PLAN 74: Article
Wodiczko's Guests In Venice

SA+P’s Third Solo Faculty Show at the Biennale

Krzysztof Wodiczko’s installation at the Polish Pavilion in this year’s Venice Biennale – which has been getting enthusiastic reviews for its simplicity and emotional power – marks the third time a member of SA+P’s visual arts faculty has been granted the honor of singly representing his native country there.

In 2005, Antoni Muntadas represented Spain with On Translation, a critical reflection on cultural production and its implications; and in 2007, Gediminas Urbonas and his partner Nomeda Urbonas represented Lithuania with Villa Lituania, a multi-layered history of the pre-war Lithuanian embassy in Rome and its current status.

This year, on view through November, Wodiczko represents Poland by transforming the entire Polish Pavilion into an evocation of the European Union’s relationship with foreign guests. Through images of windows projected on the pavilion’s interior walls, visitors observe scenes seemingly taking place outside the building – immigrants waiting for work, washing windows, talking about their problems and trying, from time to time, to peek in.

Widely praised as one of the highlights of the exhibition, Guests calls forth the current tensions surrounding immigration issues in the European Union – the restrictive regulations being introduced by some member states in an attempt to seal their borders, the dramatic situation of illegal immigrants caused by the global crisis and the rise in anti-immigrant sentiment.

Guests is akin to a previous Wodiczko installation at Galerie Lelong in New York City, If you see something… (2005), which also featured ‘others’ situated outside, behind windows. The title If you see something… referred to a media campaign begun in New York after 9/11 – ‘If you see something, say something, don’t keep it to yourself.’ In Wodiczko’s installation, immigrants spoke about harassment and Draconian laws enforced in the name of the war on terror.

In developing Guests, Wodiczko (an immigrant himself) spent hours in meetings and discussions with immigrants in Poland and Italy, two EU border states that have seen a strong influx of arrivals from the east and south. Those whose testimonies have been used are mostly from countries outside Europe, or at least from outside the EU, including Chechnya, Ukraine, Vietnam, Romania, Sri Lanka, Libya, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Morocco.

A professor in the visual arts program, Wodiczko is director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies and head of its Interrogative Design Group. He is known worldwide for large-scale, politically charged works of art that speak to issues of human rights, democracy, violence, alienation and inhumanity, often including testimonies of the people whose plights they address.

He is currently working on new project in his War Veteran Vehicle series, addressing the plight of soldiers returning to civilian life (See PLAN 72), this time giving public voice to British veterans in Liverpool as part of a major new festival taking place in Northwest England. And beginning in September, his permanent installation at the new Public Safety Building in Cambridge MA will express the continuing responsiveness of the police and the Emergency Communications Center to the life of the city’s citizens.

A major solo show is scheduled for November at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art and a retrospective exhibition is planned for 2012 at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.

Link to video posted on Artforum's website about Wodiczko's pavilion.