Venice Biennale: Japan’s Pavilion by Salama Nasib

A handout photo of Salama Nasib, one of the many interns manning the UAE's National Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale. (Courtesy: Salama Nasib)
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As part of our on-the-ground series from the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale, The Art Blog has asked the team of interns from the UAE to bring us news from the many vibrant national pavilions from around the world. As well as spendnig one month in Venice manning the National Pavilion of the UAE, currently housing the exhibition curated by Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi: 1980 – Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates, Salama Nasib, an Emirati printmaker and installation artist who graduated from Zayed University, found time to visit Japan's Pavilion to bring us this report.

The Key in the Hand is a solo show by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota that takes up Japan's entire pavilion, situated in the Giardini area Venice. Curated by Hitoshi Nakano, the pavilion is among the leading presentations at Venice and when I visited, it was easy to see why.

The exhibition is a large-scale installation artwork, made of thousands of keys, collected from people all over the world. The keys are connected and intertwined together with red yarns suspended from the ceiling and the numbers are of such density that the threads forms a red cloud, which dangles over two wooden boats at the centre of the space.

The installation explores the notion of memory through the use of keys, which according to the artist, represent the common idea of protecting valuable people and spaces, and also the desire to open doors to unknown worlds. The boats, symbolising travelling together through time, carry people’s individual memories and bring them together in this pavilion, to introduce ideas about shared memories and to form connections with other people’s memories and feelings.

Additionally, a series of four short films are displayed - showing children remembering their first encounter with the world, answering the simple question of “How did you come into the world?” The children’s answers were very innocent and creative, with answers such as: “I stepped down from heaven to the earth” and “I came out while sneezing hard in mommy’s tummy!”

I found the experience of visiting the Japan Pavilion very enriching and it was aesthetically beautiful. There was an overriding element of contemplation, and an overall relaxed atmosphere in the space. The scale of the installation with the dominant crimson red colour was also another powerful aspect of the exhibition. The simple idea has been executed excellently and it succeeds in drawing visitors in to be part of this meditative experience. The Japan Pavilion has been one of the popular pavilions to visit in the biennale and if anyone is in Venice this year, I would say that Japan’s Pavilion is definitely a must-visit.

* To read more about the Japan Pavilion visit this site

* Keep up with Salama Nasib on Instagram on @veniceinterns as well as on her personal account @SalamaNasib and on hashtags #veniceinterns and @uaeinvenice.