Arts Council of Wales | Isobel Crawford

Isobel Crawford

Isobel Crawford shares her experience as an intern who worked on photographic documentation and the interpretation of the installation period in the Ludoteca.

Arriving shortly after the installation team in May, I found that work was already underway in the Santa Maria Ausiliatrice in preparation for Tim Davies’ exhibition for the Venice Biennale. Standing outside the solid, imposing doors I experienced feelings of both excitement and apprehension about what lay within. Inside, a long narrow hallway led to the altar room with interconnecting rooms opening off to the side in which the team were preparing the spaces to be used for his video installations and wall based work.

Conscious of their deadline to be ready for the opening, it was expedient to remain in the background while being prepared for any photographic opportunities as they arose. In making work that related to these preparations while at the same time revealing some of the character of the place, it was important to look beyond the ‘building site’ documenting singular features such as the font and the 18th century frieze of The Last Supper. The quality of light diffused by dust from the preparations gave the building, a former convent and hospital for the poor, an atmosphere of almost tangible stillness.

Venice is a city in which religion still permeates daily life, a skyline punctuated by church towers with tolling bells which started to influence the images I was ‘seeing’. Seemingly mundane artefacts on the site gradually began to take on different meanings. Doorways with shafts of ethereal light hinted at the celestial and images of work boots, screws and packing cases all evolved into a sequence which developed a narrative quality about love, loss and sacrifice.

While Venice has an abundance of famous tourist landmarks, I was drawn to quieter areas of the city, especially in the evenings exploring seemingly deserted streets and squares each with their capped well. The resulting images have an almost theatrical quality, enhanced by the strange colour casts created by the street lighting.

The experience of working in Venice to document the installation process unhindered by the distractions of daily life, has given me an insight into the processes involved in creating a major show. These experiences have also generated several potential ideas for future projects.

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