val canale, 2005

Still: Courtesy the artist | Engholm Engelhorn Galerie, Vienna

Single-channel video installation, color, sound
59 min 17 sec

Hans Schabus’s monumental takeover of the Austrian Pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennale essentially converting a cultural location into a pseudo-natural setting when the artist mantled the pavilion with timber and tarpaper, transforming it into a full-scale mountain for an intervention titled The Last Land. The building, designed by Josef Hoffmann in 1935, is located on the Venetian island Sant’Elena, which is fittingly man-made from detritus of demolished houses and excavations. The extraordinary undertaking conceived of the pavilion as a singular space, a mountain to be explored by its visitors. 

In his creative practice, Hans Schabus concerns himself with the location of the artwork, staging interventions to explore the physical and psychological characteristics of the space to resulting in a stage-like location for display. The labyrinth contained within The Last Land hinted at something primeval, a metaphorical journey in physical form across multiple levels and viewing platforms. In conceiving the pavilion, Schabus extensively researched history of the pavilion, the first international fairs, and the Venice Biennale. Beginning at the artist’s studio in Vienna and spanning the peaks and valleys of the Austrian and Italian landscapes and histories, the work arrives its final form in Venice where it is documented within the “mountain.” 

Originally placed in the artistic “control center” of the mountain, the hour-long film val canale was shot from a helicopter as a documentation of the journey from Vienna to Italy. The landscape is one of the most extraordinary in the region: a meeting point of alpine forests, lakes, and mountains. This contemporary view shows the somewhat surreal affects of a natural landscape marked by erosion and earthquakes, wars, and transit. – Alicia Reuter

*1970 in Watschig, Austria | Living and working in Vienna, Austria