Polar Eclipse: The Bahamas Debuts at the Venice Biennale

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The Bahamas Exhibit at the 55th Venice Biennale has received considerable critical attention. Here is the review written by Marinel Valentini as part of the excellent series on the Biennale offered by The Culture Trip. Follow the link below for the complete Culture Trip coverage.

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The Bahamas is one of ten countries participating for the first time in the 2013 International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale (1 June – 24 November, 2013). Tavares Strachan, along with co-curators Jean Crutchfield and Robert Hobbs, will transform the Bahamian pavilion through a unique multi-sensorial environment including video, sound and neon-light works, around the theme of Polar Eclipse, which explores themes of displacement and belonging.

Strachan has stated: ‘I’m fascinated by the idea of being in two or more places at once, and exploring difference that way… The way that the Venice Biennale, historically and now, deploys the idea of difference as cultural tourism is an interesting problem to work with.’ To explore those themes, Strachan’s exhibit, entitled Polar Eclipse, brings together three sites – the Venice Arsenale, downtown Nassau and the North Pole – that are geographically and culturally distinct. By weakening the nationally-defined model of the Biennale’s National Pavilions, Strachan asks viewers to question their own ideas of displacement and belonging to a certain place.

 

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The main exhibition space within the Bahamian Pavilion will present itself as a distinct, comprehensive installation, and as a collection of individual art pieces. It will feature a 360-degree video installation, with fourteen monitors playing a documentary of Strachan’s reenactment of the 1909 polar expedition of Peary and Henson, as well as an audio installation, and three neon light sculptures that focus on the themes of belonging and displacement through a series of statements. Titled Here and Now, the three light sculptures depict the phrases ‘I Belong Here’, ‘You Belong Here’, and ‘We Belong Here’. With this installation, Strachan aims to address the invisible shifts in cultures, physical environments, and recounted histories over both space and time, in the wake of globalization and narratives of progress.

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Tavares Strachan, born in Nassau, is an ideal choice to represent a country preparing to celebrate 40 years of independence from the United Kingdom (July 10th, 1973). Born and raised in the Bahamas, Strachan has gained international fame thanks to his iconic piece of conceptual art The Distance Between What We Have and What We Want (2006), which consisted of a 4.5 ton block of ice dug out from a frozen river near Mount McKinley, Alaska, then shipped to the sub-tropical Bahamas and exhibited in a see-through freezer powered, paradoxically, by solar panels.

Continuing to integrate science and art, Strachan’s recent project ‘Orthostatic Tolerance’, which refers to the physiological stress that cosmonauts endure while exiting and re-entering the Earth, is an exploratory multimedia work that follows the artist’s individual experience in cosmonaut training, whilst also exploring the Bahamas’ aeronautic development. His installations were exhibited at MIT List Visual Arts Center, at Grand Arts Gallery in Kansas City, and at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia.

The Bahamas Team

Artist: Tavares Strachan

Commissioner: Nalini Bethel, Senior Director of Communications, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.

Curators: Jean Crutchfield and Robert Hobbs

Deputy Curator: Stamatina Gregory

Venue: The Bahamas Pavilion at the Arsenale – Tese Cinquecentesche

For the complete report go to http://theculturetrip.com/caribbean/the-bahamas/articles/polar-eclipse-the-bahamas-debuts-at-the-venice-biennale/

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