Art Class: Meeting Ólafur Elíasson @ Venice Biennale 2017 ~The Green Light Workshop~
The Greenlight Workshop has been taking place in the Central Pavilion this year at the Venice Biennale. I'm just going to be real for a second since this is an Art Class post. I was totally unsure what a Biennale is. I've been to them of course, but the word itself Biennial, just means every two years... So I always wondered whether or not there was a special meaning attached when it's used in art, as an abcedarian in the world of art I've always been prone to self doubt. So, if like me, you were always wondering: here it is!
So there you have it. I was right! It's just an art exhibition that happens every two years! I went to the Taipei Biennale when I lived in Taiwan too. Honestly, knowing I could potentially see another exhibition by an artist I admire was quite a reassurance when I made the decision to come to Venice to study. however, this exhibit is slightly different. His exhibit this year is in the form of a workshop.
The Green light workshop invites refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and members of the general public to come and take part in shared learning, language courses and construction of green lanterns in Olafur Eliasson's signature style. The workshop is meant to tackle issues of belonging and displacement. It reminded me of Synesthesia, the design exhibition decidated to stories of migration, located in Strada Nuova at the Palazzo Michiel which is also on until the end of this month. The Green light project is trying to build their own community through public engagement. You can learn more about the Green Light project and buy some of your own lanterns here. So far they have brought this project to Houston, Texas, Vienna, Venice, Japan and are working to continue and expand the project to many more countries.
The Green light initiative is a collaboration between Olafur Eliasson and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Gallery in Vienna. At the event they screened films produced by the participants and there was a talk given by Nira Yuval-Davis, a professor at the University of East London. This was then followed up by a panel discussion with Olafur Eliasson, Charl Landvreugd, a dutch artist and the Green light participants.The discussion got quite heated as participants demanded to know what would become of the project after the Biennale ended. Would these established artists simply cease to care? They demanded to know what more would be done to help their situations.
I feel like their criticisms and ideas were being listened to so I hope to see a continuation of the Green light workshop in some form. It was evident that it helped people grow self esteem and even make friends. One of the participants even addressed the audience in Italian as a result of his Italian language classes. Sometimes its not that migrants don't want to mix, but sometimes the new society they've moved to haven't given them a chance.
This project and the discussion definitely opened my eyes to the struggles many migrants face in Europe every day. I lead a relatively lucky life from the ivory tower of being an expat and not an immigrant in the countries I've lived in. The only difference being my British passport.
You could feel the sincerity from the artists and workers who got involved, sometimes it's clear when people do things because they believe in it rather than for prestige or cash. Sometimes to see others progress is reward enough. I'm not sure about the future of the Green light workshop but I hope it makes a difference to the lives of those who need our help the most.
On a completely unrelated side note. Heart hammering against my chest and with incredibly sweaty palms and a nervous grin I went up the Artist himself, introduced myself and got a picture with him. I won't share it because I look like a mess but for me, meeting the artist whose work encouraged me to get out of bed and explore my surroundings was definitely a moment to remember. I'm also grateful for my friend who came with me to this event.