Photo: Tiong Ang

MaHKU ‘occupying’ the Research Pavilion – The Aftermath Journal Prospects: Before You Ask Me To Stay


A project at 1st Research Pavilion : Experimentality, Venice

11 May 2015: Our first day as a group to visit the Research Pavilion, which then was transformed to our studio, discussion space and shelter after long walks. During this week, we were immersed in atypical realm of artistic research that was on occasion enclosed within the pavilion, and other times dispersed around the city of Venice. We were welcomed by artworks, sounds and installations that already resided there before us. All we were thinking about was merging with this organic space through our different individual and collaborative projects; becoming one with the space and the city.

Throughout the week, several projects took place, varying from interventions to encounters and from performances to discussions. With Seppo Salminen and Egbert Jonkers, we managed to test the Internet connection and to control it by all means to make sure a Skype conversation would be possible on the second day, and also to have access during the week in general. I call that an hour of intensities and cautious relief. Getting out from the enclosed space, we moved to the market to research local produce, also in preparation for encounters. 

12 May 2015: We start our day with a conversation and tour at ‘Museum’ (Lithuanian Pavilion) with Dr Vytautas Michelkevičius, Artistic Director of Nida Art Colony and curator of the Lithuanian Pavilion. The project presented an alternative history of art as well as new proposals of what can be referred to as artistic practice through a museum-like display and direction that questions society, protest, politics and histories through artistic research.  

We then moved the conversation to the Research Pavilion where I organized a talk with Salwa Mikdadi, Curator of Palestine c/o Venice in 2009, which took place in the same location that we were occupying. This conversation titled Questioning National Representation: The Case of Palestine moved from the national representation in general to discussing similarities and disparities between different geographies. We were also able to touch upon the project that was presented in Sala del Camino in 2009, which allowed artists to work in spite of occupation and restrains. 

After a heavy conversation, we moved on to the garden for a project done by Yasaman Owrang titled E’ing. After researching the locality of the food markets in Venice in relation to what is imported, genetically modified or locally grown, Owrang presented a social project involving collaborating with the visitors in terms of cooking and sharing produce. She also created recipes that noted what could possibly include E elements in our everyday consumptions. While developing awareness on what is taken for granted, she encourages a different level of shared economies and activities in her practice to involve communal experiences.

13 May 2015: A day assigned for each to develop their individual research. Renée Aagtjes took the opportunity to start with her project aiming to drown Venice by Making Storm. Renée noted that the movement of the water (as it destroys or feeds it's surroundings) emphasizes the passing of time and can be quickened or slowed down. Her performance involved prayers and contemplations in different locations. This project proved successful as the hot week in Venice was interrupted by a day of wind and rain. 

Back in the Research Pavilion, Sepideh Raiesi continued working on her memory game titled Tip: Try not to Focus on Titles/Texts. From her first day in Venice, Raiesi started collecting newspapers from a local store on Giudecca as part of her on going practice. She then began creating memory cards out of the carefully studied and cut out newspapers. In this interactive project, she questions media and its consequences on how news are being perceived through visual similarities, by that connecting variant locations and events and placing their fates in the hands of players. Her project intervened with Maija Narhinen’s Blank that questions issues of depicting and representation. 

14 May 2015: After visiting several collateral events around the city while working on individual research, we met again at the Research Pavilion to talk with Tiong Ang and Alejandro Ramirez about their experimental feature film House of Shyness, which is also exhibited in Experimentality. After the introduction on collaboration and the developing of works through time, discussions, research and sharing, a screening of the film took place in the seminar area. 

15 May 2015: We began our Biennial tour with Arsenale to visit the central exhibition as well as the national pavilions. It is essential to note here the other projects that depended on the city of Venice as well. Starting with the space itself, Victor Muñoz began to create small drawings on the windows of the Research Pavilion and then recorded an invented logo of a Colombian Pavilion. With his known eclectic styles, he traced the city to find other elements that can be filmed as part of the moving pavilion that he created. 

Another project that depended on the city was Jan Yong Deok Lim’s continued studies on oblivion and ambivalence. While in the space, he worked on A5 drawings that he then moved to the city in an attempt to find relations or contrasts in his project One Side. His drawings, and through photography, were able to merge with the city and the people to create another level of perception. 

16 May 2015:  A day dedicated to the Giardini. Each had a must-see list and a study in mind to pursuit. Following the visit, we went back to our shelter to discuss the biennial projects as a collective. This then took us to another research that was done by Ahn Phan Nguyen. Before leaving Utrecht, Ahn managed to get some ants with him to Venice and then added to his jar more ants that he found around there. He then worked on a journal to document each day and the different activities that took place in a project that was based on observation and details. This project raised many questions related to scientific and artistic research as well as migration and refugee status. 

17 May 2015: Last day in Venice and we were all exhausted yet still continued to finalize our projects as well as tick-off the final exhibitions that we needed to see before leaving. One of the projects that were finalized on the last day was Egbert Jonkers’. During the week, he took videos and still images to register locations in Venice. He also collected different objects and placed them in glass tubes as part of the installation left in the space on the last day, in order to emphasize the hidden elements (or sometimes forgotten) and to repurpose them in an unlike space.  

Lotte van Geijn was perhaps not with us on the trip but we all had a piece of her project. Before leaving Utrecht, she handed each one of us a card with a part of an image and a quote in the back: “My plastic parrots died, because I didn’t pretend to feed them.” The instructions directed us all to find a similar image or an object that we can interpret in relation to the individual cards, in order to experiment with instructions and possible experiences and outcomes. 

This week was intensified with debates, exhaustions and perhaps we can say an art overdose. Nevertheless, the outcomes of the experimental research space and the umbrella that grouped us all allowed us to push beyond the norm of exhibition practice by showing works in progress, conversations and happenings as forms of artistic research and art making beyond the conventional spaces and by mutating an already existing one to accommodate our needs.  


Text: Iman Al Sayed

May 2015

Participating artists: Renée Aagtjes, Iman Al Sayed, Lotte van Geijn, Egbert Jonkers, Victor Muñoz, Ahn Phan Nguyen, Yasaman Owrang, Sepideh Raiesi, Jan YongDeok Lim
Coordinated by Tiong Ang