THE STATE BEYOND THE STATE
The Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale is ten years old. It officially represents artists from across Ireland, north and south, although funding comes from the Republic of Ireland, and the focus has remained on artists based south of the boarder. Not surprisingly, the establishment of the Irish Pavilion and the funds it required were instituted during the midst of the Celtic Tiger. It was Ireland’s first moment of great prosperity, brought about by neo-liberal policies, including corporate tax rate breaks, which we are still seeing the devastating consequences of.
Two years after establishment of the Irish Pavilion, Northern Ireland – a territory still under British rule – participated with its own, separate, presentation. However, Northern Ireland’s inclusion was not seen as national pavilion. Artists from the north of Ireland would be considered eligible for both the British and Irish Pavilions, and yet there was a sense, developed from many years of experience, that this would continue to mean that artists from the north would be under-represented during the Biennale. In an attempt to address this lack of visibility and opportunity, Northern Ireland began to present shows.
Northern Ireland ceased its participation in the Biennial after just three exhibitions, and as a result of Ireland’s financial struggles, this year could be the last for the Irish Pavilion. Maybe rethinking Irish participation, north and south of the boarder, would be the appropriate next step. In a place where borders, identities, and notions of nationhood remain contested, why should the social and political conditions be simplified for the arena of international art? Is it more harmful to participate under a compromised set of terms than to refuse to participate? What other formations, what state beyond the state, could be initiated to present artists without labeling them in reductive or compromising ways?Aileen Burns and Johan Lundh