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Australia Pavilion at the Venice Biennale: An Interview with Curator Alexie Glass-Kantor

Australia Pavilion at the Venice Biennale: An Interview with Curator Alexie Glass-Kantor

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Australia Pavilion at the Venice Biennale: An Interview with Curator Alexie Glass-Kantor

Alexie Glass-Kantor. Photo courtesy Zan Wimberley

The 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia is near, and Australia is participating in the coveted biannual event. Commissioned by the Australia Council of the Arts, the Australian Pavilion, one of 29 national pavilions within the Biennale Gardens is presenting an idiosyncratic installation by contemporary artist and noise musician, Marco Fusinato. The installation titled DESASTRES is curated by Australia’s highly celebrated curator, Alexie Glass-Kantor.

DESASTRES explores the idea of noise as music and, Marco Fusinato creates work in the form of installation, photographic reproduction, performance, and recording. DESASTRES is an experience of sound and image that places the audience at the center of the work. The artist will perform live for a duration of 6 months in the pavilion using an electric guitar. Fusinato also created a ‘Score’ for the live performance, a selection of images from the archives printed on manuscript paper to make tangible the idea of image as sound. The installation reflects how the artist felt during the pandemic and the frustrations and turmoil of being bound indoors.

Curated by Alexie Glass-Kantor the exhibition is Australia’s 41st representation at the Biennale. The Artling had the opportunity to interview Alexie on her journey as a curator, her creative direction behind this year’s installation and working with the artist himself.

Marco Fusinato a page from the Score for DESASTRES, 2022 facsimile on Edition Peters manuscript paper 45.5 x 30.3 cm Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery 

Tell us about yourself and your journey as a curator.

I’m grateful for growing up in a country with such complexity and nuance in its culture and communities. Through art curation, I strive to take on the responsibility of revealing the countless possibilities of what it is to be Australia and what Australia might become. There is a lot of accountability that comes with being a curator and I think throughout my career I have realized that it is important to maintain a curatorial practice that engages with the wider world and its politics. We have an ethical liability – I am never curating for just myself; it is always a collaboration.

Can you describe the process of curating for this exhibition and working with Marco Fusinato?

As an artist and curator team, Marco and I have been friends for twenty years, both of us came to the artworld with a passion and love, first and foremost, for art.

Marco and I as an artistic team went through a competitive round of open applications. In December 2019, soon after we were appointed for this edition of the Venice Biennale, we went to the Australian pavilion together to brainstorm ideas for the presentation. We take the responsibility and ethics of representing a country as complicated and nuanced as Australia, and the context that we come from, with a great degree of care, and effort to be generous and collaborative.

Before COVID-19 was something we had ever heard of, we wanted this project to begin in a spirit of shared inquiry, collaboration, friendship and generosity. And key for us is that we finished in the same spirit that we began and that we produced a project that was ambitious and rigorous, and tested the limits of what it is that Australia could do at this most important and pivotal of events.

When the pandemic hit, we decided to present DESASTRES in the face of unpredictable circumstances, instead of the project we had originally developed. But in many ways the spirit, the integrity, the energy, the force and the passion of the ideas of the project have come to fruition in what we propose for 2022.

Alexie Glass-Kantor and Marco Fusinato. Photo courtesy Zan Wimberley

The artwork that will be presented at the Australia Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, DESASTRES, is an experimental noise performance, immersing the viewer into the work. What role does the audience play in the live performance?

The audience is central to the work. We regard the audience as active participants with all their senses involved in the exchange; the emotional and physical state they are in, their knowledge of the references, their frustration with the mode of transport used to get there, and so on. These are all factors that influence the way they will respond to the experience.

How was the creation of DESASTRES affected by the past few years of the world in the grips of a pandemic?

The conditions and circumstances of COVID-19 were unprecedented and unexpected for everybody, and the project Marco and I originally proposed in 2019 after our appointment by the Australian Council is not the project we are delivering now.

And then Marco developed the idea for DESASTRES in Naarm/Melbourne during its extended COVID-19 lockdown and decided to express all the associated frustrations, pessimism and turmoil through the project. It’s a really extraordinary work that hasn’t got a theme as such but invites the audience to interpret the work. The work is timely and relevant, it’s being created under the conditions and circumstances of the past two years, but it also speaks to hundreds of years of history.

This is the first time that Australia will be presenting a live, durational performance at the Venice Biennale. How do you anticipate audiences will react or engage with the artwork?

DESASTRES is an avant-garde experimental noise project that synchronises sound with image and takes the form of a durational solo performance as installation. It is also a culmination of Marco’s interests in noise/experimental music, underground culture, mass media images and art history. We are confident that it would be a refreshing and interesting experience for the audience that they would be happy to actively engage with, while the message shall be open to their own interpretation. It’s all about the subjectivity in which the audience translates the visceral experience into their own significance.

Marco Fusinato a page from the Score for DESASTRES, 2022 facsimile on Edition Peters manuscript paper 45.5 x 30.3 cm Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery 

Marco Fusinato a page from the Score for DESASTRES, 2022 facsimile on Edition Peters manuscript paper 45.5 x 30.3 cm Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery 

Tell us a bit more about the concept of “Score”. What are the visuals based on?

Marco sees the creation of the score as a way to make tangible the idea of image as sound, as a proposition. The Score is a selection of images from a broader archive that he has been developing for many years. For example, his previous visual score commissioned by the Australian chamber ensemble Golden Fur, compiled found graphics and music notations, newspaper and magazine clippings, and drawings.

Consisting of black and white images, the score for DESASTRES operates like a Rorschach test. There seems to be an intractable tension between a declarative subjectivity and the libertarianism of ethics. How an audience interprets the images and sounds is subject to their personal experience and emotions – as said, our creation strives to place the audience at the centre of the work.

Working on his Mass Black Implosion series Marco had become familiar with composers’ scores and the manuscript paper they used. The images are printed full bleed onto Edition Peters manuscript paper, which is normally used as sheet music paper according to the industry standard.

Marco Fusinato a page from the Score for DESASTRES, 2022 facsimile on Edition Peters manuscript paper 45.5 x 30.3 cm Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery

How will DESASTRES evolve over the duration of the Venice Biennale?

Marco will be performing during the opening hours of the Biennale – a total of 200 days, using an electric guitar as a signal generator into mass amplification to improvise slabs of noise, saturated feedback and discordant intensities that trigger a deluge of images. Since DESASTRES is not a static artwork but a live performance, every time an audience experiences it, it will be unique. The experience is just random and momentary; the live show compels the audience to be right in the moment, to reflect on their feelings and thoughts triggered by the performance. The resulting all-consuming experience is open for the audience to interpret and make sense of. The ever-changing quality also echoes with the unrest and unpredictability of the ongoing pandemic.

Alexie Glass-Kantor. Photo courtesy Zan Wimberley

About Alexie Glass-Kantor:

Alexie Glass-Kantor is a curator, author and Executive Director of Artspace, a contemporary art institution in Sydney. Developing curatorial engagement in the Asia-Pacific region throughout her career, Alexie Glass-Kantor has held programming and curatorial roles at organizations including SITE Santa Fe Biennial, New Mexico; Magazzino D’arte Moderna, Rome; National University of Singapore Art Museum, Singapore; 12th Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Adelaide; Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne; Iberia Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing; and the Melbourne International Arts Festival and MONA/FOMA, Melbourne. Since 2015, she was commissioned as the curator of Encounters, a sector dedicated to large-scale installations at Art Basel in Hong Kong.


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.


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