German Pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia

Acting on behalf of the Federal Foreign Office, ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) has played a decisive role in positioning the German Pavilion at the Biennale Arte in Venice since 1971. Since 2009, ifa has also acted as the pavilion’s commissioner, assuming overall responsibility for the major project.

The contribution of the German Pavilion has already been awarded the Golden Lion seven times, among these four times as the best national contribution: In 1984 Lothar Baumgarten (Commissioner Johannes Cladders), in 1986 Sigmar Polke (Commissioner Dierk Stemmler), in 1990 Bernd and Hilla Becher, in 1993 Hans Haacke / Nam June Paik (Commissioner Klaus Bußmann; best national contribution). In 2001 Gregor Schneider (Commissioner Udo Kittelmann; best national contribution), in 2011 Christoph Schlingensief (curator Susanne Gaensheimer; best national contribution) and in 2017 Anne Imhof (curator Susanne Pfeffer; best national contribution).

The German Pavilion 2022

Artist in the German Pavilion 2022: Maria Eichhorn


The German Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia in 2022 will feature the artist Maria Eichhorn.

“In my view there are few artists who address themselves to German history and its impact on the present in as multifaceted and intensive a manner as Maria Eichhorn.”
     Dr. Yilmaz Dziewior, Director of the Museum Ludwig

By choosing Eichhorn, who was born in Bamberg in 1962 and lives in Berlin, the curator Yilmaz Dziewior has decided in favor of an internationally highly recognized artist known as much for her conceptual approach as for her subtle sense of humor. With her visually minimal gestures, spatial interventions, and process- based works, Eichhorn critically examines institutional power structures and political and economic interrelationships.


The Rose Valland Institute founded by Maria Eichhorn in 2017 on the occasion of the documenta 14 gained international attention. The project, which is still in progress today in cooperation with various scholarly institutions, researches and documents the dispossession of Europe’s Jewish population. Eichhorn thus raises the issue of unresolved ownership and property structures from 1933 to the present and the continued effects of Nazism.

The artist has been part of the ifa network for many years. Nine of her works are currently in the ifa art collection. In the touring exhibition ‘Leiblicher Logos. 14 Women Artists from Germany’ (1995-1999) with 15 stops in Germany, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Belgium, Israel, Czech Republic, China, South Korea and Japan, she was represented with three works. This exhibition was curated (in collaboration with René Block) by Gudrun Inboden: the first female curator of the German Pavilion 1997 and 1999.

Linkt to the press kit (EN)

Curator of the German Pavilion 2022: Yilmaz Dziewior


Dr. Yilmaz Dziewior is curator of the German contribution to the 59th Biennale di Venezia 2022. Dziewior has been Director of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne since 2015. He was Director of the Kunstverein Hamburg from 2001-2008 and Director of the Kunsthaus Bregenz from 2009-2015 and has worked as a freelance curator on a number of art projects.

50 years German Pavilion and ifa

Immersion in history

Over the past fifty years, the visual arts department has worked with each respective artistic team to coordinate and realize altogether twenty-three German contributions to the Biennale.

As of now, there is an archive of the restored original websites  of the artistic positions of the Biennale years 2007-2019. These contributions of the past years can now be experienced and researched anew. It is moreover a key address for scholars, journalists, curators, and artists interested in the history of the Biennale. Over the coming months, additional materials on the German Pavilion (1972-2005) will be successively put online.


“ifa bundles the extensive knowledge about the German Pavilion. This is where the experience, expertise and stories acquired in 50 years of coordinating the German contribution to the Venice Biennale are collected and preserved. As a repository of knowledge, ifa is thus the central point of contact for artists, curators, scholars, and journalists concerned with the history of the German Pavilion. Through its practice-oriented research on biennial topics, the publication of important reference publications, and its networking activities, ifa also provides valuable impulses to the biennial discourse.”

