From Xi'an to Venice with Prune Nourry

Artist Prune Nourry went from one of the oldest cities in China, Xi’an—where she’s busily working on a forthcoming show, “Terracotta Daughters”—to one of the oldest cities in Western Europe, Venice, to present an exhibition concurrent with the Venice Biennale. In a one-night multimedia experience, her project, “Genesis”, married religion and sexual identity into one unforgettable piece. Learn about Nourry’s “Genesis”, plus her Venice Biennale favorites, surprises, and inspiration.

Artsy: What were your three favorite national pavilions at this year’s Venice Biennale, and why?

Prune Nourry: Portugal—I like the in situ reflexion. Making a boat as a pavilion in Venice, and the movement it creates. Great idea. The Netherlands—for the sculptures and the "like-in-the-studio" installations.

I didn't get a chance to see that many pavilions as I had very little time with my work. Also, the French one was unfortunately closed for technical issues.

Artsy: What works or aspects of “The Encyclopedic Palace” exhibition stayed with you after you left?

PN: That you get easily lost in this place. I would love to meet the architect who thought the directions of the space...  I say that to myself every two years! And the eyes of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's paintings stayed with me after I left. I love their intensity.

Artsy: What work or artist at the Venice Biennale surprised you?

PN: I really like the art of Camille Henrot. The way she mixes art and anthropology. It was a nice surprise to see she won the Silver Lion.

Artsy: Were there any artists represented at the Venice Biennale that you were previously unaware of who you would like to meet in person now? Or other artists whose work you will now seek out as a result of the Venice Biennale?

PN: I discovered a Chinese artist from Xi'an (where I have now been working for a year with craftsmen on my next project, Terracotta Daughters) who looked like a very interesting and wise woman from the artworks and the text I could read on her, so I said to myself, “I'd love to meet her during my next trip.” I'm there right now and it was very sad when I realized she had just passed away.

Artsy: You presented your project “Genesis” in the Alliance Francaise, located in the historic Casino Venier. Was your project created for this particular venue? Did the project play with nationality—French or Italian, perhaps—at all?

PN: I had had in mind for a while now two videos, Adam & Eve, based on the idea that sexual identity is simplified to “F” and “M”, despite there being a wide range of in-betweens. The opportunity of an event in Italy, state of religion (and it's duality with sexuality), was a perfect timing to show them. So I shot them in my New York City studio with dancers, and worked on another in situ live performance which would make sense inside the Casino Venier.

This historic building is a brothel from the 18th century. It inspired me the live show with Kastuni, a porn star and aerial performer, who danced on a choreography that we based on pole dance figures mixed with Baroque Italian sculptures from the Casino's period, like the Louvre's famous Hermaphrodite.

Artsy: In one sentence, how will you remember this Venice Biennale?

PN: Long to prepare, fast to enjoy.

Learn more about Prune Nourry’s Genesis project.

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