Benny Chan is the second Attendant for the New Zealand pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2019. Benny blogs about the interactions he’s had during his time in Venice.
It’s always nice to hear people greeting me with “Kia ora,” whether they are Kiwis or non-Kiwis who have been to New Zealand. People always let me know if they have a connection with New Zealand and at least once a week, I have even been able to have very light conversations in Te Reo Māori with a visiting Kiwi.
My interactions with visitors as they discover Post hoc have been varied – but always interesting. Several have asked me how the lists are generated or about source of the lists. Some visitors joked about their missing things like “is my missing glasses case on the list?” There are also lots of questions about the relationship between the beautiful building, the Palazzina Canonica, and the artist. Visitors love the shared interests and relationship between the marine research institution and the artist after I’ve explained this to them. Many commented about how poetic the work is in the empty library with the printed list filling up the room. It’s also amusing to hear parents tell their children not to touch the paper, and even more to hear a child telling her mum, “Don’t touch the art!”
It’s been great to see the support from New Zealanders as they move through the New Zealand pavilion. Some comments have been light hearted – “Dane Mitchell’s Post hoc cell towers look much better than the cell towers in New Zealand – we should have cell towers like Dane’s across New Zealand!” Others reflected on past Biennales – “Lisa Reihana’s Emissaries in the previous Biennale was visually epic, and Dane Mitchell’s Post hoc this year is conceptually epic!” Many left comments in our visitor book about how proud they are to be from New Zealand and impressed with Dane Mitchell’s work.
After a busy day at the pavilion I’ve been fortunate to be able to socialise with attendants of nearby pavilions – to network, compare notes and exchange stories. The Welsh pavilion, our closest neighbour, is looked after by three attendants, one of which was a fluent Welsh-speaker – we often spoke about how indigenous languages are revived, which was fascinating. Together with the Irish, Scottish, Australian and Latvian pavilion attendants, we formed a bit of a crew, bonded together by our love of art – an experience, along with my time looking after the New Zealand pavilion, that I’m very grateful for.
Benny graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Arts from the University of Auckland in 2009 and is currently the Duty Operations Manager at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, a position he has held since 2015.
He has worked as a host for large international exhibitions such as The Body Laid Bare: Masterpieces from the Tate and The Corsini Collection: A Window on Renaissance Florence.
He was also part of the team that looked after Dane Mitchell’s Iris Iris Iris and has always had a keen interest in Dane’s practice.
Benny previously performed in Lee Mingwei’s artwork The Mending Project in the Venice Biennale 2017.
His dedication to customer service was recognised with an award from Auckland Council for excellent customer service in 2012.