Maria Eichhorn’s German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale –


Germany’s national pavilion at the Venice Biennale has once again taken a bruise.

In 1993, artist Hans Haacke broke the building’s travertine floors and expose the rubble. This time, Maria Eichhorn tore out a long section and dug up, revealing brick and cement supports, as well as dirt and rock. A chain-link fence prevents visitors from falling into the abyss.

Although Eichhorn’s play is a nod to Chris Burden’s legendary 1986 play Exhibit the Museum Foundation, who excavated part of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, understanding precisely what is going on here requires consulting some accompanying texts. This is often the case with the Eichhorn incisor.

The bottom line: She first “developed the idea of ​​moving” the building for the biennial, then “faithfully reassembling it on its original site.” One imagines that this would have been a complicated and expensive undertaking. Instead, she exposed her foundations, which were laid in the first decade of the 20th century to create a pavilion for the Kingdom of Bavaria. In the 1930s, the Nazis erected an extension for the imposing architecture that still exists. Eichhorn also uncovered slices of the building’s brick walls, as if stripping the pavilion for parts.

Above, the walls have been stripped in sections down to their brickwork.
Andrew Russeth for ART news

Amid the frenetic competition for attention during the Biennale, one must at least grudgingly admire Eichhorn’s restraint. She refuses to play this game. But if this were her only contribution to the biggest art festival in the world, it would certainly be a disappointment: the history of the German pavilion is far from a mystery at this stadium, and the artists use it as sheet.

Luckily, the Eichhorn Pavilion has additional components. Throughout the Biennale’s run, guided tours will take place through Venice in what it calls “Places of Resistance” when anti-fascist events occurred in the city during World War II or when memorials to this resistance have since been built.

Organized with the Istituto veneziano per la storia della resistenza e della società contemporanea, these walks around Venice include areas that will be familiar to regulars of the Biennale, such as the Jewish ghetto and the Santa Lucia train station.

Deeply researched materials on the pavilion site detail the history of these sites. At the Jewish Ghetto, tour guides Giulio Bobbo or Luisella Romeo will detail the stories of Giuseppe Jona, chairman of the Jewish Community Council, who committed suicide in 1943 rather than provide the Nazis with a list of the group’s members, as well than the 250 Jews deported from the city during the war, eight of whom survived. In Santa Lucia, participants will learn about the former railway inspector, Bartolomeo Meloni, who took part in sabotage operations and died in the Dachau concentration camp.

A giant hole with dirt and rocks.

Concrete and brick foundations underlie the pavilion, remnants of earlier building projects.
Andrew Russeth for ART news

Those tours won’t begin until next week, April 28, long after the VIPs have left town. April 28 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Venice, after fighting between German forces and Italian partisans at the Arsenale, the great old shipyards, now filled with hundreds of works of art and the pavilion of Ukraine.

As for the Germany pavilion, there have been proposals over the years to tear it down or radically rework it. Eichhorn, for his part, says in an official interview with the curator of the exhibition, Yilmaz Dziewior, that it “must be preserved as a monument”.

The artist titled his show “Relocation of a Structure” and invited us to imagine him flying away, at least temporarily. However, his full project suggests a broader reading of his title. Offering very little to see inside the pavilion, the exhibit instead directs viewers out into the city to remember the struggles and losses that occurred there.

At present, countless amounts of time and money pass through the structure of the Biennale. Eichhorn seems to be asking: could at least part of this structure be moved – redirected – to other pressing issues?


Comments are closed.