Oliver Beer, Little Gods 2022, courtesy Parasol Unit
During my years leaving in London, Parasol Unit was one of my favourite destination for art and ideas. Established in 2004 in Hackney by curator, philanthropist and PhD graduate in Physical Chemistry Dr Ziba Ardalan, this cultural hub was the symbol of the best London had to offer in those days : diversity, talent, boldness and excitement. With exhibitions showing both emerging and established artists like Rana Begum, Heidi Bûcher, Tschabalala Self, Shezad Dawood and Jimmie Durham. I got inspired by the exhibitions, and the program built on the model of a Kunsthalle.
Rana Begum in collaboration with Hyetal, N694 Hyetal 2016
Parasol Unit has closed its door in London a couple of years ago, but the mission continues stronger than ever as Ziba Ardalan is now sharing her vision through an itinerant program around the world. Bringing a cross cultural dialogue around contemporary art and society wherever it feels relevant to engage the audience.
Martin Puryear, Shackled 2014, courtesy of Parasol UnitThis year Parasol Unit is in Venice, offering one of the most intellectually challenging proposal we can see in the city.
Uncombed, Unforeseen, Unconstrained, is a group exhibition of works by eleven international contemporary visual artists : Darren Almond, Oliver Beer, Rana Begum with Hyetal, Julian Charrière, David Claerbout, Bharti Kher, Arghavan Khosravi, Teresa Margolles, Si On, Martin Puryear, and Rayyane Tabet.
Rayanne Tabet, Steel Rings, 2019
"In their practices, these artists have independently identified and poignantly responded to various unfavourable phenomena that over recent decades have gradually reached a level of overwhelming significance in our day-to-day life, environment and within our social and collective history. Many of the issues – such as environmental pollution, global warming, racism, political activism, health hazards, uncontrolled globalisation, unregulated digitalisation, excess and waste, widespread greed, a rampant thirst for power and the disproportionate accumulation of wealth – are largely due to the activities of Earth's own inhabitants, which are seriously threatening life on the planet and putting at risk even a minimum requirement for peace and harmony in the world."
David Claerbout, Wildfire 2019-2020, courtesy Parasol Unit
You travel aesthetically, geographically and spiritually with each artist who share his vision. Libanese artist, Rayyane Tabet's minimal steel installation, raises issues around the exploitation of natural resources. Indian artist Bhari Kher, shares a collection of imaginary beings created from her collection of painted clay figurines from southern India. Her own interpretation of a post human world. When English artist Darren Almond three screen film installation takes us on a meditative journey to Tibet, suggesting the the aggressive intrusion of a superpower - China - into a peaceful culture, and reflecting on the human condition.
Bhari Kher, The Intermidiaries 2019
Darren Almond, In the Between 2006, courtesy Parasol Unit
What makes the show so compelling is the conversation artists engage with each other and with the visitors and the interaction between the works and the site. Venice's conservatory is housed in beautiful Palazzo Pisani built in 1615. The venue is powerful and I have asked Julian Charrière - whom I first met when he had its premiering solo show in the UK at Parasol Unit how it felt to install it there.
"Installing works in the courtyard of Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello was a very special sensorial experience. It presents an architecture, which unlike many other buildings in Venice, has not been extensively restored. Rather the stones are weathered, marked by the environmental conditions of the site, from rainfall, flooding and pollution alike. This felt particularly poignant for the erratic boulders of Not All Who Wander Are Lost. They too are artefact of climate change, though on a much deeper timescale, travelling through the landscape with growing glaciers that have since receded. Much like the music which echoes along the halls of the conservatory still, one can feel the wingbeat's of history in the material itself."
Nadja Romain at Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello for Parasol UnitUncombed, Unforeseen, Unconstrained - Parasol Unit in Venice
Nadja Romain, August 2022