Aboriginal artist Yhonnie Scarce’s work will be included in the exhibition Personal Structures, an official satellite project of the 55th Venice Biennale. Scarce was a resident artist at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in September 2012. See details of her residency on our special projects page.
Personal Structures is a project initiated by Global Art Affairs, a Dutch non-profit that aims to heighten awareness about philosophical themes in contemporary art – particularly time, space and existence – and make these subjects more accessible to a wider international audience. In the Venice Biennale, Global Art Affairs focuses on current developments in the international art world and the assembly of artists with different cultural backgrounds in different stages of their careers. The exhibition is held at the Palazzo Bembo in Venice and runs for the entirety of the Biennale (June – November, 2013).
Scarce’s new work for Personal Structures is a freestanding sculpture installation of an acrylic coffin encasing 225 glass bush bananas. Each one commemorates a year of Australia’s colonization and the genocide of Indigenous peoples. This work, displayed as one mass grave, commemorates all who have died as a result of the continually present colonial condition.
Through research into her family’s experiences, Scarce’s glasswork engages with the issue of containment of Aboriginal people, including the forcible removal of these people from their land and the subsequent practice of eugenics. Scarce incorporates her personal histories and research with artifacts from the past, highlighting the legacy of issues related to white settlement in dialogue with the present.
Scarce’s blown-glass Indigenous fruits and vegetables such as bush bananas, bush plums and long yams are metaphoric tools to represent Aboriginal people and their treatment over time. The glass is more than a mere material; the glass acts as a lens and a mirror, which both reflects and exposes the tragedies of Australia’s colonization. Often used to represent the body, the glass has a solid appearance yet is fragile and must be handled with care. Like archaeological objects, Scarce uses her work to tell stories and bear witness.
Previous artists invited to participate in Global Art Affairs exhibitions for the Biennale have included Marina Abramovic (RS), Carl Andre (US), Herman de Vries (NL), Toshikatsu Endo (JP), Johannes Girardoni (US), Peter Halley (US), Joseph Kosuth (US), Melissa Kretschmer (US), Lee Ufan (KR), Ma Jun (CN), Tony Matelli (US), Judy Millar (NZ), Tatsuo Miyajima (JP), Francois Morellet (FR), Hermann Nitsch (AT), Roman Opalka (FR), Thomas Pihl (NO), Miriam Prantl (AT), Andrew Putter (ZA), Arnulf Rainer (AT), Rene Rietmeyer (NL), Yuko Sakurai (JP), Sasaki (JP), SEO (KR), Lawrence Weiner (US), and Maik Wolf (DE).