Spiegel-Wilks Seminar: Venice Biennale

Contemporary Art in East Asia and the World


Japan and Australia

The Japanese pavilion is in the Giardini and the installation was titled “Cosmo-Eggs.” It was one of several immersive video installations at the Venice Biennale and it will also be exhibited in Tokyo once the Biennale closes. It was a very collaborative work, with one curator and four artists. Its aim was to serve as “platform from which to consider the ecology where humans and non-humans coexist.” It focused on creation stories and the relationship between humans and the environment. The curator Hiroyuki Hattori asks the question “how must we consider the significant impact that our actions have on its environment?”

The exhibition focuses on these “tsunami stones” which then become the locus for a new kind of ecosystem as birds and other wildlife settle around them. The artist Motoyuki Shitamichi who made the video work in the exhibition, has been very interested in these stones, which function almost like large edifices and while also looking egg-like. In addition to his video work projected on several screens in the space, the composer Taro Yasuno composed music in the space, the anthropologist Toshiaki Ishikura wrote creation stories which were carved into the walls, and architect Fuminori Nousaku designed the space of the exhibition. Rather than feeling like disparate pieces functioning separately, the collaboration in this space came together very cohesively.

An interesting element in the space were these hanging recorders which were played by robotic hands which had been programmed to play with a non-repeating random algorithm, at times creating very melodic sounds and at other times not. Visitors could interact with the installation by sitting on the large orange sofa-type seat in the center of the space, which would then push air into the recorders. Ultimately, I thought that this pavilion pointed to themes of collaboration, the environment, harmony & dissonance, technology, and means of communication.

I compared this pavilion to that of Australia which was also an immersive video installation. This time though, instead of 4 male artists, the featured artist in the pavilion was Italian-Australian artist Angelica Mesiti who currently resides in Paris. The title of the piece was “Assembly” which is a 3 channel immersive video installation that runs for 25 minutes.

It starts with the coding of a poem, “To Be Written in Another Tongue” by David Malouf using an 19th century machine used in the Italian senate called the Michela machine. From this coded poem, a musical score was composed by Max Lyandvert and performed with various instruments and individuals, a total of 40 Australians. The room of the pavilion is meant to look like the Italian senate as viewers are immersed in this converted sound poem. Similarly to the Japanese pavilion, the Australian pavilion seemed to focus on technology and music, and collaboration.

Natasha Guy

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