     Dr. Ellen Strittmatter, Commissioner oft he German Pavilion and Head of the Visual Arts Department

'Throwback Thursday'

In its anniversary year, ifa is strengthening its presence in social media. On the new Instagram channel of ifa’s art department, a wider audience will be made aware of the ‘50 years of coordination of the German Pavilion by ifa’:

Until December, an artistic contribution to the German Pavilion will be presented here every second Thursday. These ‘throwbackthursday posts’ invite you to travel back every other week to a new biennial year and allow you to immerse yourself in the historical positions of the pavilion. In addition, former artistic participants of the German Pavilion will have their say and talk about their experiences and adventures at the Venice Biennale. The ifa itself will also be offering the public a glimpse behind the scenes. Through the series ‘behind the scenes’, ifa staff members will provide insights into their work with and at the Biennale.

2011
Christoph Schlingensief

Curated by Susanne Gaensheimer


“A kind of schizophrenia has always been typical of my work and my life. If I limited myself to one thing only I would simply get bored, my mind would be starved of inspiration. Between music and image, people and language, the healthy and the infirm, the funny and the sad I always need to be given the chance to state the opposite too. To my mind, everything in the world is ambiguous.” (Christoph Schlingensief, May 2010)
After his death in August 2010, curator Susanne Gaensheimer and Aine Laberenz — Schlingensief’s wife and for many years, his closest collaborator — decided to not exhibit Schlingensief’s sketches and proposals for the German Pavilion, but rather, to show existing works. The selected works offer insights into central aspects of his multifaceted oeuvre.

In the main hall of the German Pavilion the stage of the Fluxus oratorio A Church of Fear vs. the Alien Within, which Schlingensief conceived for the 2008 Ruhrtriennale were presented. In A Church of Fear vs. the Alien Within, Schlingensief uses his own personal experiences to contend openly with the universal and existential themes of life, suffering, and death. The play’s stage, which consisted of many film and video projections and a multitude of sculptural, spatial and pictorial elements, offered viewers, more than any other of his stage-sets, an all-encompassing total installation. One of the pavilion’s two side wings featured a movie theatre where a program of six selected films from different moments in Schlingensief’s career were played on a large screen: Menu Total (1985–6); Egomania (1986); the Germany trilogy of 100 Jahre Adolf Hitler (1988), Das deutsche Kettensägenmassaker [The German Chainsaw Massacre, 1990], and Terror 2000 (1991–2) and United Trash (1995–6). The pavilion’s left side wing was dedicated to Schlingensief’s Operndorf Afrika, his opera village in Africa. Alongside photographs and documentation of the already realized parts of the African project — and in conjunction with selected scenes from Via Intolleranza II, Schlingensief’s last play in which he collaborated with actors from Burkina Faso — this portion of the pavilion featured a large-scale panoramic projection of footage of the natural scenery surrounding the construction site of the opera village. Website 2011

2013
Ai Weiwei, Romuald Karmakar, Santu Mofokeng, Dayanita Singh

Curated by Susanne Gaensheimer

  • Description

     

    Susanne Gaensheimer presented in critical examination of the meaning of traditional forms of “national representation” in national pavilions at La Biennale di Venezia, the format of the national pavilion as an open concept in which Germany is to be understood not as a hermetic entity but as an active participant in a complex, worldwide network. With Romuald Karmakar, Santu Mofokeng, Dayanita Singh and Ai Weiwei Susanne Gaensheimer invited four international renown artists from four different countries who all challenge the notion of the unambiguous biography and of the specific national or cultural identity. They also explore the dissolution of particular concepts of identity precipitated by modernization and the globalization of their respective realities.

    Romuald Karmakar has been producing works that grapple with German history, German themes, and German identity for almost three decades. In his films he shows that political ideologizing is no longer contained within national boundaries. Dayanita Singh’s iconography is shaped by a way of life in which India’s social and familial traditions collide with the contingencies of modern life. The photographer’s travels all over the world and itinerant existence have influenced her life and work more profoundly than ties to her native Delhi ever did. Santu Mofokeng’s photographic series reveals how transnational developments, cultural traditions, and personal destinies can clash head on. His photographs show how the restrictive reality of life under apartheid also influenced the spiritual identity of black South Africans and how trauma and memory are now inscribed in the landscape itself. The loss of cultural identity caused by the Cultural Revolution and transformation of Chinese society brought about by breakneck modernization are central themes in the work of Ai Weiwei.

