Visual Identity: Hans Gremmen

Exhibition : 1 June – 17 November 2011

Venice Biennale 2011

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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 organising '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.


Also as part of Norway's representation at the 54th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard will serve as Guest Professor for the Graduate Programme of Visual Arts at the Faculty of Design and Arts, Università Iuav di Venezia. In an attempt to tackle one of the key issues in the world today, Melgaard will conduct a Masters programme titled 'Beyond Death: Viral Discontents and Contemporary Notions about AIDS'. The programme will be structured around a series of lectures and workshops by the artist taking place from mid-February to mid-May 2011, and will conclude with a public project and a publication reflecting the materials researched during the course. 'Beyond Death' will look at the history and present of the AIDS crisis, and its reflection within contemporary art and discourse.


The International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, has been since its foundation in 1895 one of the key art events worldwide. For the 2011 edition, Norway will for the first time be represented in Venice independently from Finland and Sweden. This is the result of a temporary agreement that assigns sole responsibility for the Nordic Pavilion in the Giardini to a single country, on a rotational basis for the next three editions. For the 2011 edition, the Office for Contemporary Art Norway, as commissioner for Norway's representation in Venice, will focus on art's ability to function as a platform for discussing the world and its urgencies, and will develop a collaboration with established Venetian institutions in order to reach both art and wider audiences.


Norway's representation in Venice for the 54th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, in 2011 is commissioned by the Office for Contemporary Art Norway and organised by its director, Marta Kuzma and OCA's associate curator, Pablo Lafuente, together with Peter Osborne, director of the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University in London. The teaching programme was developed at the invitation of and in cooperation with Angela Vettese, Director of the Graduate Programme of Visual Arts, Università Iuav di Venezia.

The Office for Contemporary Art Norway is a non-profit foundation created by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs (KKD, now KUD) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (UD) in autumn 2001 with the aim of strengthening the position of contemporary visual arts and production from Norway, and stimulating and facilitating exchange between Norwegian and international art institutions and professionals. Since its foundation in 2001, OCA has been responsible for a programme of exhibitions, conferences, lectures and seminars both in Norway and abroad, involving artists, curators, philosophers and art and cultural theorists. Also since 2001, OCA has been responsible for Norway's representation in the Venice Biennale of contemporary art. For the 53rd edition in 2009, OCA, as the commissioner of the Nordic Pavilion, set up an unprecedented collaboration between the Nordic and Danish Pavilions, through an exhibition titled 'The Collectors', curated by artists' duo Elmgreen & Dragset.

For press inquiries and more information on this announcement, please contact Marthe Tveitan.