An exhibition of a new and ambitious body of work by artist Shezad Dawood open in May 2017 to coincide with the 57th Venice Biennale. The show will mark the launch of Leviathan, a ten-part film cycle conceived and directed by the artist that will unfold over the next three years. Leviathan is also being released as a series of written fictions. Episode 1 is available to read here.
The first two episodes of the film will be presented alongside a new series of textile and sculptural works in the newly-restored Palazzina Canonica, the former headquarters of the Institute of Marine Sciences in Venice, which is opening to the public for the first time since the 1970’s. The two-part exhibition will also feature a site-specific intervention in the Fortuny Factory in the island of Giudecca.
Curated by Alfredo Cramerotti, Leviathan is being presented by the Fondazione Querini Stampalia in collaboration with the Institute of Marine Sciences (CNR-ISMAR) and Fortuny in Venice. Following the launch in May, the project will embark on a three-year UK and international tour, culminating in a final presentation of all ten episodes in 2020.
Leviathan is set in an imaginary future whose inhabitants are the survivors of a cataclysmic solar event. Each episode is told from the point of view of a different character and follows them as they drift across Europe, Asia and North Africa, encountering a series of idiosyncratic communities. Filming locations include the Institute of Marine Sciences’ oceanographic platform in the Adriatic Sea, the Natural History Museum in London and an abandoned island in the Venetian lagoon.
In dialogue with a wide range of marine biologists, oceanographers, political scientists, neurologists and trauma specialists, Dawood has been exploring some key fault lines of the present and their possible interconnections. Taking a global and collective approach, Leviathan is a reflection on where we could be if a deeper understanding of trauma and climate erosion is not found, looking at what is not only a humanitarian crisis, but a wider crisis within our biosphere.
The new series of textile paintings has been developed in dialogue with the renowned textile manufacturer Fortuny, and will incorporate several of their hand-made fabrics. Dawood has furthermore been working closely with the Labanof in Milan, an institute that conducts research on personal effects lost by migrants during sea crossings to Lampedusa, in order to help families identify missing relatives. A series of artefacts and objects from the Labanof archive will provide the visual references for the new textile works.
The paintings will be installed in the library of the Palazzina Canonica, as well as in the showroom of the Fortuny factory in the Giudecca, established in 1919 and still operational today. In addition, a large-scale outdoor neon work titled Island Pattern, developed especially for the Fortuny Factory, will be unveiled within the garden façade of the building.
The exhibition in Venice will be accompanied by a lively public programme that will bring together specialists involved in the project for a series of informal discussions akin to the philosophical “agora” in Ancient Greece. These discussions will also be available in digital form through the project’s web platform, creating an archive aimed at scientists, researchers, students and the general public. In addition, a special film programme curated by Shezad Dawood in collaboration with streaming platform MUBI will run throughout the duration of the exhibition, with free film screenings taking place at the Palazzina Canonica.
The third film episode will be released in September 2017 and incorporated into the exhibition. Subsequent episodes will be co-commissioned and presented in partnership with a series of international venues, culminating in the presentation of all ten episodes in 2020.
The project is being developed with the support of Timothy Taylor, Outset Contemporary Art Fund, Galerie Gabriel Rolt, CREAM – University of Westminster, University of Salford Art Collection with support from The Contemporary Art Society and a circle of private patrons.
Particular thanks to to Ramin Salsali, who as our German trustee was invaluable in realizing this project.