viviane sassen at venice art biennale 2013



at the central pavilion of the 2013 venice art biennale, dutch photographer viviane sassen presents a curated selection of her pieces, images that probe questions of intimacy and mystery while simultaneously situating the human body as sculpture, draped in dramatic shadow and striking colour.

the exhibition which includes sassen’s work has been organized by biennale curator massimiliano gioni to embody the festival’s theme, ‘il palazzo enciclopedico’ (‘the encyclopedic palace’). the title comes from a patent filed by self-taught italian-american artist marino auriti for his ‘palazzo enciclopedico’, a proposed museum that would house all human knowledge and innovation.


‘today, as we grapple with a flood of information, such attempts to structure knowledge into all-inclusive systems seem even more necessary and even more desperate,‘ gioni explains. the exhibition offers ‘a reflection on the ways in which images have been used to organize knowledge and shape our experience of the world.



photography by viviane sassen
‘two friends’ (2010)
C-Print, 100 x 80cm
left: installation view


sassen herself finds herself drawn to the form of two individuals embracing, often seemingly melting into one another. ‘I think it has to do with a longing for real closeness‘, she reflects, suggesting one of the many ways the work is deeply tied to ideas of what human experience means in the 21st century. with a background in fashion and photography, sassen takes many of her photographs in africa, where she lived for three years as a child. she has said that although she feels at home there, she can only ever occupy the position of a foreigner, and her photographs reveal a telling tension between an intimacy with her subjects and the distance of deliberately obscured faces and fleeting moments.



photography by viviane sassen
‘ivy’ (2010)
C-Print, 125 x 100cm



photography by viviane sassen
‘solomon’s knot’ (2010)
C-Print, 80 x 65cm


interview with viviane sassen about her work on exhibition at the venice biennale