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Gallery head to oversee Ireland's art show at Venice

The director of the University’s contemporary art gallery is to take the helm of Ireland’s show at the world’s most prestigious visual art festival next month.

Tessa Giblin, director of Talbot Rice Gallery, is the Pavilion of Ireland’s commissioner and curator at the Venice Biennale.

Ms Giblin is working with the artist Jesse Jones to present the work, Tremble Tremble. The show runs for the duration of the Biennale, from May 13 to November 26.

Venice Biennale

Originally from New Zealand, Ms Giblin’s first experience of Europe was invigilating her home country’s show at the 2005 Venice Biennale.

It was an intense introduction to both the continent and the centre of the art world. She has returned several times.

Venice is just so diverse. It is this big jumble. There is sometimes a really great central show, and then a totally bizarre mix of national pavilions, all doing something different. It is challenging, exhausting and relentless. But super exciting as well. You are going between all these national pavilions and their relevant histories, politics, contexts, all in one of the world’s most beautiful, fascinating and discombobulating cities. It’s a really special place.

Irish Pavilion

Jesse Jones and Tessa Giblin
Jesse Jones and Tessa Giblin

Ms Giblin and Ms Jones were announced as the official Irish representatives in March 2016. They have worked together for several years and on this project since late 2015.

Tremble, Tremble is described as “an expanded form of cinema”. Ms Giblin says it will deal with contemporary issues in Ireland around women’s reproductive rights and the role of the law and the church in controlling them.

Part of Ms Jones’ response is to propose the return of the witch as a feminist archetype and a disrupter with the potential to transform reality.

For Ms Giblin, curating and commissioning a show for the world’s biggest and most important art festival has been a unique and demanding experience.

I had no idea when I set out. I knew the curating part well: working with the artist, researching and dreaming the whole thing up together. But the only way I can describe the commissioning part is that it’s building a mini institution from scratch, temporarily. It’s everything – staffing, fundraising, insurance. It’s full on. But there is a fluidity and freedom in that. You can have an idea, write it up, and go out there and get it.

Talbot Rice

Ms Giblin’s stewardship of the Irish pavilion is not the only link Talbot Rice has with this year’s Biennale.

Rachel Maclean, who graduated from Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) in 2009, will represent Scotland as part of Scotland + Venice.

Her work, Spite Your Face, is commissioned and curated by Alchemy Film & Arts in partnership with Talbot Rice Gallery and the University of Edinburgh.

Ms Giblin believes these connections, which will involve staff working at the Biennale, will change the Gallery.

For Talbot Rice Gallery to be involved in two pavilions this year is absolutely extraordinary. It’s how our profile will grow, but also in what we will learn while doing it. I hope that the horizons shift and stay out there, focussed on international dimensions and audiences. What we will bring back from Venice will be very exciting.

Elsewhere at the Biennale, ECA graduate Takahiro Iwasaki has been selected to represent Japan at the Biennale. Born in Hiroshima, Iwasaki studied an MFA in Edinburgh before graduating in 2005.

Related links

Talbot Rice Gallery

Edinburgh College of Art

Ireland at Venice

Scotland + Venice

Venice Biennale