (1991–92), as well as his penultimate film, United Trash (1995–96). Presented on a structured schedule, these films exemplify central features of Schlingensief‘s filmic oeuvre. The theater is accessible at all times during the Biennale‘s opening hours and accomplishes two tasks at once, offering an international audience the opportunity to see a significant selection from Schlingensief‘s films—some of which have been subtitled for the first time—while introducing the artist‘s filmic visual language into the canon of visual culture.
The pavilion‘s left wing is dedicated to Schlingensief‘s Operndorf Afrika, his opera village in Africa. Located near Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, it includes a school which houses film and music classrooms, a café, a hospital, and a central theater building with a festival hall. The opera village is under the leadership of Aino Laberenz and planned with architect Francis Kéré. Alongside photographs and documentation of the already realized parts of the African project — and in conjunction with selected scenes from Via Intolleranza II, Schlingensief‘s last play in which he collaborated with actors from Burkina Faso — this portion of the pavilion will feature a large-scale panoramic projection of footage of the natural scenery surrounding the construction site of the opera village, filmed by an African filmmaker Schlingensief himself had commissioned for use in the German Pavilion. As there are no translations, subtitles or English versions of his work, the German Pavilion will not only to present Schlingensief’s work, but will also make it accessible to an international audience.

30 Days of Running in the Place. Egyptian Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. Honoring Ahmed Basiony (1978–2011)

30 Days of Running in the Place.

Egyptian Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. Honoring Ahmed Basiony (1978–2011).  Ashraf Reda, Chairman Fine Arts Sector, Egyptian Ministry of Culture,  interviewed by Ilari Valbonesi

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Egiptian Pavilion 2011 is a tribute to Ahmed Basiony, who was killed in Tahrir Square during the protests in Cairo in early 2011.  30 Days of Running in the Place is the play of a video documentation to a project that had taken place one year ago. Marking a specific time when the artist had performed a particular demonstration of running, in order to anticipate a countering digital reaction; the aim was to observe how in the act of running in a single standing point, with sensors installed in the soles of his shoes, and on his body [to read levels of body heat], could it had been translated into a visual diagram only to be read in codes, and visually witness the movement of energy and physical consumption become born into an image.

One year later, the uprisings to the Egyptian revolution took on Basiony’s attention, as it had millions of other Egyptians motioning through the exact same states of social consumption. It was from then on, for a period of four days, did Basiony film with his digital and phone camera, the events of downtown Cairo and Tahrir Square, leading to his death on the night of the January 28th, 2011. 

Ahmed Basiony (1978–2011) was a crucial component as an artist and professor to the use of new media technology in his artistic and socio-cultural research. He designed projects, each working in its own altering direction out of a diversity of domains in order to expose a personal account experienced through the function of audio and visual material, allowing the archival of data the moment it came in, and no longer there after.

Curatorial Team: Aida Eltorie, Curator; Shady El Noshokaty, Executive Curator; Magdi Mostafa, Sound & Media Engineering; Hosam Hodhod, Production Assistant


Everyone Agrees: It’s About to Explode… Indian Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. Interview with Gigi Scaria

Everyone Agrees: It’s About to Explode… Indian Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. Gigi Scaria (painter, sculptor, video artist; born in Kothanalloor, Kerala, 1973; now lives in New Delhi) interviewed by Ilari Valbonesi.

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The historic occasion of India’s first-ever National Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia – curated by cultural theorist and poet Ranjit Hoskote – approach that idea through the tropes of transcultural practice, migration and cross-pollination. Hoskote’s aim, in making his selection of artists, is to represent a set of conceptually rigorous and aesthetically rich artistic practices that are staged in parallel to the art market. Furthermore, these have not already been valorized by the gallery system and the auction-house circuit.

Everyone Agrees: It’s About to Explode… Indian Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia.  Commissioner: Ranjit Hoskote. Artists: Zarina Hashmi, Gigi Scaria, Praneet Soi, The Desire Machine Collective (Sonal Jain, Mriganka Madhukaillya).

Russian Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. Interview with Boris Groys

Russian Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. Interview with Boris Groys by Ilari Valbonesi.

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The Russian Pavilion hosts an attempt to view CA’s actions retrospectively as life in art. The exhibition shows art as the production of oneself rather than of objects (paintings, sculptures, installations). Empty Zones is the concept of life as a unique kind of artwork. And this life in art is demonstrated through using the metaphors created for the Russian Pavilion space. The exhibition also hosts an installation by A .Monastyrski “11” built on references to the historical and topological contexts and based on materials of CA’s 125 actions and compiled 10 volumes (work on the 11P thP is in progress) of the Trips out of Town books.

Boris Groys, Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies, New York University, USA, curator of The Russian Pavilion 2011. Curator of several exhibitions, including: “Dream Factory Communism”, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt a. M. (2004); “Total Enlightenment. Conceptual Art in Moscow (1960–1990)”, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt a.M./Fondacion March, Madrid (2008-2009); “Medium Religion” (with Peter Weibel) at the ZKM, Karlsruhe (2009). Recent publications: “Art Power”, MIT-Press (2008); “History Becomes Form: Moscow Conceptualism”, MIT-Press
(2010); “Going Public”, Sternberg Press/e-flux (2010). Lives and works in New York, USA

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