Curator: Susanne Pfeffer
Commissioner: Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia – Marianne Burki, Head of Visual Arts; Sandi Paucic, Project Leader Swiss participation Venice Biennale
Deputy commissioner: Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia – Rachele Giudici Legittimo, Coordination Swiss participation Venice Biennale
Swiss Pavilion, Giardini della Biennale
Exhibition: 9 May to 22 November 2015
Neotene, Silicone, Evian, Viagra, Bionin, and Necrion, among others, are the materials from which Pamela Rosenkranz’s work is made of. We’re arguably more familiar with the esoteric promises with which some of these products are imbued than we are with the material substances which make them up. Yet the apparently pure and timeless aesthetic qualities they deliver have a biological basis. The immersive installation Pamela Rosenkranz has created for the Swiss Pavilion activates the knowledge mobilized in the technological, scientific, and conceptual development of products, subverting the culturally consolidated meanings of art. By guiding our perception of the Pavilion through a skilful interplay of supposedly immaterial elements such as light, colour, scent, sound and organic components such as hormones and even bacteria, Rosenkranz confronts the historically, religiously, and commercially transmitted image of what it means to be human with its biological genesis.
Rosenkranz isolates the large interior space with plastics, filling it with a monochrome liquid mass matching a standardised northern European skin-tone. This Eurocentric skin colour, reminiscent of the «carnate» used in Renaissance painting to render the visual qualities of human flesh, is employed in today’s advertising industry as a proven way to physically enhance attention. Rosenkranz contrasts this skin colour—the product of a natural history involving migration, exposure to the sun, and nutrition—with a verdant green coating the institutional mantle of the Swiss Pavilion. Whereas the artificial green light in the patio blurs the distinction between inside and outside, a special wall paint that is biologically attractive further dissolves the clean separation between culture and nature. Smells and sound penetrate the architecture. The synthetic sound of water, generated by an algorithm in real time, disseminates throughout the space, and a scent evoking the smell of fresh baby skin billows through the Pavilion. Invading all of our senses, this installation appropriates immemorial aesthetic reflexes that both art and commercial culture rely on, but renders them cognitively disturbing. As in a placebo effect, it’s hard to know here whether our physiological responses are triggered by imagination alone or if the effects we’re experiencing are the hallucinatory product of our bodies and their natural/cultural histories: Our Product.
An e-book version of the publication, which accompanies the exhibition, is available online: www.ourproduct.net