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Five New Zealand artists for the Venice Biennale

Two more New Zealand artists bring the total to five who will be at this year's Venice Biennale.

John Daly-Peoples
Wed, 08 May 2013

Two more New Zealand artists, Simon Denny and Mark Harvey, will be at the Venice Biennale this year, making it a total of five who will present work ranging from a large installation by Bill Culbert to a performance piece by Mark Harvey.

Berlin-based Simon Denny has been selected to be part of one of the major exhibitions as part of The Encyclopedic Palace, curated by the Biennale’s artistic director, Massimiliano Gioni.

The exhibition is described as examining ‘’the blend of information, spectacle, and knowledge that is so characteristic of the digital era’’.

“Having such a strong New Zealand presence at the Venice Biennale, the most influential international contemporary art exhibition in the world, is exciting news and evidence of both the calibre of the visual arts in this country and its international relevance,’’ Creative New Zealand chief executive Stephen Wainwright says.

In 2012, Denny won the prestigious Baloise Art Prize at Art 43 in Basel, Switzerland, and was presented at Art 43 by Auckland’s Michael Lett Gallery.

"The selection of Simon Denny for Massimiliano Gioni's Biennale is significant for New Zealand: this is the first time ever an artist from New Zealand has been included in the official curated section of the Biennale. Simon is an artist at the top of his game internationally, and we are very proud of his many accomplishments,” gallery director Michael Lett says.

Included in the 150 chosen for the show along with Denny are emerging artists such as Ed Atkins and Neïl Beloufa, along with veterans like Charles Ray, Phyllida Barlow, Tacita Dean and Cindy Sherman.

The concept of the exhibition is inspired by the late artist Marino Auriti who, Gioni says, “on November 16, 1955, filed a design with the US Patent Office depicting his Palazzo Enciclopedico (Encyclopedic Palace), an imaginary museum that was meant to house all worldly knowledge, bringing together the greatest discoveries of the human race, from the wheel to the satellite”.

Denny was one of the finalists in last year's Walters Prize with his Introductory Logic Video Tutorial, which looked at the way in which technology contributes to the development and creation of contemporary culture.

Offered opportunities

Denny says: "I am constantly trying to gather information around this loose topic of how communications change – how people use technology. I then get offered opportunities to make exhibitions."

Mark Harvey, an Auckland-based performance artist, has been invited by the collective Chamber of Public Secrets to create work for the Maldives National Pavilion with other international artists.

For the Maldivian exhibition Portable Nation - Disappearance as Work in Progress artists have been invited to reflect on the predicament that the Maldives, Venice and many of the Pacific nations facing rising sea levels.

The Maldives is the planet's lowest country. As noted on the project website, even a 60cm rise in sea levels would see the country's 350,000 inhabitants needing to be relocated.

The Maldives are situated on the trading route that connects Dubai and Singapore and are known to be the romantic dream for tourists seeking exotic destinations. Through its history, they have always described itself as the emerging and submerging islands.

After being a Portuguese, Dutch and later a British colony, the Maldives became a republic in 1965.

Invited to contribute

The artists have been invited to contribute works related to contemporary environmental concerns. Collectively, they will form a portable micro-exhibition positioned inside a transparent colourless space, easy and ready to be moved to another location as a symbol of the Maldivian case.

The exhibition will feature a number artists and performers, including the Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky), the electronic and experimental hip hop musician.

Harvey has been described as an endurance performance artist, with some of his works being physically demanding, such as crawling for several hours from one point to another.

For the Maldives show he intends to use the event to further discussions about climate change and sea levels by engaging in debate which will focus on the physical nature of the interchanges.

He intends to wrestle with visitors to the exhibition, the physical act become something of a metaphor for dialogue, dissuasion and argument.

While the intentions of the exhibition are great in addressing the issues of the rising sea level, it might have been better for the Maldives to address its appalling history of female abuse, with Sharia law being used as an excuse to give 100 lashes to young women who are raped or who engage in premarital sex.

Maybe Mark Harvey should wrestle a few of the country’s politicians if they turn up to the exhibition opening.

John Daly-Peoples
Wed, 08 May 2013
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Five New Zealand artists for the Venice Biennale