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The Angolan Artist Explores Space, Form, and Experience at the 55th Venice Biennale

Artist Edson Chagas’ work is the centrepiece of the Angolan Pavilion—and the highlight of this year’s Venice Biennale. Taking part for the first time at the biannual art event, Angola was awarded the Golden Lion for ‘Best National Participation’ for its exhibition Luanda, Encyclopaedic City.

The exhibition is built around 23 pillars of stacked posters printed with photographs from Chagas’ series Found not Taken. The often-gritty images depict cast-off items that gain new meaning through the context in which they were found—and in some cases, placed—by the artist.

The Angolan pavilion is hosted at the 16th Century Palazzo Cini, a small museum in the heart of Venice where Renaissance masters adorn the walls. Against the haloed refinement of this venue, the take-away posters iterate the disposability of the artworks and how space redefines an object’s meaning—while also serving to emphasize the contrast between Africa’s accelerated development and Europe’s classical history.

Since Angola’s three-decade-long civil war ended in 2002, the former Portuguese colony has become the fastest growing economy in Africa. This rapid development has brought with it an inevitable, gentrified sprawl. Formerly useful items lie abandoned, reminiscent of a time when wealth was less abundant and ingenuity meant survival to many Angolans. Although the photographs selected to be part of Luanda, Encyclopaedic City focus solely on the artist’s native city, Lost not Taken is an ongoing documentation of cities Chagas visits worldwide.

The Venice Biennale runs until November 24, 2013.

Images: Edson Chagas/Courtesy of Beyond Entropy Limited


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