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New Zealand Pavilion, 2013 Venice BiennalePrevious Exhibition
Te Papa was proud to be the key partner in Creative New Zealand's 2013 New Zealand at Venice project.
Celebrated New Zealand sculptor, photographer and installation artist Bill Culbert exhibited his work at the major contemporary art exhibition – the 2013 Venice Biennale.
Bill Culbert is well known for making art from light. He is also renowned for lightness of touch – a talent for putting familiar objects together in ways that activate both them and their surroundings. And in 2013, at the 55th Venice Biennale, Culbert’s art lit up some remarkable spaces within the Istituto Santa Maria della Pietà, right by the lagoon on Venice’s busy Riva degli Schiavoni. Walking inward through the corridors, courtyards and rooms of the building, visitors encountered a series of playful, immersive and contemplative sculptural experiences.
Like many of Culbert's earlier installations, Front Door Out Back was anchored firmly in the domestic world, with common objects such as tables, chairs, wardrobes and plastic containers featuring prominently in many works. But these objects were also altered and energised, lifted out of the ordinary, by Culbert’s signature medium – light. Fluorescent light tubes in abundance drew viewers through the spaces, flowing around, over and often right through Culbert’s pieces of furniture and coloured plastic vessels – objects that Culbert refers to as both ‘stoppages and transporters’. The most ambitious of these was a 20-metre-long overhead light sculpture, which sent gleaming steel chairs and tables tumbling through space in a torrent of fluorescent tubes.
As they unfolded through the building, these light sculptures played with and played off the unique qualities of the Pietà site – in particular the constant sense of connection between ground level and water level. They also conversed – and sometimes quietly argued – with the associations of historic and tourist Venice. Perhaps those recycled plastic vessels were Culbert’s retort to the cult of Murano glass. And perhaps those fluorescent tubes were his pointedly workaday response to all the heavenly beams of light in historic Venetian painting. In Culbert’s words his aim was to introduce ‘an energy and simplicity’ in this setting, turning rooms and passages that are usually uninhabited into vibrant living space.
All installation photographs are by Jennifer French and reproduced courtesy of Creative New Zealand.