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For the Scotland + Venice 2015 collateral event of the 56th Venice Biennale, Glasgow-based artist Graham Fagen has filled the formerly mercantile Palazzo Fontana with an intriguing homage both to his homeland and to the Jamaican culture that influenced him as a teenager – bringing out surprising links between the two, as well as to Venice itself, which Fagen describes as “a cultural hub for the world”.
A towering rope tree in the first room makes reference to the trading history of the Italian city, while a series of ink drawings, based on Fagen’s teeth imprints, and his tactile “squeezees” and teeth casts present a more personal angle, rooting the show in Fagen’s own cultural history and physical present.
Throughout the palazzo, the tone is set by the strained strings echoing from the major collaboration in the final room. The five-channel audiovisual work was produced together with composer Sally Beamish, the musicians of the Scottish Ensemble, reggae singer and musician Ghetto Priest and the music producer Adrian Sherwood, and presents a melancholic classical-cum-reggae dub interpretation of The Slave’s Lament, published by Scottish national hero Robert Burns in 1792.
Graham Fagen: Scotland + Venice 2015
Collateral Event of the 56th International Art Exhibition
Venice Biennale, Palazzo Fontana, Cannaregio 3829-3830, Venice
9 May – 22 November 2015
Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY