Artists representing their countries at the Venice Biennale face the task of making their work fit into their country’s pavilion.
Automatically, the work becomes site and situation specific. While the concept of country specific artwork is archaic in a global world, the most successful presentations confront the tension of representing a country in a pavilion dedicated to it.
Krzysztof Wodiczko is the sole artist representing Poland. His work “Guests” shows how Poland, like the rest of Europe, is adapting to being a country of immigrants.
Wodiczko’s Polish pavilion is a video installation. The entire interior consists of milky windows behind which we see shadows of people talking to each other, cleaning, doing construction and performing the mundane tasks of life.
Upon entering the space one can’t help but feel estranged from the conversations and the people on the other side of the windows.
The conversations take place in various languages. They tell stories of immigrants from Chechnya, Ukraine, Vietnam, Romania, Pakistan, Morocco living in Poland and Italy.
I first saw Krzysztof Wodiczko outside the pavilion arguing with an Austrian woman who was congratulating him on his installation.
Wodiczko, who looks like a noble pirate, was asking the woman if she has a maid and whether or not the maid has health care.
This snapped the woman out of her glamorous art opening mode and she apologetically explained that while she loves her cleaning lady Maria, getting healthcare for her is beyond her power.
Calmly, but very firmly, Wodiczko commanded that she find out about organizations that help immigrant workers and join them upon returning to Austria.
I did not expect such activism to develop in the heart of Giardini and asked Pan Wodiczko to elaborate on his politics as well as his aesthetics. The result is the interview above.