    At the initiative of the French and German foreign offices and on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, the German Pavilion was to be housed in the French Pavilion, and vice versa.  Website 2013

     


2015
Olaf Nicolai, Hito Steyerl, Tobias Zielony and the artist duo Jasmina Metwaly & Philip Rizk: Fabrik

Curated by Florian Ebner

  • Description

     

    Works of art by Olaf Nicolai, Hito Steyerl, Tobias Zielony and the artist duo Jasmina Metwaly & Philip Rizk transformed the German Pavilion 2015 into a factory (german: Fabrik) of reproducing  images, whose objective is not merely to represent reality, but to change it. The notion of the factory provides a link between the four artistic positions, all of which reflect on the concepts of economy and work in their own way. They reveal the flaws in our interconnected and globalised world and, with completely different approaches, turn their attention to the circulation of images, goods and human beings. At the same time, all of them hold on to the “human medium“ as a real agent and protagonist of change.

    The factory had various production sites at its disposal: Workshop – Olaf Nicolai’s installation and performance “GIRO”, Print Unit – Tobias Zielony’s work “The Citizen”, Motion Capture Studio – Hito Steyerl’s video installation “The Factory of the Sun” and Rooftop 1&2 – , Jasmina Metwaly’s and Philip Rizk’s sculptural intervention “Draw It Like This” is the name of the and the film and sound installation “Out on the Street – Variationen”. Website 2015

     


2017
Anne Imhof: FAUST

Curated by Susanne Pfeffer

  • Description

     

    Gazes cross, but no communication ensues. They perceive others, but there is no recognition, no acknowledgment. Post-gender, individualized, peculiar and yet stereotypical: such are the human figures in Anne Imhof’s paintings and scenarios. Noises, sounds, and compositions lend a rhythm to the spaces and bodies, synchronizing them in a dilated time loosely structured by narratives. The spaces limned by bodies and sounds and the architectural space overlap, interpenetrating until a brief instant of congruence is reached, only to break apart moments later. Imhof envisions the pavilion as a body whose contours can be displaced. The action is contingent; everything might be different at any moment. The purport of the movements is at odds with their form, revealing their rehearsed character. They fluctuate between the viscous mundanity of everyday life and mysterious rituals, between schematic, remote-controlled procedures and individual malfunctions, between uniformity and punk. Aligned with the group, an aimless individuality persists. They may sing together, but their song is of the I. The bodies in Anne Imhof’s pieces are subjects locked in an everlasting struggle against their objectification—ruled by capital, they yet defy their unremitting optimization. Strained to the point of bursting or gone limp, these regimented and fragile bodies appear as a material molded by pervasive yet invisible structures of power. At the same time, media representation is innate to these bio- techno bodies: they seem forever on the verge of transformation into pictures ready for consumption; they aspire to become images, digital commodities. Anne Imhof confronts the brutality of our time with a hard realism. Her scenarios visualize the constitution of the body in the demarcation of material and discursive, of technological, socioeconomic, and pharmaceutical boundaries. Imhof thus reveals the space between body and reality, the space where our personality comes into being. Website 2017

     


2019
Natascha Süder Happelmann: Ankersentrum (Surviving in the Ruinous Ruin)

Curated by Franciska Zólyom

  • Description

     

    How can community beyond totalitarian unity and uniformity be thought of? The curator Franciska Zólyom takes up a position for the reflection on such questions that activates aesthetic research in concrete social contexts, yet not only analyses or comments on social, ecological or political conditions, but also seeks to shape these. She has selected the artist Natascha Sadr Haghighian, who plays with and questions identities, and for the purposes of the German contribution calls herself Natascha Süder Happelmann. Natascha Süder Happelmann unfolds the poetic, imaginary and critical potential of art and encounters attempts to interpret it hastily with an amiable multiformity. Her work is articulated in text, image, space and sound. Her voice is full of advocacy when she raises an objection. In her art, she creates a strong presence in order to take a back seat in acting and speaking with others as an amplifier. She works chiefly with installations and performatively. She addresses the collective and transdisciplinary aspect of artistic work through collective processes. For example, six musicians of different musical traditions and styles created contributions on the whistle for the sound installation ‘tribute to whistle’. The rhythms and sounds can be heard in constantly shifting, ever-changing overlapping constellations. Three videos by Natascha Süder Happelmann mark the stages on the way to a transit camp. They bear witness to places such as transit camps in Bavaria and link them with tomato plantations in Apulia and the rescue ship Iuventa, which is stuck in the customs port of Trapani. Website 2019

     


Events, Exhibitions and Publications

In 2021, ifa will call attention to the fiftieth anniversary of these activities with events and exhibitions taking place worldwide and in its Stuttgart and Berlin galleries, accompanied by digital offers and a publication. This page will be updated throughout the year with current notices.

