Image caption: Amy Perejuan-Capone, Kate Davis (Middle) and Courtney Wagner.
Kate Davis is an artist and curator from Victoria, who recently spent five weeks in Venice as a Team Leader in the Australian Pavilion. Kate talks about the inspirational time she had at the 2019 Biennale Arte.
Is this your first trip to Venice during the Biennale Arte?
It’s my second time visiting the Biennale Arte. It’s incredible to see how much the exhibition spaces transform Biennale to Biennale; some are unrecognisable.
How have you found living and working in Venice?
Energising and stimulating; there’s so much to see and discover.
Audiences are visibly affected by Angelica Mesiti's ASSEMBLY. People emerge wide-eyed with wonder; exhilarated and excited by what they have seen, while others are moved to tears. People seem to enjoy dissecting the many layers of the work with my team and I, often returning to watch it again armed with new knowledge or actualisations. One visitor watched it five times!
What makes the Biennale Arte/ Venice itself/this experience unique?
As artists and arts workers from all over the world convene in Venice, you never know who you will meet over a spritz. There’s always a party or a dinner to join, and as most people have seen the Biennale , it’s easy to talk to anyone and everyone; it’s an endless source of discussion and debate. Even if they haven’t seen it, they will have an opinion to unpack.
How have Biennale audiences received Angelica Mesiti’s exhibition? What has been the most significant, interesting or extreme reaction you’ve seen anyone have to the work?
Audiences are visibly affected by ASSEMBLY. People emerge wide-eyed with wonder; exhilarated and excited by what they have seen, while others are moved to tears. People seem to enjoy dissecting the many layers of the work with my team and I, often returning to watch it again armed with new knowledge or actualisations. One visitor watched it five times!
Are there any common questions people ask you about ASSEMBLY or Angelica?
The sites in ASSEMBLY, being the Italian Senate in Rome and Old Parliament House in Canberra, remind people of monumental structures in their own localities. So much so that they ask if it was filmed in these various buildings. I think this speaks to the relevance of the work, which was made in response to a global atmosphere.
What are your highlights from the Biennale (which pavilions, collateral shows or works have spoken to you the most)?
The Lithuanian Pavilion blew me away. Amazingly, the hype did not diminish its impact! I also really enjoyed the Bosnian, Brazilian, Ghanaian and South Korean Pavilions. The Jannis Kounellis exhibition at the Fondazione Prada, was phenomenal, as was Time, Forward! at the V-A-C Foundation.
Have you met or connected with anyone who will influence your career/with whom you’ll collaborate in the future?
The thought-provoking conversations I’ve had over the past five weeks have motivated me to pick up research I’d put to the side, which feels really good. This appointment also enabled me to catch up with long lost colleagues based in Paris, Turin and Shanghai, respectively, and we’re now developing some new projects together. Likewise, I have met many people I hope to collaborate with in the future.
What is your favourite part of Venice?
The neighbourhood our apartment is in, Castello. There is more Italian spoken than English; and on the weekends you see nonnas doing karaoke, and families dining on the street, having dragged their tables outside for a feast. The restaurants and bars are delicious and down-to-earth and you can walk across bridges without being held up by tourists posing for photos or taking selfies.
What three things should a Team Leader in Venice pack in their luggage?
In summer, breathable clothes are essential as it’s very hot and humid. Face mist is also nice; I’ve been sponging off someone who was smart enough to pack some. It’s a good idea to leave space in your suitcase for all the catalogues and tote bags you will amass. I’ve worn about a third of the clothes I packed, so less is more.
What advice would you give to future Team Leaders in the Australian Pavilion?
The people visiting the Australian Pavilion have so much to offer, strike up as many conversations as possible. One visitor told me about how she built the stairs for our old Pavilion on the day it opened, while another shared her experience of voting in Old Parliament House the day after Bob Hawke died.
Applications for Venice Biennale 2021 Team Leaders will open mid-year in 2020. Read more about the opportunity here.