Angel­i­ca Mesiti

11th May – 24th November 2019
58th International Art Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia

Angel­i­ca Mesiti’s three-chan­nel video instal­la­tion, ASSEM­BLY, curat­ed by Juliana Eng­berg, con­tin­ues the artist’s ongo­ing con­cerns, fore­most the sub­ject and prac­tice of trans­la­tion which occurs in a vari­ety of con­texts through­out her work. This is expressed as move­ment from ver­bal and writ­ten lan­guage to non-ver­bal, ges­tur­al and musi­cal trans­la­tions, as is appar­ent in her cur­rent exhi­bi­tion, When doing is say­ing, at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

ASSEM­BLY is locat­ed in two gov­ern­ment build­ings – the Ital­ian Sen­ate in Rome, and the Old Par­lia­ment House in Can­ber­ra – in which a num­ber of per­for­mances by a vast and diverse cast are staged.

Evolv­ing from an encounter at a flea mar­ket, where Mesi­ti first dis­cov­ered the Michela machine (a 19th cen­tu­ry steno­graph­ic machine, mod­elled on a piano key­board, used in the Ital­ian Sen­ate for offi­cial par­lia­men­tary report­ing to ensure trans­paren­cy with­in the demo­c­ra­t­ic process), the work rests on a trans­lat­ed text. The poem, To Be Writ­ten in Anoth­er Tongue’, by Aus­tralian writer David Mal­ouf, has been trans­lat­ed into music by by Russ­ian born, Aus­tralian com­pos­er, Max Lyan­de­vat, through the Michela, and the first per­for­mance in the work is by a sen­ate stenog­ra­ph­er, who plays’ the trans­lat­ed poem/​score.

As the work evolves, the score is then adapt­ed and per­formed by an ensem­ble of musi­cians locat­ed in sep­a­rate spaces. It becomes a poly­phon­ic expe­ri­ence as the poem’s trans­la­tion is elab­o­rat­ed – devel­op­ing the com­po­si­tion; every par­tic­i­pant dif­fer­ent, yet hos­pitable to the oth­ers’ notes. Ini­tial­ly the musi­cians play instru­ments from the West­ern Euro­pean tra­di­tion, but are soon replaced by musi­cians from non-west­ern tra­di­tions, and dancers, who per­form var­i­ous chore­o­graphed move­ments, some deriv­ing from a uni­ver­sal body lan­guage estab­lished for the Occu­py move­ment, now used in protests and polit­i­cal happenings.

The final ensem­ble includes a large cast of Aus­tralians with ances­tries of Ital­ian, Ukrain­ian, Lebanese, Jew­ish, Greek, Eng­lish, Irish, Fil­ipino, Kore­an, Russ­ian, Scot­tish, Scan­di­na­vian, Sri Lankan, Anglo New Zealand, Iran­ian, Pak­istani, Viet­namese and Indige­nous Australian.

Mesi­ti says of the work: Through both the metaphor of trans­la­tion and the act itself, I am explor­ing the very human and increas­ing­ly urgent need we have to assem­ble in a phys­i­cal way, in a phys­i­cal space, in these com­plex times”.


Angel­i­ca Mesiti

ASSEM­BLY, three-chan­nel video instal­la­tion in archi­tec­tur­al amphithe­ater HD video pro­jec­tions, colour, six-chan­nel mono sound
25 minutes
Instal­la­tion view, Aus­tralian Pavilion
Com­mis­sioned by the Aus­tralia Coun­cil for the Arts on the occa­sion of the 58th Inter­na­tion­al Art Exhi­bi­tion – La Bien­nale di Venezia
Pho­to: Josh Raymond