Saturday, June 18, 2011

Venice Biennale: Haiti Pavilion Part 1

Among all the various Biennale sites spread out around Venice and its various islands, I can't decide whether the Haitian Pavilion is the hardest or the easiest exhibition space to miss. On the one hand it's not far from the main exhibition area in the Giardini and situated all alone in the middle of Riva dei Sette Martiri. And yet people walk right past it, completely unaware that it's there. Or, more to the point, that it's a Biennale pavilion at all, as it consists (as you can see below) of two large freight containers, arranged in the shape of a Tau cross, in the red and blue of the Haitian flag.
The Haiti Pavilion
I've only seen a little of the Biennale so far, but among so many expensive spectacles and international art stars (gee whiz, there's Cindy Sherman in costume again, but in a bigger scale than ever!) the Haiti Pavilion acts as something like a counterweight. Entitled "Death and Fertility" it features the work of three artists (Jean Hérard Celeur, André Eugène, Jean Claude Saintilus) from Port-au-Prince who have reinvented Haitian Vodou figures in particularly suggestive contemporary materials: "engine manifolds, computer entrails, TV sets, medical debris, skulls and discarded lumber [which] transform the detritus of a failing economy into deranged post-apocalyptic totems." (Leah Gordon, adjunct curator of the exhibition)

For more information on the exhibition, more images of the work, and an excellent documentary on the artists, check out the Pavilion's website at

Below are two works by Jean Hérard Celeur that in a city filled with countless figures of saints atop buildings, within niches, and upon altars--figures of ceremonial, religious, historical and political import--I found especially striking. In them the history of international commerce, in which Venice played so major a role, is brought up to the present, depicted from the other side of that looking glass in which Westerners have traditionally seen only their own reflection.

A madonna and child unlike any of the many others in Venice
You can see more photos of the Haiti Pavilion at: 


  1. Wow! That is most striking.

  2. It's really great work. And I still have to check out the other Haiti exhibition of 15 other Haitian artists at the Fondazione Querini Stanpalia.

  3. I think so, too, which is why I have been meaning to post more photos from the exhibit ever since posting the two above. I finally took some more today and hope to post them tomorrow.