Eight students and volunteers travelled to Venice in early May to be part of our first cohort of Fellows. We asked them about their experiences:
Rachel Goodwin from the University of Dundee
How has it been working at the British Pavilion?
Many visitors have commented on how brilliant the exhibition is. One gentleman commented that Phyllida’s work was the best he had seen in the twenty years he had been visiting the British Pavilion.
Phyllida struck me as a very genuine and humble lady. It was wonderful to hear her speak about her work as we took a tour for the first time as it proved to be a very interesting experience.
I think my favourite piece is in Gallery 2 of the British Pavilion. I particularly enjoy that only the adventurous visitors actually see the whole piece as a great many are unaware that it is there. Seeing the surprise on visitors' faces when they realise that there is a hidden surprise is very enjoyable. The stillness of the suspended work has a calming and uplifting effect which is so different to the intimidation and instability that the rest of the gallery seems to induce in me.
What other exhibitions would you recommend in Venice?
I would definitely recommend Rachel Maclean’s Spite Your Face in the Scotland + Venice exhibition. It is a visually pleasing, fun and yet very serious film which highlights contemporary social and societal values with a focus in politics.
Chris Bailkoski from Manchester School of Art
What’s the best thing about the Venice Fellowship?
Meeting Phyllida was a personal highlight of the Fellowship so far. Her tour of the exhibition enabled me to gain a better understanding of her work and the processes of making that I am able to translate to visitors when they ask for more information about folly.
My highlights have been meeting other artists, collectors, curators and galleries from around the world and gradually building on these global networks.
What’s your favourite work in the British Pavilion?
I really like 'coil column', the use of colour and materials playfully contrasting with the other columns in the room and, for me, it also has connotations of danger and constriction. The literal strangulation of this monument metaphorically signifying an end, of sorts, to global monumentalism as we currently know it but there is also an outward looking, optimistic vibrancy, perhaps offering a glimpse of a different way forward.
What else would you recommend in Venice?
I would recommend the German and Austrian pavilions but I haven't seen them all yet.
Hazel Clegg from the University of Salford, School of Arts and Media
Have there been any special moments during the Fellowship?
I'm going to be a real softy here and say meeting Phyllida and being there for her opening speech which left me feeling a bit emotional! It was such a brilliant speech.
She is extremely down to earth and probably the most lovely person you could meet. The way in which she speaks so articulately about her work and her vast wealth of knowledge was really amazing to listen to and it has helped a lot when visitors have asked if we can explain the work given that we received such a privileged insight into Phyllida's own thoughts.
What's your favourite work in the Pavilion and why?
I'd want to say the post in Gallery 3 because I have engaged with the work so much regarding deterring visitors from walking into it and then the conversations that follow on from that. But, since I first walked into the Pavilion, the balcony in Gallery 4 has been my favourite. A lot of visitors seem to appreciate the balcony as well, and I really like to engage with visitors about said work because I feel I have the best connection with this piece.
What other art have you seen?
I haven't had chance to explore much of the Giardini yet but on my lunch hours I have popped into USA, Russia, Germany (not during a performance unfortunately), Nordic Countries, Venezuela, Switzerland and Canada of course. So far I really enjoyed a few pieces in the US pavilion but given that my work is very figurative I was inspired by Juan Calzadilla's work in the Venezuelan Pavilion. I'm excited to go and visit the Austrian Pavilion with Erwin Wurm and also the main pavilion that is housing Kiki Smith and John Waters.
What else have you learnt in Venice?
I've begun to pick up some of the Italian language! Which is great apart from when I pronounce it disastrously wrong. Italian coffee is also great and I wish I could take it all home with me.