The artist Tavares Strachan will represent The Bahamas in the nation’s inaugural pavilion at the 55th International Venice Biennale.
Public dates: June 1–November 24
2013 Preview days: May 29–31, 2013
Arsenale – Tese Cinquecentesche
Commissioner: Nalini Bethel (Senior Director of Communications, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism)
Curators: Jean Crutchfield and Robert Hobbs
Deputy Curator / Programs and Education: Stamatina Gregory
Tavares Strachan was born in 1979 in Nassau, Bahamas. After studying painting and liberal arts at both College of the Bahamas in Nassau and at Brown, he received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied glass, and an MFA in sculpture from Yale University. Recurring themes in Strachan’s work include invisibility, displacement (both physical and metaphorical), and the capacity of both persons and matter to withstand inhospitable environments. Strachan’s work emphasizes the migratory, cross-cultural nature of contemporary artistic production, and unsettles canonized histories and geographies.
One of Strachan’s most iconic projects, The Distance Between What We Have and What We Want (2006), consisted of a 4.5-ton block of ice. Harvested in a river near Mount McKinley, then shipped Federal Express to the Bahamas, it was exhibited in transparent, freezer at a primary school in Nassau, where solar power kept it frozen. Over the past decade, Strachan’s explorations have expanded to both outer space and under water. A major focus has been orthostatic tolerance—the body’s ability to circumvent hypotension and withstand pressure during gravitational stress, often caused by quick changes of altitude, or the more extreme circumstances of being launched into the earth’s stratosphere or submerged to the oceans’ depths.
Strachan’s research on the topic has extended to hands-on training at the Yuri Gagarin Russian State Science Research Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia; a journey to the Arctic in commemoration of the 1909 journey of African-American explorer Matthew Henson; and a residency at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked with some of the institution’s cutting-edge scientists. It also led to the establishment of the nascent Bahamian Aerospace and Sea Exploration Center in the Bahamas (BASEC). In the course of working with BASEC, Strachan has made several rockets wholly from Bahamian natural resources (glass from beach sand, and fuel from sugarcane) and launched them 15 to 20 miles into the earth’s stratosphere, before collecting and presenting their fallen remnants as sculptural relics.
Last year a 20,000-square-foot overview of Strachan’s work from 2003–2011, subtitled Seen/Unseen,was presented at an undisclosed New York City location and was closed to the public. Tavares Strachan: seen/unseen is fully documented with a forthcoming catalogue, designed by Stefan Sagmeister. Strachan’s solo exhibitions include Orthostatic Tolerance: It Might Not Be Such a Bad Idea if I Never Went Home Again, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA (2010); Orthostatic Tolerance: Launching from an Infinite Distance, Grand Arts, Kansas City, MO (2010); Tavares Strachan: Orthostatic Tolerance, the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (2009); Where We Are is Always Miles Away, The Luggage Store, San Francisco, CA (2006); and The Difference Between What We Have and What We Want, Albury Sayle Primary School, Nassau, The Bahamas (2006).
Strachan lives and works in New York City.
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Strachan specifically explores often-invisible shifts in cultures, physical environments, and recounted histories over both space and time, in the wake of globalization and narratives of progress. Three geographically and culturally disparate sites—the Venice Arsenale, downtown Nassau, and the North Pole—will momentarily coexist in the Bahamian pavilion.
The main exhibition space will feature an immersive installation, in which the viewer is surrounded by documentation of a reenactment of a historic narrative: the 1909 polar expedition of Robert Peary and Matthew Alexander Henson. Henson, Peary’s associate, is often credited as the first American to reach the pole. However, various written and oral iterations of that journey—whether Henson reached the Pole before the physically incapacitated Peary, whether Henson planted the American flag, and their complex relationship to one another and to Inuit communities—remain fluid and contested, more reflective of shifting ideologies than historic truth. Several other works in the installation will speak to the idea of displacement more directly, immediately confronting the viewer with the problematics of belonging and place. “I’m fascinated by the idea of being in two or more places at once, and exploring difference that way,” says Strachan. “The way that the Venice Biennale, historically and now, deploys the idea of “difference” as cultural tourism is an interesting problem to work with.”
Nalini Bethel, Senior Director of Communications, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.
Jean Crutchfield , a former gallerist, is an independent curator who has worked with artists including Alice Aycock, Christian Boltanski, Sherrie Levine, Marilyn Minter, Yoko Ono, Kay Rosen, and Lorna Simpson. She is known for her exhibition “Presumed Innocence,” which examined the way artists look at childhood in the late 20th century.
Robert Hobbs, who holds the Thalhimer Endowed Chair at Virginia Commonwealth University and has been a visiting professor at Yale since 2004, has curated shows for such institutions as the Whitney Museum of American Art (Robert Smithson and Abstract Expressionism: The Formative Years), the Brooklyn Museum (Lee Krasner), and The Drawing Center (Mark Lombardi). His Smithson retrospective was the official US representation at the Venice Biennale, and his Kara Walker exhibition was the official US selection for the São Paulo Bienal. He has written numerous books and essays on such artists as Alice Aycock, Beverly Pepper, Kehinde Wiley, Robert Motherwell, Richard Pousette-Dart, Sterling Ruby, and Kelly Walker.
