joining many art forms into one dark, provocative and powerful exhibition, anne imhof has designed the german pavilion at the venice art biennale 2017. it integrates the mediums of painting, sculpture and installation with live performances that explore the composition and comprehension of human figures. titled ‘faust’ and curated by susanne pfeffer, the pavilion has been awarded the 2017 golden lion prize for best national participation.

 

in recognition of the award, anne imhof joined susanne pfeffer and hans ulrich obrist, artistic director of the serpentine gallery, to discuss the winning piece at an exclusive conversation in london, UK. with designboom present at the event, the talk was the sixth edition of the dornbracht conversations series –  a platform for public discourse between the disciplines of architecture, design and art.


eliza douglas in anne imhof, faust, 2017 german pavilion, 57th international art exhibition – la biennale di venezia
photography © nadine fraczkowski
courtesy: german pavilion 2017, the artist
(main image: eliza douglas and franziska aigner in anne imhof, faust, 2017 german pavilion, 57th international art exhibition – la biennale di venezia
photography © nadine fraczkowski
courtesy: german pavilion 2017, the artist)

 

 

although housed within an historic building, the german pavilion positions its piece away from the architecture and instead simply uses it as a platform for the performance. using a material which is uncommon to anne imhof’s work, glass was chosen as an integral tool from the very beginning of the project. ‘glass was the only thing that gave me the possibility to have something that reflects yet works as a surface itself’. the material divides the space, ‘from left to right and from above and below’, to create a sense of multiple layers that destroys pure and very clear images, captures more blurry moments, and prompts questions. only the performers know the mirroring that will occur as visitors, and their unconscious reactions, are concurrently captured being entwined with the artwork and architectural backdrop.


franziska aigner and eliza douglas in anne imhof, faust, 2017 german pavilion, 57th international art exhibition – la biennale di venezia
photography © nadine fraczkowski
courtesy: german pavilion 2017, the artist

 

 

the human figures themselves, in both anne imhof’s paintings and performances, are described as ‘post-gender, individualized, peculiar and yet stereotypical, signifying the distinctions of material and discursive, of technological, socio-economic and pharmaceutical realms. as the bodies move across the glass space, interspersed with mats, sleeping bags, baseball bats and razors, they loosely represent the transition of time and the fragile changes and actions they bring about. they offer perception yet no real recognition, dancing to form inter-changing partnerships that only attribute to aimless groups of individuality, rather than a combined force.


eliza douglas in anne imhof, faust, 2017 german pavilion, 57th international art exhibition – la biennale di venezia
photography © nadine fraczkowski
courtesy: german pavilion 2017, the artist

 

 

running for four to five hours a day, the performances follow a ‘celebrity-like framework’ where visitors are policed by youthful, attractive female bodyguards with dobermans. the pieces are based around rough scripts, alternating sets on a daily basis, and constantly promoting and building upon adaptions. ‘it is very important that we don’t do the same performance everyday. its a flexible discussion that needs to seem natural, rather than just because I tell them to do so’. the dancers add to the complexity by enhancing ‘their own special movements’, ensuring minimal repetition, and that ‘ideas get build upon from day to day’.


eliza douglas in anne imhof, faust, 2017 german pavilion, 57th international art exhibition – la biennale di venezia
photography © nadine fraczkowski
courtesy: german pavilion 2017, the artist

 

 

as well as its focus on adaptations, the pavilion’s design presents the complex project on as much of a neutral background as possible, almost like a blank canvas. what imhof calls ‘the gone factor’ was a very important aspect when creating the work and as a daily focus for the performances. similarly to writing ‘30 messages on the phone as no one will see or at least remember them’, the piece needed to be communicated in a very simple way. throughout, the performers are naturally poised and aspire to transform into digital commodities, much like the world of today. all together this helped provoke, shock and challenge a memorable response – a proven success by its esteemed praise already – in both the visitors and for those only viewing through social media.


eliza douglas in anne imhof, faust, 2017 german pavilion, 57th international art exhibition – la biennale di venezia
photography © nadine fraczkowski
courtesy: german pavilion 2017, the artist

 

 

see designboom’s coverage of the venice art biennale 2017 here and on our dedicated instagram account! – @venice.art.biennale


eliza douglas in anne imhof, faust, 2017 german pavilion, 57th international art exhibition – la biennale di venezia
photography © nadine fraczkowski
courtesy: german pavilion 2017, the artist

 


eliza douglas and franziska aigner in anne imhof, faust, 2017 german pavilion, 57th international art exhibition – la biennale di venezia
photography © nadine fraczkowski
courtesy: german pavilion 2017, the artist

 


emma daniel in anne imhof, faust, 2017 german pavilion, 57th international art exhibition – la biennale di venezia
photography © nadine fraczkowski
courtesy: german pavilion 2017, the artist

 


billy bultheel and franziska aigner in anne imhof, faust, 2017 german pavilion, 57th international art exhibition – la biennale di venezia
photography © nadine fraczkowski
courtesy: german pavilion 2017, the artist

 


lea welsch, billy bultheel, emma daniel, franziska aigner and mickey mahar in anne imhof, faust, 2017 german pavilion, 57th international art exhibition – la biennale di venezia
photography © nadine fraczkowski
courtesy: german pavilion 2017, the artist

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