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Interview: Elín Hansdóttir

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Icelandic Art Center shares

May 22, 2015

Icelandic Pavilion installation “The Mosque” closed by Police today

Photo: Bjarni Grimsson
Press Release

 22.May 2015 

 STATEMENT by the Icelandic Art Center:

Eiríkur Thorláksson, Chairman of the Board of the Icelandic Art Center.  

 

THE MOSQUE, initiated by artist Christoph Büchel in collaboration with the Muslim Communities of Venice and Iceland, and commissioned by the Icelandic Art Center (IAC) is Iceland’s official national contribution to the 56th Biennale di Venezia. It encompasses an art installation open to the public in the Church of Santa Maria della Misericordia, a site privately owned, officially desanctified for “profane use” in 1973 by then-Patriarch of Venice Albino Luciani, and rented by the IAC specifically to house the pavilion during the full course of the Biennale. The purpose of THE MOSQUE is to draw attention to the political institutionalization of segregation and prejudice in society, and to catalyze reflection upon the conflicts that arise from the sorts of governmental policies on immigration that lie at the heart of global ethnic and religious conflicts today. The aim of our project, a peaceful and beautiful one, is to provide a platform for dialogue about and communication between different cultural positions, and to thus make a positive contribution to this dialogue on the international stage. With these objectives in mind, we believe THE MOSQUE is a truly significant part of La Biennale di Venezia, particularly in light of the Biennale’s own central theme of “All The World’s Futures”. THE MOSQUE has already has been enormously successful in drawing the international public into very important explorations.

Nevertheless, the City of Venice closed the Icelandic Pavilion this morning at 11AM.

For months the Icelandic Art Center, the artist, the pavilion’s curator and team, have accommodated each request and obstacle presented by the City Council; and each time, the City Council has responded with a new set of objections and obstacles, above all claiming that the Icelandic Pavilion is not art in spite of the fact that the Icelandic Pavilion is the official response to an invitation from La Biennale di Venezia and is our nation’s contribution to the 56th edition of this remarkable global exhibition.

Unfortunately, Venetian authorities have from the outset challenged the premise of Iceland’s contribution to the Biennale and have tried to prevent its realization rather than assist in making it possible. Perhaps most disappointingly, the administration of La Biennale di Venezia, an institution within the City of Venice, has not supported this artistic endeavor in the way that would have been expected for an organization of its stature and proclaimed advocacy of contemporary art.

This is a regrettable scenario for many reasons. Since the era of the ‘Grand Tour’, Venice has been a prime destination for visitors from all over the world who come to this remarkable city to revel in the splendor, the history, the art, and the architecture that Venice has to offer — to soak in a culture profoundly influenced by and reflective of the Muslim world and Arab influence. With its decision to close the Icelandic Pavilion, Venetian authorities have chosen to reject the city’s own history as well as the possibility Venice could also become a center for essential contemporary dialogue and reconciliation on issues that are important not only for the people of Italy and Iceland, but for the world in general. It is a bleak message that the Venetian authorities are choosing to convey to the world, ironically coming only a few days after Pope Francis I, head of the Catholic Church, formally recognized the State of Palestine and thus opened the door for and increased dialogue between people of the Christian and Muslim faiths. Authorities in Venice choose to close an artistic venue that was designed to foster just such a dialogue within their city, selecting to follow the path of denial, prejudice, and irrational fear.

With the closing of the Icelandic contribution to the 56th Biennale di Venezia, it has also become clear that the Biennale itself, which has for over a century been the premier stage for the visual arts worldwide, is not a venue for truly free artistic expression. Artists chosen to participate in the Biennale now appear only to be allowed to address issues that are acceptable to the local authorities.

It will now become the task of the Icelandic Art Center to resolve the current state of the Icelandic participation in the Venice Biennale.

The Center will report its findings and recommendations to the Icelandic Ministry of Education, Science and Culture..

 

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News release on the website of the City of Venice:

http://www.comune.venezia.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/IT/IDPagina/83030

 

//

 

Reykjavík 22. maí 2015. 

