Curator Nina Magnúsdóttir introduces Christoph Büchel's "The Mosque"; The First Mosque in the Historic City of Venice
Initiated by artist Christoph Büchel, working in collaboration with the Muslim Communities of Venice and Iceland, and curated by Nina Magnúsdóttir, "The Mosque" will engage the many thousands of Muslim residents of Venice.
"The Mosque" is installed in the historic church of Santa Maria della Misericordia in the Cannaregio sestiere. This structure dates to the 10th century and was restored in 1864, but has been closed for over 40 years.
Christoph Büchel has anchored the concept for "The Mosque" in both the historical context of Islamic culture’s profound influence on the City of Venice, and the socio-political implications of contemporary global migration. Enriched for centuries by trade with the East and shaped by Arabic art, architecture, and language, Venice was home to a Muslim prayer room (though not a mosque), established in 1621 in a space inside the 13th century palazzo today known as the Fondaco dei Turchi. Nevertheless and in spite of its inextricable links to the Muslim world, the City of Venice has to this day never permitted the establishment of a mosque in its historic center.
As the Venice Biennale contribution of Iceland, a country with one of the lowest immigration rates in the Western world,"The Mosque" also creates a reference point specifically for the Muslim Community of Reykjavik. The Iceland Muslim Community is gradually becoming a part of the social fabric there, and after twelve years of political debate and media controversy, is finally preparing to construct the first purpose-built mosque in the history of the nation’s capital.
With these events as its backdrop, "The Mosque" draws attention to the political institutionalization of segregation and prejudice, and to settlement policies that lie at the heart of global ethnic and religious conflicts today.
Christoph Büchel (b 1966), is recognized internationally for his conceptual projects and complex large-scale installations. Büchel often draws upon current events and politics, re-appropriating mass media sources and everyday life situations. His precise representations of reality seem to be more real than reality itself. Often the world he creates is fully functioning, and visitors forget that they are in an art installation, physically projected into other contexts and community settings that make up the contemporary world.
These lifelike installations, which often also involve interaction and dialogue with specific communities, are often meticulous constructions that mirror the inner workings and hierarchies of advanced capitalist societies, contexts we pretend not to see or consciously refuse to acknowledge.
In Büchel’s work, complexity is found in the elaborate detail developed for each project. A hallmark of the artist’s work is layers of social and political commentary. Büchel locates contradictions and social inequities in the ideological forces dominating society today and finds a way, through his art, to demystify and resist these forces by revealing them as constructed realities subject to change.
Nina Magnúsdóttir | filmed by Out of Sync | Venice May 2015
Interview | Jesper Bundgaard
Camera and edit | Per Henriksen
Producer | Out of Sync
Artworks courtesy | Christoph Büchel
© Out of Sync 2015