Beyond the British Pavilion
Northern Ireland will not be represented again at this year’s Venice Biennale, but Scotland and Wales are both putting on collateral shows
By Gareth Harris. Web only
Published online: 03 May 2013
While the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale serves as the official representation for the country, the UK’s individual nations often put on satellite shows. Northern Ireland alone will not have a presence at the Venice Biennale this year: the last time the region featured in the Italian exhibition was in 2009 with a show of works by Susan MacWilliam, but government funding cuts spelt the end of the high-profile platform at the world’s biggest biennale.
The Scotland + Venice exhibition, however, remains a key collateral event at the biennale. This year, three artists—Corin Sworn, Duncan Campbell and Hayley Tompkins (1 June-24 November)—will present pieces in a variety of media across nine rooms at the 15th-century Palazzo Pisani. The show is organised by The Common Guild, a Glasgow-based visual arts body.
Significantly, the Scotland + Venice platform is backed by a wide range of sponsors. These include Outset Scotland, a new branch of the established philanthropic organisation which uses funds raised from individual patrons and corporate partners to commission new works.
The British Council Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland and Creative Scotland (the Scottish government’s arts organisation) are partners in the Scotland + Venice initiative. “The core funding of the project by Creative Scotland [£350,000] has remained the same as 2011,” says a project spokeswoman.
Tompkins will show a series of photographic prints she obtained online; the works depict the sky, water and other natural phenomena. A series of new “gestural” paintings will also be included that, she says, are “quite cosmic looking”.
Campbell will use a 1953 film by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais, Les Statues Meurent Aussi (Statues also Die), as a reference point for a new work that combines filmed footage, animation and archive material.
Sworn is drawing from a collection of images documenting life in a remote village in Peru. The slides were produced in the 1970s by her father, a social anthropologist who was working in the region. “I’m interested in the stories that circulate around objects and how they are re-defined,” she says. Some of the images also reflect her father’s experiences on location in southern Spain.
“Although there are connections between the artists’ practices, we consider the exhibition as three individual presentations, with distinct dividing lines,” says Kitty Anderson, the curator at the Common Guild.
None of the artists were born in Scotland, however: Sworn comes from London, Campbell is Irish and Tompkins was born in Leighton Buzzard. All three are based in Glasgow and attended the Glasgow School of Art. “This diversity is representative of Scotland and is indicative of an internationalism here,” adds Anderson.
"Scotland + Venice launched in 2003 with a show of works by Claire Barclay, Jim Lambie and Simon Starling (Scotland was not represented previously at the Venice Biennale). The trio of artists this year subsequently echoes the project overall,” says Katrina Brown, the director of the Common Guild.
Meanwhile, the artist Bedwyr Williams has been chosen by the Arts Council of Wales to represent the country with a project jointly organised by the contemporary art galleries Mostyn and Oriel Davies. He is showing The Starry Messenger, a work that explores stargazing and the cosmos, at the Ludoteca Santa Maria Ausiliatrice in Venice.
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