‘Bleak, marginal and unpopular’: Australia unveils divisive exhibition for Venice Biennale | Venice Biennale

Marco Fusinato is counting on his forthcoming show at the Venice Biennale being immediately disliked.

Outlining his contribution as Australia’s representative at the world’s oldest art show this week, the 57-year-old Melbourne-based contemporary artist and noise musician said Desastres was the product of a nightmarish two years enduring the world’s longest lockdown.

“There’s [been] no site visits, you just have to imagine this piece, how it’s going to sit in the pavilion,” he said.

“There’s no meetings with any engineers or technicians on site. It’s all been done from a bedroom through a pus of Zoom meetings.”

The Australia Council describes Fusinato’s Venice exhibition as an “experimental noise project that synchronises sound with image and takes the form of a durational solo performance as installation”.

The noise will be generated by the artist improvising on an electric guitar, using the instrument as “a signal generator”, he explains, “that will produce slabs of noise, saturated feedback and what I call discordant intensities, that will then trigger a deluge of images”.

The artist spent much of Melbourne’s marathon 262-day lockdown collecting images already in the public domain from the internet, a practice he admits has become something of a compulsion over the years.

His exhibition/installation, which will open in Venice on 23 April and run through until 27 November, will feature “a morass of disparate and disconnected images that have no real theme as such, but I collect images that I think are fucked, whatever that may mean”.

The press kit accompanying the announcement contained a selection of these black and white images, which are presented as a score and include a photo of a cat vomiting, another of a dead swan, and a third of a pile of faeces.

A page from the score of Desastres (2022) by Marco Fusinato.
‘I collect images that I think are fucked’: A page from the score of Desastres (2022) by Marco Fusinato. Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery

Fusinato said he was not concerned about how his audiences might react to his work – which he describes as “bleak, marginal and unpopular” – as long as they do react.

“I really want the audience to remember they’re alive – that’s really important for me in my work, that [the audience] has a pulse,” he said.

“There’s an assumption that an artist makes work to be liked, which I find completely absurd.”

Museum and gallery spaces have gone from places of contemplation to ones of entertainment, he said.

“And I’m interested in playing with that idea. A lot of older people get pissed off that this shift has happened. Well, deal with it. I want to amplify that and really play with it … I want to saturate the audience with spectacle.”

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Fusinato’s curator, Alexie Glass-Kantor, said the Venice Biennale required all contributing countries to produce a stakeholder matrix.

“Apparently we were the first artistic team for whom 60% of our first stakeholders were people who don’t like the work,” she enthused.

It’s all about grabbing the audience’s attention, she explained.

“We are aware that when people walk into a pavilion at Venice they look for three seconds.

“There’s so much work in Venice that people judge quickly. We want you to walk in and if you’re going to hate it, then hate it right away. And if you’re going to like it and want to stay longer or push yourself, do that, come back the next day, it’s up to you.”

Glass-Kantor cited Fusinato’s background – the son of Italian immigrant peasants, raised in Melbourne’s working-class suburb of Noble Park – as evidence the artist’s work is neither inaccessible nor elitist.

“But it’s not just there to reduce the complexity of the times in which we live,” she said.

“It completely engages with the full and layered and granular and constantly shape-shifting nature of the times in which we find ourselves.”

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