Switzerland Pavilion, 59th International Art Exhibition. La Biennale di Venezia
The Concert by Alexandre Babel curated by Francesco Stocchi
In the beginning was the end: Latifa Echakhch’s cycle of life
Giardini della Biennale, Venezia
April 23 – November 27, 2022
The Pavilion of Switzerland exhibition at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia is titled The Concert and conceived by Latifa Echakhch, in collaboration with percussionist and composer Alexandre Babel and curator Francesco Stocchi.
Gloomy remnants of art fill the first space, where visitors set out on a counterclockwise journey through time. In each room, the atmosphere changes – time runs backward, from broad daylight to the evening before. Ever more recognizably inspired by folk sculpture and customs, the sculptures, filling the whole space, are increasingly veiled by spreading darkness.
These are scenes of impermanence, of catharsis, with which installation artist Latifa Echakhch captivates visitors of the Pavilion of Switzerland at this year’s Biennale Arte, scenes that bring to the fore the cycle of life in a multi-layered and complex way. Most of the material used for the exhibition is itself part of a transformation, recycled from previous biennales.
The artist Latifa Echakhch, who lives in Switzerland, evokes the ritual fires that are common in many cultures. They include the lighting of straw dolls for the St. John’s fire, which is supposed to protect against demons and diseases around the solstice at the end of June, or, in Switzerland, the burning of the “Böögg” on Zurich’s Sechseläutenplatz to bid farewell to the winter season. Fire is always both the end and the beginning on a constantly turning wheel of time.
Latifa Echakhch also enters into a dialogue with the building designed by Bruno Giacometti in 1951. The artist revisits its architectural program and appropriates the entirety of its spaces, exploring their relationship to light and the different sounds that emerge from them.
The exhibition plays with harmonies and dissonances, with mixed feelings of expectation, fulfillment, and disappearance. The sculptures are part of an orchestrated and enveloping experience, a rhythmic and spatial proposal that allows viewers to experience a fuller perception of time and of their own bodies.
“We want visitors to leave the exhibition with the same feeling they have when they come out of a concert. That this rhythm, those fragments of memory, still echo,” says Latifa Echakhch. “The Biennale is an eruption of artistic greatness every time. A wave that culminates in a cathartic grandeur only to then recede, leaving a deserted landscape of abandoned buildings.” Through the exhibition, Latifa Echakhch raises the question of whether art, similar to music, only begins to exist once silence and emptiness take over.