Australia pulls out of the 2020 Venice Biennale

Apr 15, 2020
  • Article by Online Editor

Australia will no longer be presenting its exhibition at the 2020 Venice Biennale in August, citing the coronavirus outbreak as the reason for its decision.

In a statement published yesterday, the Australian Institute of Architects cited concerns about the health of organisers.

“The rapidly changing and escalating situation regarding COVID-19 has made it impossible for us to plan for the exhibition, as the health and safety of our staff, members, partners and volunteers is our main priority.”

The Venice Biennale was scheduled to open on May 23, but was pushed forward last month to August 29 as Italy grappled to contain its coronavirus outbreak.

The Australian Pavilion had intended to address the exhibition’s 2020 theme ‘How Will We Live Together?’ with a series of powerfully optimistic works that foreground agency, deep listening, Indigenous knowledge and connection to context.

Headed by Jefa Greenaway and Tristan Wong, our pavilion was to be an immersive experience of country, language and diversity, featuring a curated selection of realised and non-realised projects that represented Indigenous and non-Indigenous identity simultaneously across Australia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

Greenaway and Wong at their Melbourne Design Week presentation.

Despite concerns about the Biennale’s future, Greenaway and Wong went ahead with presenting their design at one of the last Melbourne Design Week events to be held before the government introduced restrictions on public gatherings last month.

Speaking at the presentation, Greenaway said the chosen projects gave a voice to “stories that haven’t been told”, “making the invisible visible” and “celebrating diversity, country, people and place”.

They would have been presented along with drawings and plans in an interactive and tactile circular space with sand flooring.

Greenaway and Wong.

In its statement, the AIA thanked the two 2020 Venice Biennale directors.

“We thank our creative directors Tristan Wong and Jefa Greenaway, and the entire creative team, for their hard work and commitment to the project. They have come up with a truly inspiring response to the theme of ‘How Will We Live Together?’ and we look forward to working with them to showcase this work in other ways when it is safe to do so.”

This will be the first time since the construction of the Phillip Cox-designed pavilion in 1988 that Australia has not participated in the Venice Biennale.

The money and resources that had been allocated to the exhibition will be spent to fund initiatives to tackle COVID-19, the statement said.

Northern Italy has been in lockdown since 9 March, but has recently recorded its lowest daily increase in new cases since 17 March. The country began easing restrictions over the long weekend, opening bookshops, laundries, stationers and children’s clothes stores.

Lead photo: John Gollings.

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16 Apr 20 at 2:03 AM • Sophie Giles

Extending empathy to the 2020 creative directors and the whole team, AIA and VBC for the sadness and disappointment that this marks. Well done for all the work toward this exceptional time. Certainly a time for all the world to be recovering.

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