Pavilion of the Seychelles at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia
In May 2017, Arterial Network Seychelles took part in a group exhibition presented in the Pavilion of the Seychelles at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. 'Slowly Quietly' was an exhibition of work by 16 prominent Seychellois artists, collectively known as Group Sez.
ABOUT GROUP SEZ AND THE EXHIBITION
Group Sez. 16 Seychellois artists working to a common theme, the personalisation of a life sized fibre glass reptile – the indigenous Seychelles Giant Tortoise, star of a million tourists' photographs, massive and heavy, a creature out of time, rheumy-eyed and a thousand years old even as it emerges from the egg.
Based around a real tortoise carapace – the ultimate found object – Georges Camille has fashioned an original sculpture from which, through the parthenogenesis of moulds, glass fibres and resin, a 'creep' (the correct collective noun) of 16 brethren has been created, each one subsequently adopted and customised by a member of Group Sez.
No two creatures are the same. One has wings, resplendent as an angel's, bright and white and light enough to lift it away from the mud in which it is usually embroiled. One carries the imagery and iconography of jazz. One carries the crazed hieroglyphics of the Seychelles Moutia dance in a line drawing of voodoo-esque frenzy. One is covered with tattoos of wire. One sits aloft on a welded construction as if propelled forwards at an ironic and impressive speed.
Collectively the 16 sculptures create a dialogue about some of the principal concerns currently active in the Seychelles.
How do we balance development and improved infrastructure with the duty to preserve one of the most beautiful environments on earth?
What is the deeper power and resonance of the giant tortoise and other culturally iconic forms; that power which lies beneath and beyond the ear studs and the t-shirts?
How do we enrich our cultural messaging systems and avoid choking them with banality?
How do artists put food on the table without aesthetic compromise?
How do we honour our indigenous life forms rather than trivialise them?
The sculptures tell us a great deal, not only about the individual responses of the artists to their iconic blanks, but also about their prior practice, which clearly informs the realised pieces. One conversant with the contemporary art landscape in Seychelles will have no difficulty identifying the work of each artist from the mass. Each artist has brought his or her past to the project. Each work is infused with the aesthetic DNA of its creator. And yet it is the power of the collective which prevails, for when viewed together the sixteen sculptures become what American composer and musician Frank Zappa called 'the big note', quite simply the combined force of the cooperative enterprise. Seen en masse these sculptures complement and inform each other, and their individuality is mitigated somewhat as a small society is created, with recognisable common themes and elements.
There are powerful Seychellois myths around many natural and national icons; it is said that a person visiting Praslin island's Vallee de Mai on a windy night will see the ancient and gigantic male Coco de Mer tree moving through the forest in search of a female tree to fertilise. Who is to say that here in Venice the tortoises of Group Sez have elected not to take advantage of the night to break down the order of the exhibition, to move around each other, socialise, copulate, hiss and sing together?
George Camille | Leon Radegonde | Colbert Nourrice | Egbert Marday | Alcide Libanotis | Christine Chetty-Payet | Alyssa Adams | Tristan Adams | Zoe Chong Seng | Daniel Dodin | Danny Sopha | Charles Dodo | Allen Ernesta | Nigel Henri | Christine Harter
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