A Venice Biennale Special
After a little hiatus, Cultural Wildlife returns with an extended spring edition,
inspired by La Biennale di Venezia, from which some of the Margaret team has
just returned after a whirlwind Vernissage week!


Featuring piles of seafood pasta and an A-Z of spritz drinking, parties in secret
courtyards and being treated to a surprise DJ set by Björk by our friends Drop Everything
to celebrate Ireland and Iceland’s pavilions, the privileges of our week at the art olympics
haven’t passed us by. As simmering geopolitical tensions, current conflicts, the climate
crisis and social injustices populated and subverted many works on display – this year’s
biennale also served as a reminder that arts and culture bring with them the ability to
share new perspectives and spotlight the complex events that are shaping our world.
See below and read our ‘Postcard From… Venice’ for more of our Biennale tips and
Venetian-inspired recommendations to see in the coming months.
Margaret x

Malta Pavillion

We were once again at the helm of the good ship Malta Pavilion, which this year takes its inspiration from ex voto maritime graffiti. As the youngest artist to represent Malta, and the first solo Maltese artist presentation to be commissioned by our lovely client the Arts Council Malta, Matthew Attard uses a fusion of heritage, contemporary drawing and cutting edge eye-tracking technology in I Will Follow the Ship, to explore these ephemeral etchings in stone and the ship as a unifying metaphor of hope for survival.

Irish Pavilion

In the vast maze that is the Arsenale, our attention was piqued by a range of presentations by international artists, many placing particular emphasis on the use of sound and audio (we noted three different pavilions commissioning ‘opera’ this year). Highlights included Eimear Walshe’s by turns politically charged and meditative work, Romantic Ireland, featuring an operatic score and multichannel video work exploring the politics of land and home in the context of Ireland’s ongoing housing crisis.

South African Pavilion

A place of contemplation and refuge, South Africa’s Quiet Ground is curated by Portia Malatjie and features a newly commissioned sound installation, Dinokana by the collective, MADEYOULOOK (Molemo Moiloa and Nare Mokgotho). A meditation on the political, social, ontological and spiritual histories of land and water, it examines the many ways that the environment is shaped by our socio-political climate, rooted in the ongoing legacies of forced migration in South Africa.

British Pavilion

Meanwhile in the Giardini, John Akomfrah’s impressive work, Listening All Night to the Rain, for the British Pavilion features a series of rooms presented as Cantos, each including a multi-channel video and intricate soundtrack made up of archive material and nature sound recordings, which build into an audiovisual tapestry examining identity, activism and ecological crisis. 

Australian Pavilion

Winner of this year’s Golden Lion for Best Pavilion, Archie Moore is surprisingly the first First Nations artist to represent Australia at Venice, bringing a powerful and moving installation, kith and kin, to represent the silenced and incarcerated populations of First Nations people, made from a subtle palette of chalk and water.

Nordic Pavilion

The always-beautiful architecture of the Nordic Pavilion is home this year to Lap-See Lam’s The Altersea Opera. A Swedish artist with Cantonese roots, Lam’s work is created in collaboration with Finnish textile artist Kholod Hawash and Norwegian composer Tze Yeung Ho and features a video installation shown alongside the beautifully crafted costumes of mythical water creatures used in the film, set against a backdrop of bamboo and giant dragon’s head.

Polish Pavilion

Following its recent elections and removal of its right wing government, Poland’s pavilion in the Giardini has been given to the Ukrainian ‘Open Group’ collective. Their powerfully direct video installation, Repeat After Me II presents a ‘karaoke bar of the future’ where pop classics make way for Ukrainian people teaching the audience how to ‘sing’ the soundtrack of war, from the hissing of bombs, to the stutter of gunfire and thunder of helicopters.

Foreigners Everywhere Exhibition by Adriano Pedrosa

Amongst the diverse works on show in this year’s vast curated exhibition, under Adriano Pedrosa’s theme of Foreigners Everywhere, stand-out works for us included a beautiful array of textile-based pieces from around the globe, including those by Claudia Alarcón & Silät and Susanne Wenger, to video works including Charmaine Poh’s intimate queer film portrait How She Loves and Karimah Ashadu’s Machine Boys about okada riders in Lagos, topped off by Lipid Muse, a quietly pulsing, ghostly video projection and sculpture by WangShui in the final room. Special mention to Marco Scotini’s incredible Disobedience Archive, whose extraordinary collection of nearly 40 documentary and video works focuses on diaspora activism and gender disobedience.

Peter Hujar: Portraits in Life and Death at Istituto Santa Maria della Pietà

Also open in Venice as a collateral event is a major exhibition of Peter Hujar’s complete works from the series Portraits in Life and Death. Deeply embedded within the avant-garde milieu of artists, musicians, writers, and performers in downtown New York during the 1970s and early ‘80s, Hujar’s unflinching portraits captured his subjects with astonishing intimacy and vulnerability.

More to See

Other tips and highlights include Drama 1882, Wael Shawky’s bold musical film for the Egyptian Pavilion; Aindrea Emelife’s Nigerian Imaginary at Palazzo Canal; Compose – Yuko Mori’s decomposing musical fruit at the Japan Pavilion; Benin’s first ever Venice pavilion, which presents Everything Precious is Fragile; Bulgarian Pavilion project, The Neighbours – an interactive multimedia installation that brings to light the silenced and faded memories of Communist era survivors of political violence; Brian Eno’s ‘slow’ exhibition Gibigiane at Galleria Michela Rizzo; and The Holy See at Venice’s women’s prison on Giudecca (where we also worked on a 2022 project by FFUR).