Pavilion of Uruguay at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia


EVENTO may 13th – november 26, 2017 PRESS KIT

Pavilion of Uruguay

at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

Venice, Giardini della Biennale










Uruguay is represented at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia by a solo artist: Mario Sagradini (Montevideo, 1946), whose work, since 1990, has meant a rare and significant contribution to contemporary art. The Commissioner is Alejandro Denes, adviser of the National Culture Directorate at the Ministry of Education and Culture and the project is curated by Gabriel Peluffo Linari, architect of profession and an academic recognized by its investigations on uruguayan and latin american art.  

The uruguayan pavilion is one of the 29 pavilions located at Giardini della Biennale.


Artist ethnographer

Since 1990, Sagradini’s work has been a rare and significant contribution to contemporary art. During a long stay in Italy (1978 – 1985) he worked as an engraver of pieces of his own and also as an engraver of the artists Marino Marini and Ernesto Treccani, among others. When he returned to his native country, he became an attractive reference for the promotion of young artists, due to his unique way of understanding and exercising art, drifting through the world of words and things, rescuing experiences, objects and accounts of everyday life. Often, when working with the ethnographic find, he also works, with interest, with fragments of the Uruguayan history. So that, through the practices of art, the artist historian and the artist anthropologist reappear alternately (or simultaneously). As a fact, it is very frequent that he resorts to objects used in daily tasks to nourish his symbolic artifacts. For this reason, I have considered it pertinent to apply to this author, in general, the motto of “artist-ethnographer”.

The Law of the funnel

The art piece presented at Biennale Arte 2017 consists of the form of a corral for bovine cattle denominated “funnel”, used in Uruguay as from XIX century, which the artist has reconstructed from a barely visible old photograph. It has the form of a place thought for certain bodies, but is exhibited without them. Extracted from all contexts, it is offered as an empty cell, as a phantasmagorical scenario whose lost memory hopes to be replaced now by the presence of other bodies capable of occupying it.

The label “The Law of the funnel” with which he denominated the installation is a popular phrase that refers to the inequity of the legal system (the width for the few, the narrow for the many) that corresponds to the prison form of the artifact, whose two short narrow entrance and exit gates are crowned by doors like guillotines, all of which suggests a mysterious ritual or sacrificial function. Part of a story that covers more than a hundred years of rural work in the Río de la Plata River region is synthesized in this political machine intended to select and decide the final destination of bodies, so that it can also be read as a metaphor about power and the animalism of the human condition.

There are two aspects combined in this proposal: on the one hand the format of architectural constitution and on the other the theatrical vocation of the installation. The first one obeys the original function of the “funnel”, by virtue of which it includes portals, access gates, cattle chutes, walls, and other devices that give the whole a configuration appropriate to human scale and close to architecture language.

The second one is a consequence of the assembly conditions and its scenographic conception, which invites the visitor to engage in a physical dialogue with the artifact to cross the virtual barrier imposed by the spectacle.

Such characteristics give the work a historical reason and a current function prepared to the game of meanings, which separates it from the classical minimalist drift. Its inert presence, despite adjusting to human height, exerts a formal and scale friction against the architectural “wrapping” of the pavilion, strong enough for us to recognize in it a monumental aspiration which at the same time insinuates a mysterious and ritual character. This last aspect enables the suspicion, among others, of being before a container suitable for sacrificial functions: a chamber with two openings (one of admission and one of release) that operates selectively on all those who are under classification and discriminatory laws. The decagon of central space has its most disturbing indicators in two high guillotine-like portals that crown the exit gates. The whole piece suggests that there is something we need to know, something that is beyond the simple and exotic object of wood, something spectral and invisible to the eye. This disturbing dimension is part of a fatal poetics that tends to put the nature of the artifact on the edge of the sinister. Sagradini does not exhibit the ruin generated by history, but the archetype that gave rise to a history. In this piece there is an intellectual work of archaeological exhumation, not of an object, but of its image.

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