Mar 13 2018

Angelica Mesiti To Represent Australia At 58th Venice Biennale

by Julee WJ Chung

ANGELICA MESITI has been selected to represent Australia at the 58th Venice Biennale. Photograph by Josh Raymond. Courtesy the artist.

The Australia Council for the Arts has announced multimedia artist Angelica Mesiti as Australia’s representative for the 58th Venice Biennale. Juliana Engberg, who was recently program director for the 2017 European Capital of Culture events in Aarhus, Denmark, will curate the pavilion.

Mesiti is the first artist to be selected using the new open-call structure outlined by the Council late last year, and was nominated from a pool of more than 70 applicants. Regarding the upcoming presentation, Engberg told the Australian, “Mesiti has proposed a powerful project that reflects the complexity of contemporary Australian society through its legislation, and through those actions that challenge, revise and reinterpret those laws.”

Mesiti stated of her plans for next year’s pavilion: “I have a long process of research and development ahead of me […] Let’s just say I’ll [be] using music as a mode of translation, but also as a way of looking at significant historical moments that shape the narrative of who we are—not just in Australia. I’ll be using democracy as a prism to look at national identity.”

Best known for her large-scale video works, the Sydney-born, Paris-based artist takes an anthropological approach to explore diverse cultures and modes of communication through video and sound. Her video installation Citizen Band (2012), which studies the migration of sounds and resilience of culture through the accounts of four individuals, won the 2013 Anne Landa Award for Video and New Media Art from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and traveled to major institutions in cities including Paris, Rome and Montreal for solo presentations.

Mesiti has participated in a number of biennials and triennials in the past—including the Kochi-Mizuris Biennale in 2012 and 2016, Istanbul Biennial in 2013, Sharjah Biennial in 2013, Aichi Triennale in 2013 and the Biennale of Sydney in 2014—in addition to being featured in solo exhibitions around the world, including institutions in Canada, Denmark, United States, France and Sweden.

Mesiti and Engberg were chosen by a selection advisory panel helmed by artist and professor Callum Morton. Additionally, the board was composed of curators and academics, including Chris Saines, director of the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art; Franchesca Cubillo, senior curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the National Gallery of Australia; Nikos Papastergiadis, director of the research unit in public cultures at the University of Melbourne; Kathryn Weir, head of cultural development at the Centre Pompidou in Paris; and Louise Neri, director of the Gagosian Gallery in New York.

The lack of consultation behind the Australia Council’s decision to adopt a new artist selection process—which broke away from the tradition of appointing an independent commissioner, who would bring a small group of stakeholders to generate a shortlist and final winner—had led two of Australia’s leading philanthropists, Hamish Balnaves and Simon Mordant, to pull the plug on their sponsorship of the Australian Pavilion at the upcoming Venice Biennale in November 2017.

The 58th Venice Biennale will take place from May 11 to November 24, 2019.

Julee WJ Chung is the assistant editor of ArtAsiaPacific.

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