56th Venice Biennale: A Look Forward

Venice Biennales offer a chance for nations to represent themselves creatively. Raising social and political issues the Biennale is a platform for discussion about art and the world around us. fluoro offers an insight into the Australian representation at the 2015 Biennale.

Represented by Fiona Hall, the 2015 Biennale will see Hall’s work exhibited in a new permanent Australian pavilion. Hall is one of Australia’s most prominent contemporary artists whose work has been exhibited all over the world. In recent years her practice has focused on environmental politics.

Linda Michael, Deputy Director/Senior Curator, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, will curate the exhibition. She has been involved in the previous editions of the Venice Biennale, curating Patricia Piccinini’s exhibition ‘We are Family’ in 2003. fluoro spoke with Michael about taking Australian art to the global stage.

(f) How do you believe Australia’s art culture has been received at past Venice Biennales?

(LM) I don’t think one can generalise – each artist’s exhibition would have been taken on its merits, and as with any solo artist’s show, there will have been a diversity of responses – particularly so given huge audience numbers, including a broad cross-section of the art world. It is an exciting and demanding gig. There have been some excellent Australian exhibitions, despite the much-discussed limitations and inflexibility of the former ‘temporary’ national pavilion.

Australia would likely also be perceived as taking its participation in Venice very seriously – its shows have often been packaged as the premier opportunity for Australian culture to be marketed to the widest possible art audience.

(f) How will Fiona Hallʼs work bring a new perspective to the Biennale?

(LM) I’m looking forward to finding out – Fiona is always inventive and will be making new work for Venice. Her recent exhibitions have been urgently felt and intense meditations on the state of our world – its economy, politics and environment – expressed through powerful and deft manipulations of a wide variety of materials and objects.

(f) In terms of promoting an artist’s work on a global scale, do you think the role of a contemporary art event is changing?

(LM) The Venice Biennale is a hybrid event comprising a large curated international exhibition, and curated exhibitions of work by artists representing over almost 50 countries, shown in the national pavilions. Along with other established biennales, it is an outstanding location to promote an artist’s work internationally through exhibition, while proliferating online platforms continue to spread interest more generally.

Australian artists’ own travels and communications across the world plant many seeds of interest. This approach may be the best tool for promoting their art long-term, even if those seeds take a long time to bear fruit. There are many Australian artists exhibiting internationally as a result of their own initiatives.

(f) Will the new Australian Pavilion change your approach to curating with the way it’s designed? How/How not?

(LM) No, I always take the exhibition space into consideration when curating. For instance in curating Patricia Piccinini’s exhibition for the 2003 Venice Biennale, the overarching idea ‘We Are Family’ developed from seeing how we could make the domestic qualities of the former pavilion work successfully with Patricia’s ‘family’ of creatures.

I’m sure the new pavilion will have an impact on the way Fiona develops her work, particularly its large size, which dramatically contrasts with her compacted, intense representation at dOCUMENTA(13) in Kassel, for example. Fortunately it seems to me that the new pavilion will be a classical, rectilinear space that will not detract from the art it is designed to show, but enable Fiona, and later many other artists, to extend and realise their ambitions.

Michael will also work with Hall in developing ideas for a parallel publication for the Biennale. The 56th Venice Biennale will take place in Venice, Italy 2015.


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