From Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir’s installation at the Venice Biennale

Hildigunnur Takes on Venice

The Venice Biennale is the world’s first and largest art exhibition, running from April to October. This year marks its sixtieth occurrence since 1895, although it was not held during the two world wars. One hundred and thirty-one years ago, nearly 200,000 people attended this art event. This year, over 2 million visitors are expected to come, see, and experience the best in contemporary visual art. These are the Olympics for visual artists, where nations compete to present the best contribution.

The Icelandic pavilion

Australia won this year with a genealogy work, a powerful piece that requires both time and insight to fully appreciate and understand. My personal favourite was the German pavilion—which was outstanding—while Italy, Egypt, and Benin were just a few steps behind. Japan and Denmark, with their Greenland-themed exhibition, were also close contenders. The United States, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and France also presented very interesting pavilions.

Gondolas on their way from the Biennale

Representing Iceland was Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir with her exhibition “That’s a Very Large Number – A Commerzbau.” The exhibition prompts visitors to reconsider their notions of beauty, value, and utility in the context of an international art event. Hildigunnur is known for her nuanced creations that critically examine global production and export systems, and the strange lifecycle of the products they generate. In her work,

A Pizzeria in Venice

Hildigunnur draws attention to the small, disposable items often mass-produced as accessories of consumer culture: packaging, price tags, labels, and information systems. She assigns new roles to these items, transforming their value and meaning so that they can be experienced disconnected from their origin. Regarding her approach, Hildigunnur says, “The unfortunate byproducts of consumerism are the materials, and man-made systems are the tools.”

Naturally, the setting of the Venice Biennale is unique, in a city that has no equal. Here are some pictures from the Biennale and, of course, the city that hosts this exceptional event.

Canal Grade Feneyjum
The Venice Biennale is an exhibition of immense scope
The Italian pavilion
A coloured image from the German pavilion.
A visitor from Paris at the Venice Biennale
Laundry Time
A Selfie in Venice
Two Captains in Venice

Feneyjar 09/06/2024 : A7C R / FE 2.5/40mm G, FE 1.4/24mm GM
Text & images : Páll Stefánsson