VENICE.- The Mondriaan Foundation, commissioner Saskia Bos as well as Fiona Tan, the artist representing the Netherlands at this year's Venice Biennale, celebrated the opening of the Dutch pavilion on Thursday June 4 with numerous international artists, gallery directors and curators from e.g. the Netherlands, Canada, the USA or Italy.
From now on until November 22, 2009 the Dutch pavilion will show three video-installations by Fiona Tan. "Rise and Fall " and "Provenance", both from 2008, are shown in the front area of the Dutch pavilion and the exhibition culminates in the audio-visual installation that gave the Dutch entry its name: "Disorient".
For her latest piece, Fiona Tan (*1966), whose works have also been shown at the documenta 11 at Kassel, the Yokohama Triennale in Japan, the London Tate Modern or the New York New Museum, used Italo Calvino's original text for a contemporary encounter with the age in which Venice was a strategic centre of the world. The starting point of this new work was to confront Marco Polo's seven-centuries-old descriptions with images of the present, partly taken from film archives, partly filmed by the artist herself. The voice-over in the installation consists solely of quotes from "The Travels" of Marco Polo. Tan connects the 13th-century mercantile power of Venice to Edward Said's concept of Orientalism: the inability of 'the West' to truly come to grips with the essence of 'the East'. She not only refers to a centuries-old tradition in the West of creating unilateral images of the East, but also emphasises that the West needs to find new bearings. Tan: 'The lack of comprehension of other cultures and societies, the reluctance to engage with and to learn about other customs and other religions is just as pertinent and tragic today as it was seven hundred years ago. The old, even if distorted and skewed, can give unexpected, worthwhile insights into the current and new. The violence of powerful nation states against other countries and peoples in the name of global peace can arguably be called colonial aggression in a new disguise. Even in our times trade and pursuit of economic gain is repeatedly given precedence over justice, common sense and human compassion. (...) I am straining to see and imagine the future beyond the restrictive dichotomy of East and West (one which always implies East versus West). And thus a lost and much altered historical document more than 700 years old is my starting point for a new and contemporary artwork. Venice is - literally and figuratively speaking - my point of departure and return, and this merchant of Venice is my unlikely guide.'
The commissioner of the Dutch presentation in Venice is the art historian Saskia Bos. The former Artistic and Managing Director of De Appel Foundation, Amsterdam, has been Dean of the School of Art of the Cooper Union, New York, since October 2005. She was the Artistic and Managing Director of the 3rd Sculpture Biennale Münsterland (2003) as well as the 2nd Berlin Biennale (2001) and the commissioner of the Dutch entry to the São Paulo Biennale (1998). Since 1995 the commissioner is appointed by the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam, that is responsible for the Dutch entries to the Venice Biennale.