Artists Prepare to Head to Venice

This year ‘a space’ arts, in collaboration with the British Council, are supporting three Steward-Research Fellowships with the British Pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale 2019.

Laurence Dubé-Rushby, Claudia Friend, and Asten Holmes-Elliott were selected following an open call to visual artists living or working within the SO postcode.

‘a space’ arts are supporting each artist to spend a period of four weeks in Venice, with the time being split between invigilating the Cathy Wilkes exhibition at the British Pavilion, and developing their own artistic research. 

As Laurence prepares to leave for Italy this week, we spoke to each of the artists to find out more about their practices and what they hope to get out of spending time at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.

What is your practice?

Laurence Dubé-Rushby: I use my art process as an exploratory journey, rooted in a fascination for the unknown as a motivation to investigate new materials and concepts. I create installations and performances which reflect the energy of physical, emotional and social transformation. My work presents a process-based approach, which echoes the ‘unfinishedness’ of human beings, and calls for personal agency to generate new understandings. My performative process provokes and disrupts, encouraging a leap of faith to engage with topics emerging from everyday life, global political and environmental concerns.

Claudia Friend: I use readily available materials, or those which are discarded, left behind, or rubbished. From these I create installation work which reflects on making as a process, the everyday, the stories we tell ourselves, what is left behind, lost, the value and status of what we give attention to and what we throw away (both actually and metaphorically), in the context of our personal and social histories.

Asten Holmes-Elliott: My work examines ideas of othering in society, encourages thinking about identity creatively and ideas of belonging, looking at using art for social change, human connection and speculative futures. I am an artistic shapeshifter deploying mediums and processes to best fit the message of a piece. Painting, performance, participatory, photography, illustration, and most frequently, film have all played a part. With a neon sign or home developed 8mm thrown in for good measure, but also for this generation’s compulsive love of hauntology.

What is your project?

LR: I will be researching the place of live-art, social practice and engagement in the Biennale through performative interventions, in response to the curator Ralph Rugoff’s call ‘May we live in interesting times’. In this research, I will move part of my family to Venice for some of the residency, to embark on a collective investigation of what Venice actually means to us. My 13 year old son wishes to create a short film from his view of the work and place.

CF: There are two strands to my project – one is to explore the connections between Southampton and Venice both historically and now. The other is to explore the question of what is valued, and why, by focussing on the act of looking itself, the act of giving attention, what we allow ourselves to see and accept. Also to ask what we are heedless of, the dialogues and power dynamics involved, and how they shape our identities and environment.

AHE: I hope to open and peer inside the Venetian closet. Venice has a hard and fast place in people’s cultural and collective memory, occupying the imagination with ideas of romance, religion, family; masquerading as ideas of truth. I look forward to exploring ideas of queer belonging in a setting that is disrupted by such a large, explorative festival. I plan to use photography and film, with digital cameras re-appropriated to be used with manual lenses.

What are you hoping to get from going to Venice?

LR: I have visited the Venice Biennale twice before and was astonished by the incredible wealth of art presented across the whole city. The opportunity to spend more time on site with the artwork is awesome. The immersion into the life of a Venetian will allow for the formation of daily habits which will contribute to the experience (this will include the ringing of the bells of San Marco, at 6am and midnight, next to our flat) The connections both with the British Council and with ‘a space’ have already impacted on my career and life as an artist and can only be continued and heightened while on the island. The group of Fellows I am going with in August is made up of students, artists and researchers of a wide range of ages and artforms and will present an equally rich and engaging exchange time. I hope the research to contribute to my PhD enquiry on the learning elements of live art but also as an assessment of the values that people attach to the art.

CF: I am hoping that my time in Venice will give me the much needed space to develop my ideas for new work and to allow me to make new and lasting connections to people and place which will inform my future practice.

AHE: I am attracted to the intense discovery and interaction available in this opportunity going to Venice for an extended period. My work regularly has an evolving aspect to it, which I am excited to develop with response work, with the chance to reflect and present with others within the programme. Mainly I would like to find connections between Venice and Southampton to make it more accessible to us and our exciting artistic community.