This installation was really impressive. At the door, it didn’t seem like much, a dark space, some indefinite curtain hanging from the ceiling, awaiting for me to enter and be engulfed by shadows and an indistinguishable mass of nets and textures. But as soon as I entered the ‘vortex’, I started appreciating the intricacy of the work, the life and death that were transported through the material. It’s like entering a labyrinth, not knowing what the next section of the wall would be made of. I was pleasantly impressed by it and it was a warm welcome to the Venice Biennale. The first pavilion I had come across on my first day of explorations.
Titled Silentio Pathologia, this new installation by Macedonian-born UK-based artist Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, was commissioned by the National Gallery of Macedonia’s Director Halide Paloshi and curated by Ana Frangovska. Elpida’s proposal to the Macedonia Ministry of Culture for the pavilion “reflects upon the movement, migration and impact of medieval plagues through Europe (and city states such as Venice) and considers contemporary concerns about international migratory illnesses such as coronavirus.”
The installation includes pure woven silk, silkworm cocoons, albino rat skins, curtains of steel sheet and it originally planned to include live rats. Those materialised in small hanging cages in the centre of the installation, but the albino rat skins, with claws and fangs, already seemed quite alive themselves.
The artist’s practice involves minute work of endless reproduction of materials. It can be seen in the massive curtains made out of silkworm cocoons and the tapestry-like hangings of albino rats. The overall installation sucks you into a vortex, it’s almost like a dream, or better a nightmare, but not exactly a scary one, more of a psychological and scientific journey to the centre of imagination, bordering reality.
It’s an intense experience. Perhaps made even more so by the presence of real once-live creatures and some that are still alive and breathing.
The albino rats were taken from live feed for exotic animals, such as reptiles, carnivorous birds and mammals. They stand as a commentary on the market of animals, bred and sold for their skins and other usages around the world. However gory, it is a real spectacle, almost monumental.
About the artist
Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva graduated with an MA in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art, London in 1998 and currently lives and works in Brighton, UK. She has exhibited extensively and realised numerous commissions nationally and internationally, in gallery spaces, museums and within the public realm, including Pied à Terre Restaurant, London; Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester; Towner Gallery, Eastbourne; Kilmainham Gaol Museum, Dublin, Ireland; ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale and Public Room, Skopje, Macedonia.
I loved the work, I loved the concept. It is definitely a must-see.
Check out the artist’s blog!
All photographs : Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, “Silentio Pathologia”, installation views. Pavilion of the Republic of Macedonia, 55th Venice Biennale. Photos by C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia.