Kapwani Kiwanga: Trinket / Canadian Pavilion at Venice Art Biennale 2024

Kapwani Kiwanga: Trinket / Canadian Pavilion at the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Venice (Italy), April 19, 2024.

Official description: Kapwani Kiwanga is a multi-disciplinary artist concerned with forms of power: their suppressed histories and quotidian effects. The artist transforms the Canada Pavilion by way of a site- specific sculptural installation on the building’s interior and exterior, turning it into a large-scale tableau. Shapes shift, dissolving distinctions between inside and outside. As one moves through the coil-like architecture, it unfolds, multiplying perspectives. The installation principally consists of conterie (seed beads), historically employed as both currency and items of exchange. Conterie were dispersed globally from the Venetian island of Murano and incorporated into various material cultures. Kiwanga uses these tiny glass units to construct the monumental out of the minute, each bead acting as a witness to past transactions that changed the socioeconomic landscape of the sixteenth century and beyond. The work addresses the often-destructive history of commerce and how the trade of these beads shaped the world. Other materials related to the trade of conterie are also included. They rise from the pavilion’s floor onto the walls and spill out into the courtyard. As they meet the beads, they formalise a place of exchange, prompting reflection on issues of value, aesthetics, and global economic relations.

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