Argentine presence at the Venice Biennale – Interview with Adriana Rosenberg, curator of the Argentine presentation at the Venice Biennale

No. 123 – April 2005.

The 51st edition of the Biennial of Venice will take place between June 12 and November 12. This year the artistic direction of the international exhibition will be shared between the Spaniards María de Corral and Rosa Martínez. The curator of the Argentine exhibition is Adriana Rosenberg, who selected Jorge Macchi to represent our country. Rosenberg, together with Jorge Romero Brest, with whom she studied and worked, founded in 1982 the Rosenberg-Rita publishing house, specialized in books on contemporary art critique; between 1989 and 1992, it had an art space dedicated to the promotion of young artists. She is currently President and General Director of the Proa Foundation; a position she has held since the institution’s creation in 1994. In 2003 she was the curator of the Argentine exhibition to the Mercosur Biennial in Porto Alegre.

Arte al Día (A.D): Argentina does not have its own space at the Venice Biennial. Where will the Argentine exhibition be held this year? 

Adriana Rosenberg (A.R): This year the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is renting a facility called the San Filippo Neri Oratory, a very well located building in Venice, selected by the Biennale as one of the exhibition sites outside of the Gardens. It has a size of 140 square meters.

A.D: Did they rent it before organizing it? 

A.R: Actually, it happened all at the same time, because we didn’t know if it was within the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or not. On the other hand, all the projects were being discussed simultaneously with each other; it depended on how the projects were being developed. It all started to come together around January 10.

A.D: Prior to that, had you presented a project to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Office?

A.R: It was more like a conversation, because they were actually interviewing other people too. They interviewed me to see what I could bring to the Argentine exhibition at the Biennial.

A.D: Did you come up with the idea of using the Oratory?

A.R: No, the use of the Oratory was actually arranged by the Argentine Embassy in Rome, through the Cultural Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A.D: Why did you choose Jorge Macchi to represent Argentina? 

A.R.: I went all in for a proposal of young artists who are not very well known, but that now have an opportunity of having some international projection, in hopes of giving them a boost. The idea is to support the efforts of young people who might have a bright future ahead of them, as it is the case with Leandro Erlich and his work “La Pileta” (Whitney Biennial, New York) where an important international career opened for him. The idea was also to make a special kind of project, and not just an exhibition of paintings or works of art; in other words, to participate and be noticed, which is not so easy.

A.D: So that the visitors stop and take a look at the Argentine pavilion.

A.R: Exactly.

A.D: The musician Edgardo Rudnitzky is also going. Did you choose him?

A.R: No, Macchi presented a visual and sound installation project where he invited Edgardo Rudnitzky to work with him. They had already worked together on other occasions. I found the fact that he was also a musician very interesting because then the Oratory also makes musical sense. 

A.D: What is the project like?

A.R: In the Oratory there is an 8×8 meter baroque fresco, painted on the ceiling by a Venetian artist, depicting the theme of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. Macchi uses the form of the fresco, and the theme of the Assumption, and proposes to make a trampoline in the shape of the baroque frame that contains the fresco.

A.D: Can people intervene by jumping?

A.R: Yes, but it is not the most important part of the exhibition, because it is understood that it is made for jumping and testing the Assumption. Whether people use it or not will depend on the authorization of the Venice Biennale. However, the important thing is not to test it because when one sees it, one notices the meaning of it, regardless of one’s desire to test it.

A.D: And what about the music?

A.R: The sound of Edgardo Rudnitky is a piece for viola da gamba – a baroque instrument – which will be recorded while an acrobat jumps on the trampoline. In other words, the live performance of the viola da gamba inside the oratory in addition to the noises that the acrobat makes when jumping on the trampoline. This music record will be heard permanently in the background.

A.D: Will the filming of the sound track be shown?

A.R: No, but at the opening there will be a live performance with the acrobat and the musician.

A.D: What will the catalog be like?

A.R: Macchi is preparing a catalog that’s an artist’s book. He is designing it, with drawings of the project, a CD of the music and all the material that will be a work of art in itself.

A.D: This project you’re telling me about, did you prepare it together?

A.R: The trampoline and Rudnitzky’s intervention was Macchi’s idea. I was more involved in the production of the catalog, where Sergio Baur from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Office also collaborated. We didn’t want to make a catalog for people to just throw away.

A.D.: What about the sponsorship for this event?

A.R: In addition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which rents the Oratory, there is also ArteBA and other private contributions. The private contribution is very important and is something unprecedented, it’s really incredible.

A.D: How do you feel about this curatorial aspect?

A.R: I am very confident about the project. I believe it is an intelligent, sensitive, and impactful work of art. I think the production will be perfect. What worries me is the complexity of these events, because our space is outside the gardens of the Biennial, and the key days are actually three, from June 9 to 12, where the critics and the special jurors come. And there is so much to see that it seems to me that we are going to have to do some preliminary press work to attract the public.

A.D: So that the spectators stop to see and approach the display.

A.R: Yes, I think that this year many people are joining together to participate with both the private and public sectors. It was decided from a financial point of view, other years the space wasn’t even there; there were many other problems, and I think the artist is very good.

A.D: Macchi had already been selected to be at the Biennial by María de Corral, one of the Biennial’s curators. Having known this, didn’t you consider that another artist could be given a place?

A.R: The fact that he had already been selected by one the curators of the Biennial is very important. This is a policy that is often implemented at the Biennials. It is very common that once artists are invited internally, they should later be supported.

A.D: To encourage their efforts.

A.R: To be noted, that’s where you have to help. If he attracts attention inside the gardens of the Biennial, I think they will go to the Oratory to see his work.

A.D: Are there more Argentines in the Biennial?

A.R: Yes, this year there are 4 Argentines in the Venice Biennial. Jorge Macchi was invited by María de Corral, in a space of six by nine meters where he is going to make the installation; also invited by the same curator is Leandro Erlich. Sergio Vega, an Argentine artist who lives in Miami, will be present as a guest of Rosa Martínez. And Carolina Antich, an Argentine artist who lives in Venice, will be invited by an Italian curator named Colombo, who is also the director of the Museum of Modern Art in Italy. Antich’s participation is as a foreign artist residing in Italy.