NEW ZEALAND PAVILION
Interview with the curator Chris Sharp
On the occasion of the 58th Venice Biennale we have interviewed Chris Sharp, curator of the New Zealand Pavilion.
Where do we need to go to visit the New Zealand Pavilion?
Chris Sharp The Palazzina Canonica, at & Riva dei Martiri. It’s basically as close as you can get to the Giardini without being in the Giardini. We’re about 50 yards from the Giardini vaporetto stop. Just cross that little bridge directly left of the stop and you’re there.
What are we going to encounter?
CS You will encounter Dane Mitchell’s pavilion, Post hoc. It is a very precise three-part project, whose core revolves around over 250 different lists of disappeared, obsolete or defunct entities, which comprises three million words. These are enunciated by a digitally automated voice in an intriguingly shaped anechoic chamber, and then broadcast throughout Venice to seven different fake tree/cell towers, which can be accessed by and listened to on a hand held device. As the lists are enunciated, they are simultaneously printed up on reams of paper in an empty library in the pavilion over the course of the entire biennial. Although open ended and interpretable, the whole project is also very much an elegiac reflection on post-enlightenment values of progress and epistemology, and its consequences, as well as questions of dematerialization, which are central to Mitchell’s practice.
How did the collaboration with the artist Dane Mitchell develop?
CS After a trip to New Zealand almost a decade ago, I met Dane in Berlin and was invited to write for one of his catalogs. We have stayed in touch ever since, and when he and my co-curator Zara Stanhope invited me to compete with them for the New Zealand pavilion (in New Zealand, it’s a very open democratic process) and we won.
What is your relationship with the history of this country?
CS It is probably, more than anything, one of admiration. Although still imperfect, it is, to my knowledge, the most equitably integrated country of the post-colonial, British-diaspora– especially compared to the United States. They have an enormous and active respect for Maori, their language, people and cultural sites. I am also a huge fan of their progressive politics. Did you know that New Zealand was the first country to offer women the vote (1893)? It was also instrumental in starting a rugby boycott of apartheid South Africa as early as 1969, never mind that their prime minister Jacinda Ardern is basically the anti-Trump, and as such, my favorite current world leader.