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Steve McQueen At The Venice Biennale

Aug 19, 2009
By David A. Ross

 Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen outside of the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Photo by AFP PHOTO/Alberto Pizzoli/Newscom

A new film installation by the British artist and film director Steve McQueen is one of the highlights of the 53rd Venice Biennale, which runs from June 10 through November 21.

McQueen was selected to represent Great Britain at the 2009 Biennale before he became widely acknowledged for his BAFTA award-winning feature film, Hunger. (Be sure to check out FLYP’s story on Hunger.) In fact, those familiar with McQueen’s work as a film installation artist recognized how he was able to make use of his low-key, minimal approach to filmmaking by applying it to a powerfully humanistic political narrative.

In Giardini, a 30-minute double image film named for the park in which the Biennale has taken place since the late 19th century, McQueen reverts back to the focused, detailed, slow-moving style that allows viewers to draw unexpected aesthetic revelations and parallels.

McQueen sees the correspondences between the unobserved and the obscured—life that takes place in the interstices. In Giardini, he looks at and listens to the empty shuttered buildings and vacant spaces. A pack of rescued greyhounds poke cautiously though the detritus left for cleanup in the spring. Introduced as a fiction into the space, as are several actors, they take their role in relation to the actual inhabitants of the closed gardens.

FLYP met up with McQueen at the Biennale for the interview below, and spoke to him about this new work. Also, see FLYP’s feature on the Venice Biennale, which includes exclusive video interviews with Yoko Ono and John Baldessari.

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