Biennials-Talk: The principle Biennale – Boom of an Exhibition Format

With Franciska Zólyom and Dr. Melanie Vietmeier, Moderation: Prof. Dr. Jörg Scheller
6 Mai 2021, 7 p.m, ifa-Gallery Stuttgart and Live-Stream
Every two years, large-scale exhibitions of contemporary art take place around the world. Whether in Ulaanbaatar, Ouagadougou or São Tomé and Príncipe, the biennial format is booming. Popular is the oldest biennial, which has been held in Venice since 1895. It was intended to counteract the musealization of the lagoon city. But how effective is this form of exhibition today? Biennials offer regions that have little infrastructure for contemporary art an alternative to the classic museum. But has the biennial principle run its course? Franciska Zólyom, curator of the German contribution to the 2019 Venice Art Biennale and director of the Galerie für zeitgenössische Kunst in Leipzig, Dr. Melanie Vietmeier, expert of the ifa research program on ‘Biennials as Seismographs’, and Alya Sebti, who was one of the artistic directors of Manifesta in Marseille in 2020, will discuss this.

Exhibition: 'A natural order of things'

Duration: 10 April – 27 June 2021 (tbc), ifa-Gallery Stuttgart
The show combines works by Lothar Baumgarten (1944 - 2018) with works by Gabriel Rossell Santillán (*1977). Both artists worked with indigenous communities of America. Their artistic fieldwork explores alternative forms of recording, classifying, and image-making about the Other.
Lothar Baumgarten was responsible for Germany’s artistic contribution to the 41st Venice Biennale in 1984, winning the Golden Lion for his work ‘America’ presented in the German Pavilion.

Visit the Exhibition

Digital Offerings

In the anniversary year, digital edutainment approaches will be increasingly pursued. Episode #24 of the existing podcast format ‘Die Kulturmittler’ was published under the title ‘Legendary and controversial: the German Pavilion in Venice.’. Kolja Reichert, freelance journalist and art critic, talks about the history and (foreign) political significance of the German Pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale and looks ahead. What can a post-national state representation in Venice look like? Do the national pavilions have a future? Available here (podcast in German language).

In mid-May, ifa’s art department will publish its biennale stories, a new digital format on the German Pavilion. Issue #1 Pebbles, Art and Commissioners is dedicated to Venice, a place of longing with the oldest art biennale in the world, the national pavilions in the Giardini, in particular the German Pavilion with its difficult history and architecture, and provides insights into ifa’s role as commissioner.

With the series Artwork of the Month, ifa has been expanding the analog and digital view of its art holdings for over a year. In the Biennale’s anniversary year, ifa is showing many works by artists who have exhibited in the German Pavilion and are represented in the art collection, including works by Katharina Fritsch (January 2021), Thomas Ruff (February 2021), Katharina Sieverding (March 2021), Joseph Beuys, Isa Genzken, Hans Haacke, and Gerhard Richter.

Publications

More information on the history of the Biennale before ifa took over the coordination of the German Pavilion in 1971 is available in the ifa publication The German Contributions 1995-2007. It provides scientific background information and an illustrated index to all German contributions up to 2007.
A sequel as an anniversary publication is being planned.

Research publication: Biennials as Seismographs

To what extent are biennials forward-looking formats in the international art discourse? The study of the ifa research program takes an exemplary look at the biennials founded in the so-called ‘Global South’ in recent years, with a focus on the African continent, in order to identify current tendencies as well as potentials for the AKBP and for international collaborations.

ifa-Research-Award ‘Kultur- und Außenpolitik’ in German/English/French available here  here from 6 May 2021.

 

 

Dorothea Grassmann

Charlottenplatz 17
D-70173 Stuttgart

Telephone: +49.711.2225.179