The Madagascar Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2019: An Interview with Joël Andrianomearisoa

by Carla Ingrasciotta
September 18, 2019
Carla Ingrasciotta
Andrianomearisoa Joël

This year Madagascar takes part in the 58th edition of La Biennale di Venezia International Exhibition with its own pavilion for the first time in its history. Titled “I have forgotten the night“, the exhibition is curated by Rina Ralay-Ranaivo and Emmanuel Daydé.

Mara Sartore: What was your reaction when you received the news of being selected to represent Madagascar at the Venice Biennale 2019?

Joël Andrianomearisoa: When the Madagascar government invited me to represent my country at the Venice Biennale I actually had two reactions: my curator, my friends and people around me suggested that I look at ways to represent my country. To me, it seemed very complicated, I wandered “How can I represent Madagascar in this space and with my work which is not only related to my country?”. So the first main goal was to find a title which is “I have forgotten the night”. In a way, I tried to forget Madagascar to remember this country in a better way, to discover different emotions and I selected the temporality of the night which is a time of the day I like the most, it’s more emotional, mysterious and it also gives me more inspiration. Physically there was another important point: to not touch the walls which I decided to keep white and clean as they were, so the piece is suspended. It’s a way to give an international breath to the work, I mean, we are in the Madagascar pavilion, in its own space, but the work reflects my international attitude. I am based between Paris and Antananarivo but I belong to the world, so this idea of nationality sometimes it heavy. In Venice and within the Venice Biennale we as artists are related to a country but as humans, we are just artists of the world, not necessarily related to our country of origin.

In regards to the piece itself, the initial inspiration for my work was, of course, Madagascar and specific elements of my country: the architecture, for example, I was inspired by certain buildings from the18th century that were built by our Kingdom; also literature inspired me: a very important author who has inspired me is Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo, a melancholic poet who was the first in my country to write in English and French at the same time, he had a short life because he committed suicide when he was 33 years old. Marguerite Duras and her reflections upon colonisation is another international reference to me.

The piece is a metaphor but it is also a forgotten book: I tried to disperse different emotions and elements which can be read by the viewer, it’s a paper collage, a floating piece where the pages are moving – it’s not a written book but more of a book seeped in an emotion. I also wanted to simply engage with the public and allow the audience to go on a journey into Madagascar so I decided to include a sound piece in the pavilion. I invited a famous singer from Madagascar to sing a poem which is called “I have to ask” where there’s a constant idea of duality. The singer doesn’t sing in the proper Madagascar language, in a way, she transforms the poem into an international song, which was my intent.

Mara Sartore: Where did you realise the piece for the pavilion, was it in Paris?

Joël Andrianomearisoa: No, as you know, I have one studio in Antananarivo, one in Paris and a third one in the countryside, in France. It’s in this very big one that I built the piece.

Mara Sartore: What will happen to the piece when the biennale is over?

Joël Andrianomearisoa: The artwork is going on tour, the first stop will be in March at the Domaine de Chaumont in the South West of Paris. The castle is a museum with a section dedicated to contemporary art. Every year they invite an artist to exhibit a major piece, and they also have a wonderful garden where they a big flower festival on the occasion of which they invite prestigious garden designers. So this main artwork and other pieces will be shown from March 2020 and will probably then travel to another place, but let’s see.

Lear more about the Madagascar Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale.
The Madagascar Pavilion is located at the Arsenale Artiglierie among the first national pavilions following the international exhibition.

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