the vatican pavilion takes shape within a functional women's prison at the venice art biennale

the vatican pavilion takes shape within a functional women's prison at the venice art biennale

art 268 shares connections: +600

the holy see pavilion at the venice biennale 2024

 

Aligning with the theme of the 60th Edition of the Venice Art Biennale —Strangers Everywhere— the Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education directs the Holy See Pavilion’s focus towards human rights and the marginalized. Titled Con i miei occhi (With My Eyes), the exhibition takes place within the Giudecca Women’s Detention Home, a functional female prison, creating a poignant backdrop. The pavilion features works by eight artists, including Maurizio Cattelan, Claire Fontaine, Corita Kent, Bintou Dembélé, Simone Fattal, Sonia Gomes, Marco Perego & Zoe Saldana, and Claire Tabouret. The display runs until November 24th, 2024.

the vatican pavilion takes shape within a functional women's prison at the venice art biennale
Maurizio Cattelan’s mural decorates the exterior of Giudecca Women’s Prison | all images courtesy of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Culture and Education

 

 

transforming boundaries at Giudecca Women’s Detention Home

 

Before even entering the venue, the Holy See Pavilion (find more here) redefines the prison space into an otherworldly setting. A striking mural by artist Maurizio Cattelan adorns the detention center’s facade, portraying a set of feet. Inside, a diverse array of artworks awaits guests: neon installations by Claire Fontaine, vibrant pieces by the renowned Pop Art Nun Corita Kent, a suspended installation by Sonia Gomes, video works by Marco Perego & Zoe Saldana, and paintings by Claire Tabouret.

 

Visits to the Pavilion are strictly by reservation and guided by prisoner-conferencers, challenging the voyeuristic urge and preconceptions towards both artists and inmates. This blurs the lines between observer and observed, between judgment and being judged, prompting reflection on power dynamics within art and institutions. The exhibition, overseen by COR arquitectos and Flavia Chiavaroli Studio, embodies an artistic community born from defiance, reflecting the unity and diversity of disparate lives. Every facet of the exhibition, from workshops to installations, dances to films, performances to paintings, resonates with this shared energy, echoing the urgency of the multifaceted dialogue advocated by Pope Francis. Notably, on April 28, 2024, Pope Francis himself visited the Pavilion, becoming the first Pontiff in history to attend the Venice Biennale.

the vatican pavilion takes shape within a functional women's prison at the venice art biennale
one of Claire Fontaine’s neon light pieces

 

 

through the eyes of the prisoners and the visitors

 

Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, Prefect of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Culture and Education and Commissioner of the Pavilion, entrusted the curatorship of Con i miei occhi to Chiara Parisi and Bruno Racine.

 

‘In a surprising corner of the world, artists and female inmates join expressive forces in an unusual collaboration, prison reality and unlimited artistic expression meet and seduce each other: this is the heart of the Holy See Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2024, a project with an incredible visual narrative. With My Eyes invites us to explore the stories and desires of those living inside the prison through projects, workshops, works, poems, and vital spaces such as
gyms and gardens,’ Chiara Parisi says. ‘The path through the Pavilion, without telephones or documents, will allow female inmates to guide visitors ‘through their eyes,’ revealing how beauty and hope are woven into everyday life and how the need for freedom persists in the complexity and criticality of life.’

 

‘The choice of venue, then, is a manifesto, a statement. Artists from various backgrounds and without distinction of faith come together in this place to bear witness to a universal message of inclusion, working closely with the inmates and enriching the project with their artistic and relational work,’ Bruno Racine shares. ‘Visitors are invited to immerse themselves in this intense poetic experience, deprived of their digital devices and guided by trained female inmates, thus embarking on a journey that challenges preconceptions and opens up new perspectives on art as a medium for human expression and connection. Although it is forbidden to take photographs, we trust that
this experience will remain in the visitor’s memory…with their eyes.’

the vatican pavilion takes shape within a functional women's prison at the venice art biennale
one of Claire Fontaine’s neon light pieces

the vatican pavilion takes shape within a functional women's prison at the venice art biennale
suspended installation by Sonia Gomes

the vatican pavilion takes shape within a functional women's prison at the venice art biennale
Sonia Gomes is composed of multiple fabric sculptures

the-vatican-pavilion-women-prison-venice-art-biennale-designboom-full-02

looking up at Sonia Gomes’ piece

the vatican pavilion takes shape within a functional women's prison at the venice art biennale
Claire Tabouret’s works

the vatican pavilion takes shape within a functional women's prison at the venice art biennale
close-up shot of Claire Tabouret’s works

the vatican pavilion takes shape within a functional women's prison at the venice art biennale
Corita Kent’s works are installed within the spaces of the detention center

the vatican pavilion takes shape within a functional women's prison at the venice art biennale
Corita Kent’s works 

the vatican pavilion takes shape within a functional women's prison at the venice art biennale
Marco Perego & Zoe Saldana video work

the vatican pavilion takes shape within a functional women's prison at the venice art biennale
Marco Perego & Zoe Saldana video work

the vatican pavilion takes shape within a functional women's prison at the venice art biennale
Claire Fontaine’s installation illuminates in the dark

the-vatican-pavilion-women-prison-venice-art-biennale-designboom-full-width-0

the piece reads ‘siamo con voi nella notte’ meaning ‘we are with you in the night’

 

project info: 

 

exhibition name: With My Eyes
commissioner: His Eminence Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education of the Holy See
curators: Chiara Parisi and Bruno Racine
participants: Maurizio Cattelan, Bintou Dembélé, Simone Fattal, Claire Fontaine, Sonia Gomes, Corita Kent, Marco Perego & Zoe Saldana, Claire Tabouret
talk: Hans Ulrich Obrist
staging project: COR arquitectos e Flavia Chiavaroli
production: COR arquitectos e Flavia Chiavaroli
organization: Dicastero per la Cultura e l’Educazione della Santa Sede
institutional partner: Ministero della Giustizia
main partner: Intesa Sanpaolo

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