Marlene Dumas

Venice is a beautiful place to be (playing together and against)

This is the year of 2011 and South Africa now for the first time has it’s own pavilion in Venice, which means from now on it will always (automatically) be part of the mother of all Biennale’s. We hope?

Many a South African has through the years already exhibited in Venice during these Biennale’s, or has taken part in the main exhibitions of this bi-annual show. But there wasn’t a set place allocated for them. We all know that this had nothing to do with the quality of the art; but all to do with politics. But having a national (I’ve deliberately waited to not use this word immediately) pavilion, doesn’t mean that now you’re in heaven.

No, it means now you are allowed to be part of the visibility of this special spectacle at a price that is worthwhile paying for, on more than one level. Every second year the SA art community (and the whole world with them) will anew be anxiously curious and upset (and rightly so) and ask if this is the best artists of the moment or the most appropriate artists deserving to be selected. And every time the art community will question (rightly so) if this was the most up to date or serious curator to be handling the philosophical framing and justification for the choices and installation of the pavilion as a whole. This is part of the privilege.

Talking about a National pavilion… What do we think about nationalism? Does an artist want to represent a county? Which country? Place of birth, place you live in, place you’ve lived in for the longest part of your life, place your art has been created? Place your heart longs for? O alla, we’re entering the minefield of representation again. And this is no president, this discussion. I know I’m not illuminating you.

I’ve never been totally satisfied or comfortable in any group shows I’ve been in, but then again …,  my first solo gallery show was called – Unsatisfied Desire, (Amsterdam 1983) and come to think about it… to pretend that one is only representing yourself is also an illusion.

Venice is beautiful, vain and competitive, but it also enjoys, appreciates and admires art.
Maybe South Africans could become as proud of its artists as it was loyal to its football players during the world cup.

Venice is a beautiful place to be (playing together and against). Written in April 2011, unpublished [written on the occasion of South Africa having it’s own pavilion in Venice for the first time].