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Macau at the Venice Biennale: “making people think about information”

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Every exhibition has a story to tell. The one that local architect Carlos Marreiros presented at the 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale includes characters so far removed from one another as the late CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, and the 16th century Italian philosopher Giulio Camillo. The exhibition, titled “PATO.MEN - The Palace Theatre of Memory Encyclopedia,” aimed to make people think more about the era of information in which we live in and the challenges it presents.
This was the fourth time Macau was represented at the Venice Biennale – a large-scale exhibit of contemporary art taking place in Venice, Italy. But it was the first time that Macau was represented by a single artist. Carlos Marreiros was chosen from among 40 local talents, whose work was analyzed by a Jury Commission. “On the one hand I was very pleased to have been selected; on the other hand, it was quite a heavy burden, because I would be the one to first represent Macau alone,” the architect said during the Sharing Session of the 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, which took place last Saturday at the Macau Museum of Art (MAM).
The architect made use of a utopian theory outlined by the Italian philosopher Giulio Camillo, who in the 16th century conceived the idea of an amphitheater that could bear the imprint of the entire mnemonic universal knowledge. An installation of a white amphitheater as a symbol of this idea, palaces of knowledge, and even a reinvented Noah’s Ark, were just some of the elements showcased in the exhibition.
According to the director of MAM, Chan Hou Seng, “this was the most successful representation of Macau in the Venice Biennale.” He added that through this exhibit “we were able to promote the art of Macau across the globe, in the best possible light.”
Carlos Marreiros also seemed satisfied with the results of the exhibit: “I believe we represented Macau well; we had 1,000 visitors during the first day and 7,000 during June.” Moreover, he was particularly pleased that amongst these visitors were widely successful art critics and museum directors, including the director of the Museum of Modern Art – MOMA – in New York.
“I hope we have taken the first step to make Macau more known for its cultural and artistic values, because until now Macau, in an international perspective, isn’t particularly prestigious in the art sector,” Carlos Marreiros stated. Being the first to shoulder the responsibility of representing Macau alone, the architect believes that there is an advantage in presenting a one-artist exhibition: “There is more curatorial coherence, whereas in a collective exhibition we need to have quite a strong trusteeship: otherwise, the art pieces might have great value, but some will lose it along the way if there isn’t an element that unifies the whole exhibit.”
Furthermore, he explained that PATO.MEN “has a story and a particular circuit, which starts before the visitors enter the actual exhibition, as we set up a few elements outside of the pavilion.” The idea behind this exhibit is “to make people think about information, misinformation and its manipulation.” “The Internet is something great; we all use it. But it can be good and cause harm at the same time,” he stated.
In Venice, Carlos Marreiros had the support of other artists such as Chan Ka Keong, Sequeira Pa Keong and Dennis Murrel, who were also chosen to travel to Italy and to attend the Biennale.
The Venice Biennale was created in 1895 and it has become one of the world’s major contemporary art exhibits. Lasting three to five months, the event is seen as the “Olympics of Art.” High profile artists have the opportunity to showcase their work, either through national pavilions or in thematic exhibition. Staff reporter

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