Venice, Italy: Australia’s 2019 representation for the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, Angelica Mesiti’s ASSEMBLY, was officially opened today in the Australian Pavilion within the historic Giardini della Biennale precinct.
Angelica Mesiti’s ASSEMBLY is a new three-channel video installed within an architectural setting inspired by the historical shape of the community circle and amphitheatre. ASSEMBLY establishes as an evolving set of translations from the written word to stenographic codes then music, and performance. Filmed in the Senate chambers of Italy and Australia, the three screens of ASSEMBLY travel through the corridors, meeting rooms and parliaments of government while performers, representing the multitude of ancestries that constitute cosmopolitan Australia, gather, disassemble and re-unite, demonstrating the strength and creativity of a plural community.
Angelica Mesiti is the 39th artist to present work for Australia at the La Biennale di Venezia, which is widely considered one of the most important and prestigious events on the international arts calendar.
Based between Sydney and Paris, Angelica worked with more than 40 Australian arts professionals to realise the work. “Collaboration is an important part of my practice, and a central element in the work itself. ASSEMBLY draws on a need to come together, to exchange and to learn from each other. So I thank and acknowledge the dancers, singers, musicians, film and sound practitioners, the designers, architect, installation and project team who helped me bring this work to fruition,” she said.
Commissioner for Australia, Australia Council Chair Sam Walsh AO, said, “Angelica Mesiti’s ASSEMBLY continues Australia’s important contribution to contemporary visual arts and to this very significant international exhibition.
“Angelica Mesiti has created an important new work that depicts the many faces of modern Australia, the fragility of the human condition, and our need in difficult times, to come together to share, celebrate and gain strength. We expect ASSEMBLY will resonate for international and Australian audiences alike.”
Artist Angelica Mesiti said, “Translation has been a particular enquiry and methodology for me for a number of years. In ASSEMBLY, I explore the space where communication moves from verbal and written forms to non-verbal, gestural and musical forms. The latter creates a sort of code upon which meaning, memory and imagination can be overlaid.”
Curator Juliana Engberg said, “ASSEMBLY uses and personifies the exilic energies of those who seek belonging in the community—the young, the female, Indigenous, the newly arrived and exiled, the refugee as well as the artist. Mesiti’s performers play along to an inherited code, but through translation, improvisation, adaptation, and re-interpretation demonstrate how a new music can emerge. The abstract relations and associations within ASSEMBLY open a space of imagined possibilities arising out of strange juxtapositions and unlikely re-locations.
“Cutting a rupture into the voided place of government to ignite a next succession of communication, ASSEMBLY seeks to create a new space for those who want to speak differently, hear attentively, and act together to form a new translation of the democratic process.”
The National Gallery of Australia will acquire ASSEMBLY following its premiere at the Biennale. The work will be part of the National Gallery’s 2020 program and with plans to tour nationally the following year, in partnership with the Australia Council for the Arts.
The Australia Council for the Arts is the Australian Government’s principal arts funding and advisory body. Australia’s participation at the Venice Biennale began in 1954 and has been managed by the Australia Council since 1978.
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Image Credit: Angelica Mesiti, ASSEMBLY, 2019 (production still) three-channel video installation in architectural amphitheater. HD video projections, color, six-channel mono sound, 25 mins, dimensions variable. © Photography: Bonnie Elliott.
Commissioned by the Australia Council for the Arts on the occasion of the 58th International Art Exhibition–La Biennale di Venezia. Courtesy of the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Australia and Galerie Allen, Paris.
ASSEMBLY opens with the ‘Michela’ machine, a 19th century stenographic machine modeled on a piano keyboard, which is used in the Italian Senate for official parliamentary reporting to ensure transparency within the democratic process. The inventor of the ‘Michela’ was originally inspired by musical notation as a universal language. Mesiti uses this device to recode a poem by esteemed Australian writer David Malouf, which is then arranged into a musical score by Australian composer Max Lyandvert, and then performed by an ensemble of musicians, dancers, singers and performers.
A copy of David Malouf’s To Be Written in Another Tongue is available here:
In the making of ASSEMBLY, Angelica has worked with more than 40 Australian artists, musicians and sound and film practitioners, including cinematographer Bonnie Elliot and producer Bridget Ikin. The dance sequence was performed by Deborah Brown, and group vocals by The House that Dan Built amongst others. A full credit list is included in the press kit.