An informal Firsts Solidarity Network of national pavilions has been established for the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. An artist-led initiative comprising of artist/s who are a first time representative from a marginalised or under-represented group in their respective country or a first-time country participant at the Biennale Arte, will offer visitors to Venice a route to discover these ‘firsts’ at the global art world event. For artists and curators, the network offers practical advice and camaraderie among participating pavilions.
Initiated by Yuki Kihara, the first Pasifika, Asian and Fa’afafine (Sāmoa’s ‘third gender’) to present in the New Zealand Pavilion, the informal network offers collegial support for the participating artists and an opportunity to initiate discourse around pertinent issues such as the internal structures of national pavilions and their commitment towards equitable representation.
On establishing the Firsts Solidarity Network, Yuki Kihara says, ‘I wanted to use the Venice Biennale as an opportunity to reach out to other artists who are also first in the context of their own country. My hope is to encourage discourse around equitable representation of artist/s in their respective countries as well as allowing pavilions a chance get to know one another and show support. In the first Biennale Arte since the COVID pandemic, I believe it is important for us to learn and listen to one another, to seek out new voices and perspectives on the world we live in through art.’ Network membership has been organised by invitation. The participating pavilions include the first Roma artist to represent a country at the Biennale Arte, first all-female creative teams and first national pavilions.
The Firsts Solidarity Network members:
Lumturi Blloshmi will be the first female artist to represent Albania with a solo presentation and Adela Demetja the first Albanian female curator of the pavilion at the Biennale Arte. Lumturi Blloshmi, who passed away from COVID-related complications in 2020, will be given a posthumous survey intended to reflect Blloshmi’s tangible yet simultaneously ungraspable universe.
The British Council has commissioned artist Sonia Boyce OBE RA to represent Great Britain at the Biennale Arte, presenting a major solo exhibition of new work that shows the vitality of collaborative play leading to artistic innovation. Boyce is the first Black British woman to represent Great Britain at the Biennale Arte.
Małgorzata Mirga-Tas will be the first Roma artist to ever represent a country at the Biennale Arte. The artist will create an astrological textile instalation, constantly subjected to re-enchantment, proposing a kind of temporary and adventurous asylum to give viewers hope in those times. The exhibition is an attempt to expand the Polish and European art history with representations of Roma culture and is curated by Wojciech Szymański and Joanna Warsza.
The first Nepal pavilion at the Biennale Arte will feature the work of Tsherin Sherpa, one of Nepal’s foremost contemporary artists. Appointed by Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, the project is co-commissioned by the Nepal Academy of Fine Arts and the Siddhartha Arts Foundation, with lead global support from the Rubin Museum of Art.
Yuki Kihara will be the first Pasifika, Asian and Fa’afafine to present in the New Zealand Pavilion. Kihara’s project Paradise Camp explores small island ecologies, queer rights, intersectionality and decolonisation through visually arresting photographic work and archival research, challenging western (mis)interpretations of the Pacific through the lens of the Fa’afafine community to which she belongs.
Artist Shubigi Rao and curator Ute Meta Bauer are the first-ever female team to represent Singapore at Biennale Arte. Shubigi Rao’s Pulp III: A Short Biography of the Banished Book marks the midpoint of her evocative 10-year project, Pulp, which explores the history of book destruction and its impact on the futures of knowledge.
TBA21–Academy’s Ocean Space will host a gathering of the Firsts Solidarity Network members in Venice a week before the Vernissage. Additional network activations will develop during the course of the Biennale Arte.
Follow the network on social media by searching the hashtag #firstspavilionnetwork on Instagram.
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