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‘Accessing ‘Island’: Experiencing the British Pavilion as (non)spectacle, as spectator, and as spectated’ An open discussion between the British Council Venice Biennale 2018 Steward Research Fellows, pavilion visitors, and students from the University of Warwick’s Venice Programme on the 23rd of November 2018 (photo #1 by kastytis DONauskis)

the following sections are composed of quotes and key words expressed by participants of the open discussion/performance

ON THE PAVILION AS A SPECTACLE the spectacle of the view, the raised pavilion- shocking. positionality of the british pavilion. spectacle of the nation. nations displaying their culture and presence in the world. juxtaposition of the pavilion and its emptiness and the scaffolding. you ask a lot of questions. curiosity. spectacle (of the pavilion)- a dramatic display- a theatre/drama playing out of the dramaturgy of the human experience. see guy debord’s society of the spectacle

photo: Kastytis Donauskis

ON EXPERIENCING THE PAVILION a blank canvas. a cold space but open space- invites you to have an interpretation. entry with an experiential position that reflects the visitor's worldview, experiences, mood, temperature, education, cultural background, where people come from, how their paradigms have been shaped. expectation. the emptiness triggering the need to discuss. go in and stand there- take time to get lost in the space. if you go upstairs you can sit and reflect. consolidate. looking for the past marks on the walls. is this it? the family didn't know how to respond to it. really? is this really it? older visitor- british- started crying; walked all around the space crying, then left; fellow thought to self yeah, it’s sad, it’s like we’re representing this country and there’s nothing to show; it’s empty; at the same time quite humorous. the (non)unified experience- some people get one experience of it and others get another

photo: Kastytis Donauskis

ON UNDERSTANDING THE PAVILION artistic projects say much more than what they actually intend to say. a metacommunication happens. each perspective adds another layer to the possible meanings. the museums in london are full of artifacts stolen from other countries and we are in the process of returning some of them- coming to the pavilion there is quite a stark difference- sending a strong message. you come in; and in a way it’s very inviting- there isn’t anything there to tell you what to think, so it’s very open there is never a neutral position; this empty but not neutral; always the possibility of reaction; a project of britishness in a specific moment of history; friction, space for dialogue and conversation. always polarizing; whatever the interpretation is it’s valid and credible and everyone has their own perspective. cold- blank canvas- daunting cold space.

photo: vip artpradid

ON BEING WITH THE PAVILION you enter this space knowing how to engage the space, but then you quickly come down because there’s nothing to validate how you’ve known how to behave in this sort of space.

QUESTIONING THE PAVILION is it too intelligent? not everyone is going to know. uncertainty. the platform was more welcoming and beautiful and open than the empty pavilion. it’s a bit of a pity to think to whitewash (reference to the walls) the whole of british culture because yes, of course there are colossal and historical gaps, but it is also a very rich culture, and there’s stuff to show, and this comes across as an easy way out- you’ve got freespace, let’s do a whitewashed room. contradictions. the empty space having potential.

photo: Jas Lucas

WAS IT ‘SUCCESSFUL’? whitewashed space provides a universal standpoint; a whitewashed space is the most basic of spaces- you walk out of the space with a reaction. whitewashed, cold, difficult to imagine anything else. it allows for reflection of oneself. this empty pavilion space is important for the upstairs to work. you might not like it, but you will definitely remember it. you can’t make a response without a reaction; you need this powerful reaction to be able to reflect upstairs. battle between peoples’ expectations and what it is. was it accessible by everyone? it’s a decent project, but it’s relied on too many things. a specific audience with a specific intellectual vocabulary, it’s relied on fellows- we’re all academically viable but we don’t share the same interests. it’s relied heavily on things that it maybe shouldn’t have done

photo: Kastytis Donauskis

ON PROVIDING GREATER ACCESS art should be accessible to everyone and this didn’t feel accessible. how would you have pushed it towards a more diverse audience? make it free. accessibility- what makes us free? what buys our freedom what legitimizes our freedom? what builds that freedom to access in each context? the purpose of the fellows is to provide the access. fellows- the moment you engage with the visitors you are the concept; you are performing the layer of the concept; you are being the concept. we can’t always talk to everyone; can’t give everyone that experience.

ON HOW IT WORKS (OR DOESN’T) devising something for people to fill it- neoliberalism. managed to get an opinion out of everyone. triggering a response is the underlining criteria; to be able to pose questions, create their own interpretations. the more you know about it the more interesting it becomes. not accessible enough to everyone because most people walk in and leave and don’t have enough time to experience and understand it.

photo: Kastytis Donauskis

CRITIQUING THE BIGGER PICTURE why can’t something just be enjoyable? why does it have to be political/make a statement? are people done talking about brexit? some people don’t pick up a leaflet; they don’t know what’s going, and they find it tranquil and relaxing; because they don’t get the information, they enjoy it more. is the biennale structure still relevant? do we need different models?

photo: vip artpradid

Credits:

Kastytis Donauskis, Jasmin Lucas, Vip Artpradid

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