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Venice Biennale 2022: Marco Fusinato takes over Australia Pavilion with 200 days of guitar performance and spectacle

9 min read
Venice Biennale 2022: Marco Fusinato takes over Australia Pavilion with 200 days of guitar performance and spectacle

Discordant noise fills a white-walled exhibition space. An electric guitar twangs, noise reverberates through the room, and lights overhead flash. A man with shaggy greying hair sits on a music case facing the wall, his body bent over his guitar, as eerie images flash on a floor-to-ceiling LED screen.

He reaches down to adjust a guitar pedal, tweaking the sound, the room plunged into darkness for a moment as guitar fuzz rings out. At the same time, disorienting images flicker on the screen for a fraction of a second: images of war, intricate still lifes, empty city streets, police in riot gear, a skeleton being dug up, a medieval painting of a severed head.

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This is Melbourne artist and noise musician Marco Fusinato’s DESASTRES: a solo performance spanning 200 days of squalling, droning, amplified guitar, currently taking place in a gallery in Venice.

It’s one of the most visceral and confronting works at this year’s Venice Biennale, one of the major events on the global arts calendar.

What is the Venice Biennale and why should I care?

The Venice Biennale is one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary art in the world. It’s also the oldest ‘biennale’, dating back to 1895.

Held, as the name suggests, every two years, it showcases artists from across the world to a global audience (of around half a million, in recent years) — kind of like the Olympics of art, but less competitive.

Instead of lots of prizes, there’s just a handful: the prestigious Golden Lions and a Silver Lion.

It largely takes place in the Giardini, in its Central Pavilion or in devoted national pavilions, and in the Arsenale, a converted shipyard nearby.

Does Australia have its own Pavilion?

Yes! The Australia Pavilion is a cube-shaped structure made of concrete and steel, with an opaque black granite facade, located within the Biennale Gardens (parklands originally created by Napoleon Bonaparte).

Venice Biennale 2022: Marco Fusinato takes over Australia Pavilion with 200 days of guitar performance and spectacle
The current Australia Pavilion opened in 2015 and was designed by architecture firm Denton Corker Marshall (Melbourne Museum).(Supplied: Australia Council)

It’s kind of like Australia runs a gallery in Venice — except it’s only open six months of the year.

It is exclusively for the presentation of work by Australian artists at the Venice Biennale, and is one of only 29 national pavilions at the Biennale, joining countries like Argentina, Canada and Iceland.

Each edition, a different artist and curator are chosen to represent Australia.

Australia first exhibited at Venice in 1954, with the work of Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale and William Dobell.

But Australia only opened its own pavilion in 1988 – which has hosted artists like Patricia Piccinini (2001), Fiona Hall (2015) and Tracey Moffatt (2017).

Fiona Hall
Fiona Hall represented Australia with the installation Wrong Way Time, which included a collaboration with the Tjanpi Desert Weavers.(Supplied: Australia Council)

Who chooses the Biennale artists?

This year’s Biennale is curated by artistic director Cecilia Alemani — surprisingly, the first Italian to lead the international art exhibition.

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