The New Zealand pavilion’s third Attendant at the Biennale Arte 2019, James Hope, blogs about his summer in Venice.
I arrived in Venice in mid-July, on average the hottest month of the year, so I have been able to experience my time as exhibition attendant at the New Zealand pavilion in mid-late summer, with all the challenges and advantages that entails.
Walking to the pavilion in the mornings, I make my way through the Viale Giuseppe Garibaldi: a tree-lined thoroughfare named for the Italian general and nationalist who contributed to the unification of Italy, and whose statue stands near the entrance gates. Even at 9am the temperature is well into the mid-twenties and the sound of the cicadas in the trees is shrill. As I turn to cross a bridge, on my left I see the entrance to the Biennale Giardini. Approaching New Zealand’s pavilion I have an excellent view along the Riva dei Sette Matiri towards the Piazza San Marco in the distance.
During the day the pavilion provides respite from the heat for visitors. Often on particularly humid days, when visitors climb the stairs to the library – where Dane’s printer unceasingly prints the lists of entities that no longer exist – I will be greeted with “caldo!” (hot), and the fanning of faces.
On these days the pavilion is a peaceful and leafy haven away from the harsh light of noon. With the windows open on the first floor, a gentle breeze moves through the space and I can hear the intonations of the cell tower tree reciting the lists at the front of the pavilion, muffled by the noise of cicadas and the sounds from the esplanade beyond.
Having been at the pavilion for almost three weeks now, I have gained familiarity with its sounds and find satisfaction in them as part of my daily experience: the shuffle and whine of the printer printing the lists, the creaks and groans of the old staircase as visitors ascend to the first floor, the low hum of the cooling fans of the server rack feeding data into the anechoic chamber, and of course the speaking of the trees, as if conversing with each other when standing between all three.
Formerly the Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa Curatorial Intern for 2018 at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, James is actively involved in the Dunedin and Christchurch art communities.
He has a particular interest in sculpture and sound installation. James completed a Bachelor of Arts with Honours (Art History and Theory) at the University of Canterbury in 2014.
All photos by James Hope.