Day #4 - National pavilions and Virginia King at Palazzo Bembo

We visited one of the more unusual locations chosen by Dane Mitchell to install the Post hoc tree stealth towers: the main hospital of Venice, Ospedale Civile di Venezia. Originally built as the seat of the Confraternity of San Marco in 1260, it is now a very liminal space between life and death, between church and hospital. It feels nothing like the conventional white wall, clinical spaces you might expect in a hospital and yet most people here are local patients or visiting families, definitely not tourists or Biennale attendees.

Dane Mitchell, Post hoc, installed at Ospedale Civile di Venezia, Campo dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

Unlike the three artificial trees installed in the gardens of the New Zealand Pavilion, this one and the three others installed throughout Venice, do no emit Mitchell's list of disappeared things through speakers but rather require viewers to connect to the Post hoc network with their handheld device in order to listen or download the audio component of 260 lists. This makes for quite a different experience compared to the 'speaking trees' but in the context of the Biennale where time and attention are scarce resources, it offers an alternative and convenient way of engaging with the work, in your own time, and encourages further curiosity and interaction with the static objects foreignly placed in these public spaces.

Charlotte Prodger for Scotland + Venice pavilion external view; Walking on the transparent stage of A Wild Eagle Was Standing Proud by Panos Charalambous at the Greek Pavilion; View of the Giardini; Tomas Saraceno speaks about his installation of spiderwebs, as part of the curated exhibition of the Biennale.

Before heading back to the Giardini to see more national pavilions, we stop by Scotland's pavilion, one of many collateral events in the city. There, Turner-Prize winner Charlotte Prodger presents SaF05, a powerful video work that contrasts personal and intimate narratives with a nearly military-style delivery, and prosaic visuals. Unfiltered and uncensored thoughts are recounted, layered with technical information organising the speaker/artist's emotional memories.

Laure Prouvost, Deep See Blue Surrounding You/Vois Ce Bleu Profond Te Fondre at the French Pavilion; Cathy Wilkes, British Pavilion, Giardini, 2019.

Highlights of the Giardini's national pavilions today included the French Pavilion (which, with its 2h of queue to get in, is a Golden Lion contender). Laure Prouvost's humorous, inclusive and performative film installation directly addresses us as the audience, inviting us on a ride from Paris to Venice to consider who we are and what it means to represent one's country at the Biennale, in a playful and exuberant way. Next door, at the British Pavilion, the mood is more subdued with Cathy Wilkes’s exhibition and her floor-bound sculptures. Although it also relates to the body, the pastel and grey tones of her work presented in sparse galleries offers a subtler approach.

Swinguerra by Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca at the Brazilian Pavilion is a captivating film installation portraying dance groups practicing and competing against each other. In the Polish Pavilion, Flight is a modified plane by Roman Stańczak who has turned it inside out, seats, cables, motor and all, echoing the current political situation in the country.

Towards the end of the day, we head to the opening of Personal Structures where New Zealand sculptor Virginia King is exhibiting a few rooms down the corridor from the Venetian Blind project we visited yesterday. King tells us how the invitation to participate in this biennial collateral event came through and what an opportunity it was for her (despite it being a very expensive undertaking as each artist pays for their space in the gallery, freight, install etc) to attend and participate in the Biennale frenzy for the first time. Virginia's practice is concerned with endangered sea life and the vulnerability of our environment. Her sculptural works, made by laser-cutting sustainable plywood and stainless steel, reference natural forms, micro-organisms and foraminifera.

HUM speaks with Virginia King at the opening of Personal Structures, Palazzo Bembo, Venice, 2019.

All images: Contemporary HUM