• Ideas
  • May 14, 2019

58th Venice Biennale, Part 2: National Pavilions in the Giardini

A canal that divides the two parts of the Giardini della Biennale, with the black cube of the Australia Pavilion on the right. All photos by HG Masters for ArtAsiaPacific.

In 2019, nearly all of the strongest pavilions at the Venice Biennale were by women—including the Gold Lion prize-winning Lithuania Pavilion. Around the European pavilions in the Giardini, Laure Prouvost represented France with a fog-spraying facade, a three-channel roadtrip film and a tunnel in the direction of the British Pavilion, where Cathy Wilkes was showing her creepy ripostes on English middleclass objects. National isolation was a prevalent concern in the German Pavilion where Natascha Sadr Haghighian, going by the name Natascha Süder Happelmann, brutalized the interior, ripping out piping from the walls and installing eerie piles of rocks and a gigantic concrete dam wall running up through the main space, turning the space into an immigrant detention camp. Dance and performance was another theme, with Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz’s Switzerland Pavilion showing a film of dancers “moving backwards,” inspired by the erosion of democratic progress and equality in places from Tehran to Kurdistan, São Paulo, Cairo, and Los Angeles. The national pavilions of Finland and Canada looked at environmental issues from Sami and Inuit indigenous perspectives, respectively. Around the Giardini, here’s a more detailed look at the five pavilions showing artists from Asia and the Middle East, where topics of self-determination, democracy, and healing were all notable concerns among the artists.