If your intention is to visit the 56th Venice Biennale, you may have the chance to run into a very particular exposition: the Nationless Pavilion, definitely more an experience than only a physical space.
Considered by more than one as a “must see” of this Biennale, the Natioless Pavilion is the first action of Nation 25, a collaborative art project started in 2014 to shine a light on the lives of refugees, migrants and internally displaced.
“Around the world, more than 51,5 millions individuals have either fled from their countries or are displaced from their homes due to war and violence. If they were considered as a country, they would represent the 25th most populous country on earth.
Millions flee crushing economic realities, searching for opportunities to survive. These displaced people make extraordinary efforts to make off after having witnessed the failure of politics, the failure of systems and of diplomacy.
They seek invisibility as they cross borders. They perish invisibly on the high seas.
They endure conditions that test the limits of human understanding.
Their survival is facilitated by the universe of their immagination; sparks of creativity and resilience.
Nation 25 seeks to shine a light on the lives of refugees, migrants and the internally displaced through the language of art”
Based between Rome and Brussel, this project is a dynamic art platform for a creative dialogue – through politic and art – with artists, migrants, curators and humanitarian.
In this period of enormous alarm regarding the endless escape of migrants from their original countries, Nation 25 has the great value in reflecting on this tragedy looking for new paradigms.
In particular it requires a rethinking of the concept of nation and its possibilities as it applies to people who are completely dispossessed.
“What is happening now is not an exodus, but rather the arrival of few lonely lost frantic people at a time who don’t know much about their landing place.
But if the feeling of loneliness of each individual could take comfort from the similar stories of people who had lived the same situation and if this incoherent swarm revealed a shared soul, it would be possible to think of a state for the stateless.
This crowd is not cohesive because of a common language, but rather because of the shared distressing experience of losing their home and moving to other people’s home.” (Federico Simonti, L’invenzione della Frontiera. Storia dei confini materiali, politici, simbolici, Odoya Ed.)
So the Nationless Pavilion, like a process to represent this 25th Nation, a territory among the nations at the Venice 56th Biennale: a “foundational and critical gesture at the same time”.
This projects is articulated in several actions with a series of collective moments in Venice: open call, performance and laboratories.
At the beginning of May, a Round Table – Rendering a nation – opened this experience, and in October the Nationaless Pavilion will be hosted by S.a.L.E. Docks.
It will become a workshop open to all, in order to built a collective installation, that from the analysis of the common aspects of refugees, migrants and internally displaced – reasons for departure, crossing the border, waiting, horizon and goal, hybrid identity – can display the 25th Nation in his several and different aspects.
The project of the Nationless Pavilion started under the inspiration of Sara Alberani e Gregory Beals.
Sara Alberani, Elena Abbiatici and Caterina Pecchioli are the founders of Nation 25.
M. Hi and thanks for your time. We ‘d like to know something more about Nation 25: what gave you all the idea to sturt up this project?
S.A. Well, I’d like to divide this project in two different moments.
The first, around two years ago, when I met Gregory Beals, thanks to his correspondence and his work as fotoreporter in the Zaatari Camp in Jordan and as correspondent of UNHCR.
About that period, I remember photographs and stories of people completely unknown to me, unless for those pictures; but, at the same time, I realized that those photographs turn out as something completely detached from the real experience of men, women, children.
From this inner sensation, we started to look at the artistic experience – in particular the specific estrangement of Art – as an interesting approach to explore migrants and refugee reality, often described , today, through a rethoric language.
Nation 25 is the convinction that a community displaced in space and time means opportunity not exclusion.
M. I see. So, could you possibly describe briefly to us the actions that you are preparing from now to October?
Would you like to start speaking about the Round table that was hold in May?
S.A. Yes, of course. As you said the meeting took place the 8 of May, around a table prepared with texts, objects, photos, documents and sources linked to the interventions.
Migrants, artists and humanitarians all together to discuss the notion of a Nationless Pavilion from their own expertise and experience, in order to better define the idea of a “nation” whose existence is based on common needs and experiences and opposed to territorial integrity. The “Nationless” was the heart of the question: the 51.5 million people registered as political refugees, to move from the abstraction of a number to the human beings with their physiognomies, visions and narratives.
The challenge is to find an element that embodies a place of belonging – one with an artistic practice relates both to social facts and imaginative possibilities.
M. And what about your Open call?
S.A. With the Open call we invite the public ( artists, refugees, and everyone involved with migration issue) to take part directly in the construction of the 25th Nation.
You can send texts, objects, drawings, ideas, sounds – possibly not finished work – that are connected to the theme of refugee. Yu can also come directly to the laboratory in October bringing with you the traces of your work.
M. The laboratory is another step of your work..
S.A Yes, it is. During the month of October, the Nation Pavilion will be hosted in the space of S.a.L.E. Docks. On this occasion it will launch a laboratory (2 -3 laboratories, indeed ) to give Nation 25 a shape, a view, through a dialogue between artists, migrants and internally displaced together with the artistic contributions already received.
M. Very interesting.. So, according to you art, artistic activities and creation in general, help not only to spread a message, but also to discover solutions and alternative future?
E.A. Without doubt art has the possibility to create a different future, thanks to an immaginative literature of the present.
More, we believe that art could favour a different and indipendent way to reflect on the reality, generally disengaged from political interests.
To be immaginative could turn out as a chance of safety. If art, workinf through new approaches, relations and backgrounds is able to give rise to a different sensibility and alternative points of view, well, we can say that it’s a great art.
Our purpose is to explore and, most of all, to be in touch with emotions of people who are going to be born for a second time. To do this we need to experiment different artistic productions, working together with humanitarians, activists and all who are near migrants and internally displaced.
Nation 25 needs the voices of all.
M. We want to finish this article remembering another action, really symbolic and representative in your intention, that’s the action about the Square tape.
S. On the 8th of May the Nationless Pavilion asked the permission to the curators of each National Pavilion to include in their space a square made of tape, as a symbolic presence of Nation 25.
Square tape was welcomed into the Hungarian Pavilion at 56th Venice Art Biennale. A rethinking of the rules of hospitaly through art.
At the end of June, Hungary has reatracted the decision to suspend the international rules of asylum and to raise a wall on the border of Serbia.
We are still asking for this presence to bring the attention to this invisible state that lives inside different nations.
The Asylum request will continue till the 22th of November when the Biennale will close.