March 19 2019, Sydney, Australia - Angelica Mesiti’s exhibition ASSEMBLY opens with the ‘Michela’ machine, a 19th century stenographic machine, modelled on a piano keyboard, which is used in the Italian Senate for official parliamentary reporting to ensure transparency within the democratic process. The machine’s inventor, Antonio Michela Zucco, was originally inspired by musical notation as a universal language.
Mesiti uses this device to code “To Be Written in Another Tongue,” a poem by David Malouf, which is then arranged into a musical score by composer Max Lyandvert, and played by an ensemble of musicians whilst performers, representing the multitude of ancestries that make up cosmopolitan Australia, gather, disassemble and re-unite.
In ASSEMBLY, a communal gathering is a means for making those with authority recognize the collective power of ‘the people’.
“Through both the metaphor of translation and the act itself, I am exploring the very human and increasingly urgent need we have to assemble in a physical way, in a physical space, in these complex times,” Angelica Mesiti said.
“In ASSEMBLY, Angelica translates text to code, music to movement and actions to occupations to represent the way a society gathers and builds upon itself,” said curator Juliana Engberg. “The exuberant energy she unleashes in ASSEMBLY, demonstrates the creativity and strength of community in evolution.”
Adrian Collette AM, Chief Executive Officer of the Australia Council, added, “The Australia Council is proud to present Angelica Mesiti’s deftly nuanced, deeply moving new work, ASSEMBLY, at the Biennale Arte 2019. The work uses metaphor, performance and a multitude of diverse voices to suggest a new world where a growing and evolving society is open to new ideas, desires and beliefs.”
“Angelica has worked with close to forty Australian artists including dancers, musicians and film and sound practitioners to produce this monumental new work, which demonstrates how Australia’s presence at Venice can generate myriad flow on benefits across the broader visual arts sector.”
ASSEMBLY will open in May 2019, and will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue that includes essays by Jennifer Higgie, Luca Arnaudo, Caleb Kelly and 2019 Australian Pavilion curator Juliana Engberg.
Angelica Mesiti is one of Australia’s foremost contemporary artists, with an internationally renowned practice that combines video with performance and installation to create immersive environments that require absorption and contemplation. Her practice is focused on diasporic cultures, gestural communication and multi-cultural dimensions through musicality and movement.
The Michela Machine
Invented in 1863 by Italian inventor and academic Antonio Michela Zucco, the Michela is a stenographic machine with a keyboard similar to a piano. It is used to generate a system of shorthand symbols in real time. Zucco, who had a passion for linguistics and phonetics, classified all the components of the syllables contained in words and ascribed to each a graphic symbol and numeric value so as to reflect the exact sound – thereby creating a mechanism which could record the symbols corresponding to groups of sounds at the same speed at which words were uttered. The invention was considered groundbreaking, and Zucco was subsequently awarded medals at international Expos. In 1881 the Michela was adopted by the Italian Senate and a computerized version is still in use.
A copy of David Malouf’s To Be Written in Another Tongue is available here:
High resolution images are available for download here.
Angelica Mesiti (b. 1976) lives and works between Paris and Sydney. She is currently presenting a solo exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo Paris, and has previously held solo exhibitions at MAXXI Rome, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, O Space, Aarhus, Williams College Museum of Art Massachusetts, and Nikolaj Kunsthal Copenhagen. Her work is held in national and international collections including the National Gallery of Australia, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, FRAC Franche-Compté France, and Kadist Art Foundation Paris/San Francisco.
Angelica Mesiti is represented in Australia by Anna Schwartz Gallery and in Paris by Galerie Allen.
Juliana Engberg is a curator, writer and cultural producer. Her recent projects include being programme director and commissioner of the European Capital of Culture Aarhus 2017; artistic director of the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire; artistic director at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art; curator of the visual arts programmes of the Edinburgh, Melbourne and Adelaide International Festivals; and artistic director of the Melbourne International Biennial: Signs of Life. Her book En Route is published by MUP. She is a fellow of Goodenough College, London; adjunct professor at RMIT University, Melbourne and a professional fellow at Monash University, Melbourne in the faculties of Architecture, Art and Design.
Australia at the Venice Biennale
Australia’s representation at the Venice Biennale began in 1954, and since then 39 distinguished contemporary visual artists have exhibited under the Australia banner. The Venice Biennale provides Australian artists with critical international coverage, exposing them to key new audiences, markets and contexts. This exposure helps build the profile of Australian contemporary visual arts and establishes international cultural links, networks and dialogue for individual Australian artists. The Biennale represents a significant platform for the Australia Council for the Arts and our supporters to showcase contemporary Australian visual arts across global borders. Click here to find out more about previous artists.
Australia’s national participation in the Venice Biennale is managed by the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Government’s principal arts funding and advisory body. The Australia Council also owns the Australian Pavilion. The Australia Council is the Commissioner for Australia at the Venice Biennale. The Venice Commissioning Panel of the Australia Council’s Board is chaired by Sam Walsh AO and includes Lee-Ann Tjunypa Buckskin, Leigh Carmichael and Christine Simpson-Stokes.
Australia’s participation in each Biennale is supported by a highly successful private-public partnership. The 2019 Venice project will draw on invaluable support from the Venice Council, steered by Chair Kerry Gardner AO, comprising distinguished arts philanthropists and leaders from the contemporary visual arts community who will spearhead advocacy and fundraising efforts.
The Australian Pavilion
The 2015 opening of the award-winning Australian Pavilion designed by Denton Corker Marshall celebrated the first 21st Century pavilion in the Giardini della Biennale. The Australian Pavilion provides an elegant home to showcase the best of Australian art and architecture. The pavilion is one of only 29 national pavilions within the Biennale Gardens, all built at different periods by various countries. The development of the Australian Pavilion was made possible through a public-private partnership led by the Australia Council with the then Commissioner Simon Mordant AM. The original pavilion designed by Philip Cox opened in 1988 hosted 22 artists during its lifetime.
The Australia Council for the Arts is the Australian Government’s principal arts funding and advisory body. Australia’s participation at the Venice Biennale began in 1954 and has been managed by the Australia Council since 1978.
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Image Credit: Angelica Mesiti, ASSEMBLY, 2019 (production still) three-channel video installation in architectural amphitheater. HD video projections, color, six-channel mono sound, 25 mins, dimensions variable. © Photography: Bonnie Elliott.
Commissioned by the Australia Council for the Arts on the occasion of the 58th International Art Exhibition–La Biennale di Venezia. Courtesy of the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Austalia and Galerie Allen, Paris.
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