Fréttatilkynning frá Kynningarmiðstöð íslenskrar myndlistar:

– Framlagi Íslands til 56. Feneyjatvíæringsins, innsetningu listamannsins Christoph Büchel, í Santa Maria della Misericordia-kirkjunni í Cannaregio-hverfinu í Feneyjum, var lokað með lögregluvaldi að morgni föstudagsins 22. maí.

Rétt er að ítreka að framlag Íslands til 56. Feneyjatvíæringsins í myndlist er almenn, opinber listsýning, sem fram fer undir merkjum Tvíæringsins í Santa Maria della Misericordia kirkjunni, sem hefur verið afhelguð og var leigð í þeim tilgangi að hýsa þetta verkefni yfir sýningartímann.

Síðustu mánuði hefur Kynningarmiðstöð íslenskrar myndlistar, listamaðurinn og allt sýningarteymið unnið hörðum höndum að því að svara fyrirspurnum frá borgaryfirvöldum Feneyja, en í hvert sinn sem þeim hefur verið svarað hafa komið nýjar fyrirspurnir. Aðalágreiningsmál borgaryfirvalda og Kynningarmiðstöðvarinnar hefur falist í því hvort að verkið sé listaverk eða ekki, þrátt fyrir að framlag íslenska skálans sé opinbert framlag Íslands til hinnar 56. alþjóðlegu myndlistarsýningu Feneyjatvíæringsins.

Því miður hafa borgaryfirvöld í Feneyjum frá upphafi sýnt mikla tortryggni í garð framlags Íslands á Feneyjatvíæringnum í myndlist 2015, og fremur reynt að leggja steina í götu þess en að greiða fyrir því að það gæti gengið áfallalaust. Þá hefur Feneyjatvíæringurinn sjálfur, sem er stofnun á vegum borgarinnar, heldur ekki stutt listrænt framlag Íslands með þeim hætti sem eðlilegt gæti talist.

„Þetta er sorgleg niðurstaða fyrir margra hluta sakir. Feneyjar hafa allt frá 18. öld verið einn helsti áfangastaður gesta hvaðanæva að úr heiminum, sem sækja hana heim til að njóta þess glæsileika, þeirrar sögu og þeirra lista sem borgin hefur að geyma. Með ákvörðun sinni hafa yfirvöld borgarinnar kosið að hafna þeim möguleika að borgin geti einnig orðið vettvangur umræðu og sátta manna í milli um málefni sem varða miklu fyrir íbúa Feneyja, Íslands og heimsins almennt. Það eru nöturlegt skilaboð til heimsins að nokkrum dögum eftir að Frans I. páfi, yfirmaður kaþólsku kirkjunnar, viðurkennir formlega ríki Palestínumanna og opnar þannig fyrir aukna samræðu milli kristinna manna og þeirra sem aðhyllast islamsstrú, þá skuli yfirvöld í Feneyjum kjósa að loka listrænum vettvangi sem var ætlað að fóstra slíkra samræðu í borginni, en þess í stað kjósa fylgja slóð afneitunar, fordóma og hræðslu.

Með lokun íslenska framlagsins í Santa Maria della Misericordia-kirkjunni er jafnframt ljóst að Feneyjatvíæringurinn í myndlist, sem hefur verið einn helsti alþjóðlegi samfögnuður myndlistar um áratuga skeið, er ekki vettvangur frjálsrar listsköpunar, þar sem listamenn geta með list sinni vakið athygli á málefnum líðandi stundar. Listamenn sem valdir eru til þátttöku á Feneyjatvíæringnum virðast nú aðeins mega fjalla um viðfangsefni sem eru stjórnvöldum þóknanleg, eða sem að minnsta kosti eru talin hættulaus.“

– Eiríkur Þorláksson, formaður stjórnar Kynningarmiðstöðvar íslenskrar myndlistar.

 

Það verður nú verkefni Kynningarmiðstöðvar íslenskrar myndlistar að vinna úr þeirri stöðu sem upp er komin, og síðan gefa mennta- og menningarmálaráðuneyti, sem fól Kynningarmiðstöðinni að annast þátttöku Íslands í Feneyjatvíæringnum, skýrslu um málið.

 

 

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Fréttatilkynning á vefsíðu Feneyjaborgar:

http://www.comune.venezia.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/IT/IDPagina/83030