Review: Diaspora Pavillion Closing
To mark the closing of the Diaspora Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, 7 of the exhibiting artists returned to Venice to activate the site through a two-day programme of performances, tours, screenings and a roundtable discussion on November 25 and 26. The programme expanded the narratives posed by the works exhibited and reflected on the context in which they were created and the conditions in which they function.
The Diaspora Pavilion was conceived as a challenge to the prevalence of national pavilions within the structure of an international biennale and takes its form from the coming together of nineteen artists whose practices in many ways expand, complicate and even destabilise diaspora as a term, whilst highlighting the continued relevance that it holds today as a lived reality.
The pavilion also forms part of the 22-month, joint International Curators Forum (ICF) University of the Arts London (UAL) project ‘Diaspora Platform’, designed to deliver mentoring and professional development by eleven selected mentors for twelve UK-based emerging artists whose work engages with the topic of the diaspora. During the project, these practitioners took part in group fora, one-on-one mentoring sessions and group masterclasses.
Organised by the ICF, the closing of the 7-month exhibition, showcased the works of Joanna Rajkowska, Susan Pui San Lok, Erika Tan, Kimathi Donkor, Michael Forbes and Abbas Zahedi. It provided visitors an opportunity to indulge their creative curiosity and challenge themselves with the intellectualism of contemporary art.
Among the highlights of the exhibit were two works by the Ghanian-British painter Donkor, The Searchers (2011) and 439 The New Crossroad (2015). Through mainly painting, Donkor re-imagines mythic and legendary encounters across Africa and its global diasporas. His canvases broadly address 2 themes; one that references compelling individuals from both recent and more distant history like Toussaint L’Ouverture and Harriet Tubman and the other, more contemporary in manner and engaging urban political dissent or pursuing leisure, beauty and knowledge.
The small number of works in this pleasantly brief exhibition allowed visitors to fully study and contemplate each piece, or simply to appreciate the dynamic creations on a purely aesthetic level.
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