Stamatina Gregory is an independent curator and critic. From 2007-2009 she was Whitney Lauder Curatorial Fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, and has organized exhibitions and programs at venues including the New York Center for Art and Media Studies; FLAG Art Foundation; The Armory Show; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia. She is currently developing exhibitions for The Jewish Museum and the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York, and for the Wende Museum in Culver City. Her exhibition on the work of photographer and activist Brian Weil is currently on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. She is currently a Fellow at the Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute at Baruch College.
Chris Hoover has a diverse background in production ranging from film / video production to event production to art installation planning and production. Chris was the director of an independent distribution program, Drift Releasing, specializing in European independent films. Chris produced over a dozen films including feature films that appeared in competition in numerous international film festivals. As the head of production for Formavision and MA3 Agency, Chris has produced art installations for commercial clients ranging from Coca-Cola to Lexus to Starbucks. Currently, Chris is managing a world tour of an exhibition of watches by luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet. Chris also serves as a producer or logistics coordinator to a variety of artists who are tacking large scale and complicated project. Among others Chris has worked with Michael Joo, Harun Farocki, Arne Quinze and, of course, Tavares Strachan. Chris will collaborate in producing the pavilion, specifically managing fabrication and personnel logistics, budgeting, and schedules as well as the physical installation.
Michael Hall is an independent producer of artist projects, a curator, and an artist. He has worked for the Princeton Art Museum, advised the corporate collections of Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, and most recently been the Managing & Creative Director for The Armory Show in New York. He is currently the Director of Operations for Hauser & Wirth Gallery in New York. Over the years Michael has worked on projects with Theaster Gates, Kenny Scharf, Yevgeniy Fiks, Kate Gilmore, Ragnar Kjartansson, Liz Magic Laser, Gabriel Kuri, Assume Vivid Astro Focus, FOS, Lilibeth Cuena Rassmussen, Örn Alexander Ámundason, Wolfgang Staehle, Michael Joo, Gary Simmons, and Vito Acconci, as well as Tavares Strachan.
Christophe Thompson was born in Nassau Bahamas, and is an artist and writer living in New York City. He gained his MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design 2007. Christophe is a materials specialist currently heading an archeological research endeavor centered on Wesley Leon Gideon. During the Biennale in Venice, Christophe will be the Director of Installations and overseeing logistics.
Fiona Biggiero is Editor-in-Chief of Joseph Kosuth Publications. She conceives, writes, edits, produces and fundraises for catalogues, artist books and articles, published by e.g. Charta, Electa, Allemandi, Macmillan, as well as initiating archive formation and cataloguing. Since 2001 Fiona has been teaching at the Facoltà di Design e Arti, Instituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV), where, with Joseph Kosuth, she conducts a discussion-based workshop on the history of conceptual art, art theory, architecture and film. After attending art school and graduating and an MA in Philosophy she is currently working on her PhD. She has lectured, taught and published on the topics of philosophy, film, contemporary art and theory.
Beyer Projects develops, fabricates, and places contemporary sculpture, working in partnership throughout the world. Beyer Projects has produced work with John Baldessari, Anish Kapoor, Louise Bourgeois, Rachel Whiteread, and many others. Beyer Projects’ Milan-based team has been instrumental in helping Tavares with the production of the Bahamas Venice Pavilion.
Major support is provided by the Ministry of Tourism, The Bahamas.
The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is honored to have our very own Tavares Strachan represent our country in this inaugural appearance at the Venice Biennale. Our country is preparing for its 40th Independence, and this artist represents our journey as a nation and our excitement about the future. Mr. Strachan is an excellent ambassador for The Bahamas, and we congratulate him on this magnificent achievement.
– Obie Wilchcombe, Minister of Tourism, The Bahamas
On February 4th 2013, forty schoolchildren from Sadie Curtis Primary in Nassau, Bahamas, traveled to Venice to perform at the site of the first Bahamian pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia. These students were afforded a singular opportunity to visit a major European cultural center–in their time in Venice, they took part in the annual Carnevale di Venezia, visited Murano, and rode on vaporetti. Most importantly, they were able to take part in a defining moment in their own country’s cultural history, in the fortieth year of Bahamian independence–by performing a traditional song in Inuktituk.
Many thanks goes to their Iñupiaq teacher, Sidney J. Shroyer and to the individuals that made their journey and this artwork possible. With the generous support of Carolyn Hsu and René Balcer, Erica Barrish, Katrina and Christophe Burrus, Dawn Davies, Zoe and Joel Dictrow, Virginia Dwan, Carey Folks, Danny Goldberg, Frederick Goldman, Jonathan and Elizabeth Goldman, Kavi Gupta, Chris Hoover, Sarkis D. Izmirlian, Marianne Johnson, Sara Lahat, Patricia Low, James Lindon, Toby Devan Lewis, Lois Plehn, Bob Rennie, Stu Robertson, Dr. Stephen Rosenfeld, Mark Schatten, Anna Schitty, Peggy Scott, Daniel Swasbrook, David Teplitzky and The Pritzker Family Foundation.