Republic of Cyprus Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale
“Two Days After Forever”
Artist: Christodoulos Panayiotou
Curator: Omar Kholeif
Deputy Curator: Daniella Rose King
Commissioner: Louli Michaelidou
Venue: Palazzo Malipiero, Sestiere San Marco 3079
The 1960s and ’70s were a major transitional period for the Republic of Cyprus; after gaining independence from British rule in 1960, the island suffered a violent conflict between its ethnic Greek and Turkish inhabitants, resulting in a militarized UN buffer zone and a split nation. In an almost archaeological fashion, Berlin-based Cypriot artist Christodoulos Panayiotou investigates and appropriates archival materials from this time in his country’s history, focusing on the official and accidental constructions of national identity—especially through the lens of cultural ceremony and spectacle.
Omar Kholeif, the curator of the Cypriot pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale, held an open call for artists to represent the country; in press materials, he states that he was looking for someone “to reflect on what it means to choreograph a history, navigate its multiple poles and exist in a present so weighted by the burden of contested ideologies.” He also wanted the exhibition to address the island nation’s physical position in the Mediterranean Sea as a gateway between Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Out of some 70 proposals, Khloeif selected Panayiotou’s interpretation of these ideas, comprising both past works and new commissions.
Panayiotou, who cites the modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht as an influence, received his formal training in dance. Indeed, the performing arts factor heavily into his anthropology-minded practice. In his 2008 work, Act 1: The Departure, for example, he combined archival materials with a found theater backdrop to tell a story about colonialism. “Two Days After Forever” will include site-specific performances at the Teatro Goldoni and on a boat in the Venetian Lagoon during opening week, as well as unannounced performances in the former palace that will host the pavilion.