Anna Jermolaewa – La Biennale di Venezia 2024

Austrian Contribution to the 60th International Art Exhibition





The 60th International Art Exhibition, curated by Adriano Pedrosa, will be open from Saturday 20 April to Sunday 24 November at the Giardini and Arsenale venues. For the Austrian contribution to the Biennale Arte 2024, Anna Jermolaewa, born in 1970 in Leningrad (USSR) and based in Vienna (Austria), draws a thematic arc from her experience as a political refugee to signifiers of revolution and subversion against non-democratic regimes.

In her practice, Anna Jermolaewa, proves to be an astute observer of human coexistence. While her work is conceptual, it also touches on the poetry of everyday life. Her process results in videos, photographs, and drawings, as well as room-spanning mises-en-scène, that ask us to analyze society and our social and political interactions within it.

One of the exhibition’s main works, Rehearsal for Swan Lake (2024) – realized in collaboration with the Ukrainian ballet dancer and choreographer Oksana Serheieva – refers to a memory from Jermolaewa’s teen years: In times of political unrest, for instance the death of a head of state, Soviet television replaced their regularly scheduled broadcast with Swan Lake…in a loop for days.

In Soviet cultural memory, Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet became code for a change in power. In Jermolaewa’s work, a group of ballet dancers rehearse selected scenes, turning it from a tool of censorship and distraction into a form of political protest: these dancers rehearse for regime change in Russia.

Along with the video, installation, and performance work Rehearsal for Swan Lake, the presentation at the Austrian pavilion exhibits a combination of newly developed or elaborated works, using a wide spectrum of media. The curator of the Austrian Pavilion is Gabriele Spindler.

Anna Jermolaewa & Oksana Serheieva, Rehearsal for Swan Lake, 2023, Photo: Anna Jermolaewa
Anna Jermolaewa & Oksana Serheieva, Rehearsal for Swan Lake, 2023. Photo: Anna Jermolaewa

Anna Jermolaewa’s contribution at the Austrian Pavilion blends seamlessly with the general theme of the Biennale Arte 2024, “Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere”, chosen by Adriano Pedrosa, which concentrates on foreignness, migration and issues of national identity and cultural diversity, with a focus on artists who have known flight and migration.

“In 1989 I came to Austria, which has become my home country, from the Soviet Union as a political refugee. During my last years in Leningrad, I was very active politically. We had clear methods: writing texts, organizing demonstrations, distributing pamphlets, publishing the Samizdat newspaper, which was critical of the regime. Being an artist, I have different tools and a different line of action. When Russia invaded Ukraine, I found it difficult to see any point in making art. So, like many of us, I resorted to direct action, for example to help Ukrainian refugees. Now it’s settled in such a way that I can combine both art and direct action very well, and I think I see a way where the two fields complement each other productively.” – Anna Jermolaewa

Gabriele Spindler und Anna Jermolaewa, photo by Maria Ziegelböck
Gabriele Spindler and Anna Jermolaewa. Photo: Maria Ziegelböck

Anna Jermolaewa (born as Анна Ермолаева in 1970) is a conceptual artist from Leningrad (USSR). Having been accused of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda as one of the original members of the first opposition party, the Democratic Union, and co-editor of one if its newspapers, she fled to Austria in 1989 and was granted political asylum. Her artistic practice comprises a wide spectrum of media: video, installation, painting, performance, photography, and sculpture. Since 2019, Anna Jermolaewa has been professor of Experimental Design at the Linz University of Arts. Apart from numerous individual exhibitions, she has taken part in various Biennale events since 1999. She is represented in numerous collections with her work and aside from many other honors was recently awarded the City of Vienna’s Dr. Karl Renner Prize for her social commitment as a member of the association ‘Ariadne − Wir Flüchtlinge für Österreich’ [‘We Refugees for Austria’].

Visitor Information
Preview days: April 17 – 19, 2024
Exhibition duration: April 20 – November 24, 2024
Opening hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Closed Mondays)
Opening of the Austrian Pavilion: April 18, 2024, 3 p.m.
Venue: Giardini della Biennale, Sestiere Castello, 30122 Venice, Italy

Cover picture: Rehearsal for Swanlake 2023 © Anna Jermolaewa

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Florian Bauer

Director Social Finance, Sustainability and Innovation
Since 2023, Florian Bauer has been responsible for social finance, sustainability and social innovation at ERSTE Foundation. Prior to this role, Florian worked in the NGO & Social Entrepreneurship sector for more than 13 years. He led the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), an international multilateral NGO that works to accelerate market-based deployment of renewable energy and energy efficient systems in developing countries, and was Managing Director & COO of the Impact Hub Vienna. From 2020-2023, Florian established strategic alliances with key partners and helped to create innovative semantic technology solutions at Semantic Web Company (SWC), a leading IT company in semantic AI solutions.