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Venice Biennale 2011

At the end of World War I, a series of citizenship laws across Europe resulted in masses of refugees on the continent. In response to this crisis, Norwegian diplomat, scientist and explorer Fridtjof Nansen designed the Nansen Passport — an identity card issued by the League of Nations in 1922 that enabled refugees to move across borders. By 1942 the passport was recognised by 52 governments, enabling leading intellectuals and artists, among others, to travel in search of political and intellectual shelter. In 1938, the Nansen International Office for Refugees was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to establish the passport. Nansen himself received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for his work with refugees and those suffering famine in Russia.

Reflecting upon the principles of the Nansen Passport today, and upon the possibility that the image of a nation may in fact be defined by its internationalism, the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) is organizing 'The State of Things', a series of public lectures that is part of Norway's representation for the 54th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, in 2011. The programme will commence in the opening days of the Biennale in June 2011, and continue until its closure six months later, in late November. It is organised by OCA and hosted by Venetian cultural and academic institutions, such as the Faculty of Design and Arts at the Università Iuav di Venezia and the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti.

The public lectures, given by internationally respected intellectuals, will reflect upon themes such as diversity, Europe, the environment, peace-making, human rights, capital, sustainability, migration, asylum, aesthetics and war. Each of the papers will tackle the 'state of things' today, drawing from the speakers' fields of activity and research, and from what they consider the intellectual and political priorities of today. Confirmed speakers include gender theorist Judith Butler, environmental activist and author Vandana Shiva, media theorist and activist Franco Berardi, art historian T.J. Clark, philosopher Jacques Rancière and architectural theorist Eyal Weizman.

A book will be published upon completion of the lecture programme, compiling the papers produced by the participants, and possible additional materials. Through these diverse documents, the book will offer a nuanced overview of the intellectual and political challenges affecting the world today from the standpoint of a contemporary version of Nansen's rights-based internationalism.