Iceland’s official national contribution to the 2015 Venice Biennale, ‘The Mosque,’ initiated by artist Christoph Büchel in collaboration with the Muslim communities of Venice and Iceland and commissioned by the Icelandic Art Center (IAC), was closed by city authorities on Friday. The IAC regrets the decision.
The art installation has proven highly controversial, especially given its location inside the Church of Santa Maria della Misericordia.
‘The Mosque’ at the 2015 Venice Biennale. Photo: Icelandic Art Center/Bjarni Grímsson.
“The purpose of ‘The Mosque’ is to draw attention to the political institutionalization of segregation and prejudice in society, and to catalyze reflection upon the conflicts that arise from the sorts of governmental policies on immigration that lie at the heart of global ethnic and religious conflicts today,” explained IAC chair Eiríkur Þorláksson in a statement.
“The aim of our project, a peaceful and beautiful one, is to provide a platform for dialogue about and communication between different cultural positions, and to thus make a positive contribution to this dialogue on the international stage,” he continued.
“With these objectives in mind, we believe ‘The Mosque’ is a truly significant part of La Biennale di Venezia, particularly in light of the Biennale’s own central theme of ‘All The World’s Futures.’ ‘The Mosque’ has already been enormously successful in drawing the international public into very important explorations,” he pointed out.
Eiríkur stressed that the Church of Santa Maria della Misericordia is privately owned and was officially deconsecrated for in 1973 by the then Patriarch of Venice Albino Luciani, and rented by the IAC specifically to house the pavilion during the full course of the Biennale.
The police reasoned that the organizers of the Icelandic pavilion had not complied with existing regulations and have given them 60 days to make improvements and appeal the closure, mbl.is reports.
The organizers of the Icelandic pavilion and Venice city authorities are said to disagree on whether ‘The Mosque’ is an artwork or a real mosque.