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My text for the European Cultural Centre catalogue, the exhibition «PERSONAL STRUCTURES – Identities», in context of 58 La Biennale di Venezia 11.5 -24.11.2019

I never cease to marvel at the power of very small things. My attention is drawn to the overlooked, the rejected, the almost invisible, almost negligible. Is this a place where significance may be found? What value has a butterfly egg? May not the most exuberant, sumptuous and magic shapes be found among plants we usually hate?

There are weeds capable of as many as 50.000 - 700.000 seeds per plant. I love discovering the astonishing beauty in them and then enlarging them, carving them in stone, making the invisible visible. There is a great paradox in making the ephemeral last, making the vulnerable solid through an almost eternal material – stone. The organic turns inorganic. What is little and light becomes massive.

I am familiar with paper, concrete, fabric, wood, soil, grass, ash. Stone has, however, become my main medium in the last years. My sculptures pay close attention to nature, but they never try to copy it. Nature is a thrilling point of departure – until the sculpture as such processes it, following its own demands.

The works emerge autonomously, looking for somewhere to be. Or the place is given: an exhibition hall, an outside yard, a barley field, a bunker, a garden in Venice. The place invites cooperation, occupation, investigation. The work comes into existence in an understanding with place and history. Under all circumstances; this is an exercise in concentration, keeping a fixed glance, tuning the ear, searching for that which does not immediately let itself be found, waiting till it happens. 

PEPPER was the spice that made Venice great in the 14th century – and led to its fall in 1497, when Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India, and Portugal took over the trade. At its peak Venice traded more than 400 tons of pepper per annum. Pepper was Europe´s most sought-after spice, a status symbol in the medieval kitchen for those who could afford it. Dockworkers were subjected to a dress code without pockets, to prevent them from stealing.

Seen under a magnifying glass the peppercorn reveals interesting hollows, creating a structural and tactile pattern. I have chosen to chisel it in Norwegian Emerald Pearl. This stone has crystalline qualities, which when ground (not polished) give a leaden look that I much treasure. The stone has a discreet, but still lively surface.

The plinth is of light-coloured granite. Along its edge, the following text is carved into the stone: PEPPER – THE RISE AND FALL OF VENICE. I, BARBRO RAEN THOMASSEN, CREATED THIS BLACK PEPPER IN STONE IN THE YEAR 2019. I´M NORWEGIAN AND A WOMAN. I´M NOT ON FACEBOOK AND I HAVE NO MOBILE PHONE. PRAY FOR ME.

A separate version of the above identity text, appears as a long one-liner on black fabric in Palazzo Mora, embroidered with yellow fluorescent thread. Though at first sight an electronic billboard message, the letters are meticulously stitched by hand.

Barbro Raen Thomassen


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