]Biennale: The German Pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia, Tribute to Whistle

[German: follow the link]

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Two questions accompanied me on my trip to the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale – and I purposely avoided getting into the concept of the curator Franciska Zólyom (director of gfzk Leipzig) in advance. It is often more important to me to find out if I can empathize with the work, whether it is felt that someone has something to say here and how much this could have to do with me.

Why does the artist Natascha Süder Happelmann wear a stone and no other ‚masking‘ on her shoulders? [1] Did everybody understand the name change of Natascha Sadr Haghighian, but also her pseudonymized spokeswoman Helene Duldung [2]? And another question came up when I went to the press stand of the pavilion: What significance does the whistle have?

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After the disturbing realization that the Venezuelan pavilion is still closed due to the political unrest in the country, I note that the German biennial contribution is only accessible through the side entrance. The main entrance remains closed like a wall. An irritating feeling of running against the wall here, not being welcome. While there are long lines of visitors in front of the entrances of the neighboring pavilions, nobody is here… In the entrance area, there is a massive pile of empty vegetable crates on which the poles are stored (Is it being built or has it already been dismantled?). Leaning on the stack there is an oversized billboard for tomatoes.

Natascha Süder Happelmann, Ankersentrum, German Pavilion 2019
Natascha Süder Happelmann Ankersentrum German pavilion 2019 photo: Jasper Kettner

It adjoins a room that looks like a huge dam wall on the right, slightly arched, made of concrete, threatening, because at one point permeable – so at least suggest the brownish latex puddles, whose trickle of a bulge in the wall springs and stones achieved in different sizes in the room; stones that look like the one Natascha Süder Happelmann wears on all the press photos.

Natascha Süder Happelmann (right) and her spokeswoman Helene Duldung (left) in front of the Federal Foreign Office/ Auswärtiges Amt 2018. Photo credit Jasper Kettner
Exhibition view: Natascha Süder Happelmann. Photo: Jana Noritsch

Another room serves as a transit to the second large exhibition area: the sound installation. There we meet again the whistles, which are recorded in several voices and over 50 loudspeakers; sometimes backed by melodious hip-animating beats. The whistle as a warning signal in the anchor centers [„Anchor, that is the abbreviation for arrival, decision and repatriation.“] refer to the prevention of deportations in the mass housing Ickerweg near Osnabrück.

The whistle as a warning, saving instrument of the refugees, who shared day and night in shifts to warn the community on arrival of the police: 2017/18 in Germany (see also refugee council Niedersachsen e.V.). (catalog and whistle, photo: Jana Noritsch)

The beats perhaps refer to diverse rhythms of life? The latter are at least about the only reason to want to stay here, between these cold, bricked, petrified walls and the steel pipe frame …

How does it look in Germany?

Identity [3], Integration, Migration, Racism, Refugee and Asylum Policies, Labor Exploitation … These realities, which we all in Germany and Europe mostly know („open secrets“), try to bring the artist into conversation again. ‚Mostly‘ I say so, because through this exhibition I actually experienced a lot of shocking things. Events that I did not hear about through the press (or social media)! A phenomenon that we have come to know during the GDR’s work-up and which we encounter again and again in connection with the so-called Auschwitz lie … What is it really about our information services, about our rule of law system, about the food industry in Europe, while here we talk about New Work and speak agility? Unfortunately, I go out of the exhibition without an idea how we could find solutions together: the wall seems almost too high – and nobody on the spot to consult with. That’s what it must feel like when you come to a place where people do not want you.

The fact is that in the context of the exhibition neither the victims can be personified nor the artist. The counterpart to presentations by other artists. In this case, not „an accusation or the victims (re-) presented“, but the artist and curator call for collective thinking.

And immediately it becomes clear that the individual country pavilions are also national territories, albeit on Italian soil. 2019 will be attended by 91 nations. The German contribution of the World Exhibition is the responsibility of the Federal Foreign Office, which appoints the curator. Those on your part choose the artist.

As serious and complex as the artistic contribution is, it touches me with a strong and motivated desire to immerse myself more deeply – not only into the problem cosmos, but also into the work of the video and installation artist Natascha Sadr Haghighian (HfK) lecturing in Bremen.

„I can’t work like this“, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, 2007: (c) KÖNIG Galerie

58th International Art Exhibition in Venice
Title: May You Live in Interesting Times
Curator: Ralph Rugoff
List of 79 participating artists
11th May to 24th November 2019

[1] The artist states that human beings and stones do not match. This is confirmed by the irritation that has actually triggered the big Pappmaché head. And so it has achieved the goal, says the curator, because only amazement could lead to movement and change. (Incidentally, there are a striking number of artistic positions working with stone on the very worth seeing Biennale.) Another relevant point is that Natascha S. H. does not appear as individual, but all participating artists are announced by names: So career-promoting an exhibition contribution to the Biennale or documenta is, it is never possible alone to accomplish!

[2] Enter „Helene Duldung“ at Google once: At least until before the media attention through the Biennale, appeared in the Google search directly information pages on residence permits and asylum applications. The position of spokeswoman for the masked, non-talking artist takes over the actress Susanne Sachsse until the end of the art biennale. / Based on her life experience, that hardly anyone could remember her correct name, the Iranian-German artist gave herself the more catchy name „Natascha Süder Happelmann“ for the time of the Biennale.

[3] The artist is known for her CV exchange platform http://www.bioswop.net: On the online platform, artistic vitae can be exchanged or assembled, which demonstrates the name dropping on the art market.

The collective: Composition: Natascha Süder Happelmann with Jesko Fezer, Anita Kaspar and Andreas Müller, cooperative for representation politics. Sculptures: Sina Ahmadi with Joy Tyson and Emre Abut.
The musical collective for „Tribute to Whistle“ includes Jessica Ekomane, Maurice Louca, DJ Marfox, Jako Maron, Tisha Mukarji and Elnaz Seyedi.

More at: https://deutscher-pavillon.org

Written by: Jana M. Noritsch
Head of Programs, Exhibitions and Collections www.collectorsclub.berlin/news



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