Venice Biennale | Archie Moore And The Mataaho Collective Awarded With The Golden Lion

Archie Moore, a Kamilaroi and Bigambul artist representing Australia, was awarded the prize for Best National Participation for his pavilion exhibition delving into his family's millennia-old history. Meanwhile, the Mataaho Collective from New Zealand claimed the Golden Lion for Best Participant in the International Exhibition, recognized for their expansive and intricate woven installations.

by GRIOT - Published on 26/04/2024
Bigambul and Kamilaroi artist Archie Moore is the first Australian artist to win the top gong in the Venice Biennale's 129-year history. Photo: Venice Biennale/Andrea Rossetti

The awards of the International Jury have been presented with the following motivations:

Golden Lion for Best National Participation to Australia:

In this quietly powerful pavilion kith and kin, First Nations artist Archie Moore worked for months to hand-draw with chalk a monumental First Nations family tree. Thus 65,000 years of history (both recorded and lost) are inscribed on the dark walls as well as on the ceiling, asking viewers to fill in blanks and take in the inherent fragility of this mournful archive. Floating in a moat of water are redacted official State records, reflecting Moore’s intense research as well as the high rates of incarceration of First Nations’ people. This installation stands out for its strong aesthetic, its lyricism, and its invocation of shared loss for occluded pasts. With his inventory of thousands of names, Moore also offers a glimmer of possibility for recuperation.

Archie Moore has described the exhibition as a space for “quiet reflection and remembrance” Photo: Venice Biennale/Andrea Rossetti

Special mention as National Participation to Republic of Kosovo:

Small yet potent, Doruntina Kastrati’s installation The Echoing Silences of Metal and Skin, refers to feminized industrial labor and the wearing down of working women’s bodies. Referencing both the walnut shells used in factory-made Turkish delight as well as the medical parts used to replace worker’s knees as they make these sweets, Kastrati’s elegant sculptures invite viewers to interact with them. A vibrating soundscape travels up through the floor, resonating both in our bones and echoing a larger arena of feminist activism.

Golden Lion for the Best Artist in the International Exhibition Stranieri OvunqueForeigners Everywhere to Mataaho Collective:

The Maori Mataaho Collective has created a luminous woven structure of straps that poetically crisscross the gallery space. Referring to matrilinear traditions of textiles with its womb-like cradle, the installation titeld Takapau is both a cosmology and a shelter. Its impressive scale is a feat of engineering that was only made possibly by the collective strength and creativity of the group. The dazzling pattern of shadows cast on the walls and floor harks back to ancestral techniques and gestures to future uses of such techniques.

Installation view, Mataaho Collective, Photo: GRIOTmag

Silver Lion for a Promising Young Artist in the International Stranieri OvunqueForeigners Everywhere to Karimah Ashadu:

Karimah Ashadu with her video Machine Boys and related brass sculpture, Wreath, upends gendered assumptions about the gaze and what is considered proper to commemorate. With a searing intimacy, she captures the vulnerability of young men from the agrarian north of Nigeria who have migrated to Lagos and end up riding illegal motorbike taxis. Her feminist camera lens is extraordinarily sensitive and intimate, capturing the bikers’ subcultural experience as well as their economic precarity. Masterfully edited to draw out yet subtly critique the performance of masculinity on display, her sensual attention to surfaces of machine, flesh, and cloth reveals the rider’s marginal existence.

Karimah Ashadu, Machine boys. Photo: GRIOTmag

Two Special Mentions are awarded to the following artists:

Samia Halaby has been a longstanding artist, teacher, and activist who the jury wishes to honor with a special mention. Her commitment to the politics of abstraction has been married to her unwavering attention to the suffering of the people of Palestine. Her gorgeously rendered modernist painting in the “Nucleo Storico” of Foreigners Everywhere, entitled Black is Beautiful, suggests not only the sovereignty of the imagination but also the importance of global solidarities.

La Chola Poblete engages in critical play with histories of colonial representation from a trans Indigenous perspective. Her multivalent art–including watercolor, fabric, and photography–resists the exoticization of Indigenous women while she insists on the power of sexuality. She approaches Western religious iconography and indigenous spiritual practices with a trans and queer flair, inverting power relations with pieces that refer to ancestral knowledge from South America.

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