By: Sorosh Roshan,MD, MPH
Founder President of IHAN
The Biennale Arte in Venice titled “ All the World’s Futures” explores via architecture, art, cinema, dance, music and theatre many vital issues. Eighty nine countries are participating in the show that runs from May 9th to November 22nd 2015. The exhibits feature such areas of concern as sustainable development, gender equality in the workplace, climate change and its relation to poverty and marginalization of women that are directly related to IHANs mission. The current exhibitions, as well as the history of the Venetian event make it an important occasion to reach a substantial and influential public. This report is based on my visit to the Biennale and focuses on areas of direct interest to IHAN members.
The exhibition is the occasion for the gathering of many engaged and interesting people. Meeting and talking with them is one of its major benefits.
The 56th International Art Exhibition curated by Okwui Enwezor expands from the central Pavillon at the Giardini to the Arsenale and to many areas in other buildings in the city. What follows features a few examples that are intended to wet the appetite of our members. [More detailed information about the exhibits can be seen on their website http://www.labiennale.org/en/art/exhibition/ .] Even if you can’t make it to Venice in person, you can use this website to be a virtual participant.
Here I report on key exhibits that feature IHAN’s priorities and relate to the countries where we have been working.
My first visit was to the exhibition by UNESCO. Themes were: Behind Food Sustainability; Cultural and Natural Diversity; and Feeding Our Future.
UNESCO exhibit focused on three themes:
Fostering Participation,Protective Diversity; Balancing the Food Economy; andLooking After The Land.
IHAN is committed to the Culture of Peace, Education and cultural heritage advancement, values that closely reflect UNESCO’s program.
The Australian Pavilion was replete with information about their history, tribes, culture and life. It’s major theme is “A cultural home for Australia on the international stage”.
For several years IHAN has collaborated with Dr. Gabrielle Casper, a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at a prominent university professor in Sydney. She has been a featured speaker in IHAN sponsored parallel events during the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) events at the United Nations for the last few years. Dr. Casper has also facilitated the participation of a group of medical students from her university to make brief presentations, at our sponsored events at CSW, on their studies of varied issues related to the health care of women and girls. Dr. Casper’s has advocated the donation of state-of-the- art portable ultra sound machines developed for low resource settings. The contribution of these machines for the maternal health project of IHAN in Tanzania in 2014 and 2015 has been greatly appreciated by both our colleague Madam Zahra Nuru and the Tanzanian Ambassador to the UN who has facilitated delivery of the machines to an area designated by Madam Nuru.
The South African Pavilion celebrates the peaceful reconciliation and historical end of Apartheid in their country . Desmond Tutu’s enlightening message of forgiveness and peaceful solutions to violence and injustice was heart warming. As a representative of IHAN, Dr. Suzanne Stutman, first Vice President of IHAN and I have had the pleasure and honor of meeting Desmond Tutu on behalf of IHAN’s work.
South Korea, submitted a very informative video presentation on discrimination against women in the work place and labor laws. The achievement of South Korean women to effect change is very inspiring. Honorable Yun Sook Lee [a member of our advisory board] has been indefatigable leader of women’s movement in South Korea and globally. We are honored to have worked with outstanding women of South Korea.
Two exhibitions from China are interesting.
One is called Highway to Hell, conceptualized and developed by Kiang Heing.
The exhibition depicted, with vibrant and artistic works, the devastating effects of a rapid pace of life characterized by materialistic and superficial goals and often self-referential ways of life.
The second Exhibition from China is located on the Island of St.Giorgo. Curated by Liu Xiaodong it describes the Hotan Project on the issue of ethnic workers in the jade industry and other work related issues.
Liu used a unique approach setting up a temporary studio and included sketches, diaries, oil painting and photography. A camera team was also present to document the entire progress with a film.
In order to complete the project, Hou Hanru, chief curator of the project launched a complex series of programs parallel to the painting. It includes on-site research, historical research, tournament exhibitions, film viewing, seminars and on-line publications.
Art by Jaume Plensa, Barcelona Spain
Also on the island of St. Giorgo, among the many and varied exhibits there, was a thought provoking presentation by a renown artist from Barcelona, Jaume Plensa.
The exhibits on the island are enhanced by a musical treat: wonderful musicians and singers. For example, during my visit, they featured a Vivaldi concert at the Vivaldi Church and an Opera in Concert with the arias of Verdi and Puccini. Other performances continue throughout the life of the exhibition.
One exhibit features A monumental work by Magdalena Abakanowicz, born in Poland in1930. She is considered one of the most prominent artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. The painting,Titled Crowd and Individual, was a stellar attraction in the exhibit.
The Curator of the exhibit [Luca Massimo Barero] wrote: ” The Crowd of 110 figures, faces a counterpart an animal-like being, also referred to as the Mutant. The figures have an extremely haptic, lively surface, resembling tree barks but are, in fact, empty shells. … I think that the impact of Magdalena Abakanowicz ‘s work arises from the way she conveys, through a powerful sense of a crowd or group, a human condition with an existential meaning in which often faceless people are bewildered bystanders, who find or lose themselves again.”
A Japanese artist honored the art of the traditional tea ceremony by means of a glass tea house in the middle of water in a shallow pool constructed with blue tiles from Japan.
ISLAND of Giudecca
On the last day in Venice, my hostess Paula invited me to visit the vineyard in the Island of Giudecca. She works there as a volunteer helping to preserve the vineyard and the surrounding garden. It was a wonderful experience to be in nature with the glories of grapes, zucchini flowers and an herb garden.
HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE
The Biennale continues through November 22 with both changing and continuing themes, exhibitions and events. In August for example, there is a program (among many) that asks the question: How is knowledge formed within one person and transmitted through time, space, and social relationships? Specific topics to be considered range from artist-initiated educational institutions, to the potential of curriculum for community-wide learning, and the future of education in Afghanistan.
This report greatly benefited from the contributions provided by Dr. Beatrice Goodwin, Chair of the NGO Health Committee and a Board member of the International Health Awareness Network (IHAN), and Eliana Horta, IHAN representative to the UN. Board members from South Africa, Dr. Jaco Hoffman and Amanda Diener, Esq. first alerted me to the importance of the exhibit.