The Venice Biennale’s 11 Best Pavilions

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Department of Arts and Culture proudly supports South African artists Candice Breitz and Mohau Modisakeng as they represent South Africa at the world’s most prestigious contemporary art event.

Two separate works by Candice and Modisakeng come together in one of the most powerful installations to address forced migration at the Biennale, where it’s a frequent theme.

First, enter Modisakeng’s Passage (2017), a three-channel video installation that is a poetic, heartrending meditation on displacement, slavery, and violence. It shows three characters, each lying in a small white boat shot from above; each perform gestures that allude to struggle against unseen restraints as the vessels slowly fill with water. Eventually, the subjects submerge completely and sink, along with their boats which now resemble coffins.

Through a curtain is the first articulation of Breitz’s Love Story (2016). The film cuts abruptly between footage of actors Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore. Each plays the role of three different refugees whom Breitz previously interviewed. “All the Syrian refugees come to Europe because we feel human here,” says Moore at one point, giving voice to Sarah Mardini, whose sister Yusra participated in last summer’s Rio Olympics. In the next room, six screens play the original interviews with the refugees. Through this juxtaposition, Breitz pushes difficult questions around empathy and celebrity. For instance: Are we more likely to be moved by familiar, white actors who pretend than by strangers who have experienced real struggle? #VeniceBiennale