Queendom: Ilit Azoulay

23 April - 27 November 2022

The Israel Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia features the internationally acclaimed artist Ilit Azoulay. Her work minutely scrutinizes how visual information is processed, by means of a unique photographic and interrogative method that disassembles and reassembles previously unexamined elements. Through a prism of knowledge production and the imagination, Azoulay changes how the world is perceived. Within the context of the Biennale Arte 2022, she addresses intersectional questions of cultural appropriation, shared histories, and the sovereignty of art.

  • Ilit Azoulay, Queendom, 2022, Israel Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia. Photo by Jens Ziehe
  • Azoulay’s project, Queendom, comprises large-scale panoramic photomontages, a sound installation produced in collaboration with light-language channeler Maisoun Karaman, and architectural interventions. The Queendom is governed by art, and its story is one of female and cultural empowerment. It is compiled from data that arises from a comprehensive system crash, following a malfunction of existing power structures, and pours out of the digital realm into the physical realm of the Giardini della Biennale. Beneath an ultramarine canopy, the pavilion is transformed into the Queendom’s palace, shifting from of its decades-long national and patriarchal programming into a trans-regional and re-gendered space. Azoulay also reconfigures its architectural orientation from West to East—away from a male-centered gaze to female empowerment, and from Eurocentric modernity to Middle Eastern contemporaneity.

     

    Azoulay habitually composes images based equally on information gleaned from oral histories and storytelling, and rigorous research and investigation. Her point of departure for the current project is a nearly forgotten archive of obsessively photographed medieval metal vessels from the Islamic world, compiled by the Austro-Jewish-British art historian David Storm Rice (1913–1962) and bequeathed to the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem. These are precious objects that were produced in the Middle East, traded in the Levant, brought to Europe via Venice, and are now mostly held in Western museums.

  • Ilit Azoulay, Queendom Panel 7, 2022. Inkjet print, 150x204 cm. Courtesy the Artist_ Braverman Gallery. © Ilit Azoulay_ L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art, Jerusalem
  • Azoulay engages with these archival photographs by scanning, cropping, and changing them onto new data carriers, and the photomontaged images are then digitally “welded” onto scanned metal plates. She uses digital craftwork to visualize the afterlife of the images and their transformations, accentuating histories of appropriation and missing links in their geographies of knowledge. The resulting panoramic photomontages function as pathways to the imaginary expanse of the Queendom, from whence a universal language of healing transmitted by Maisoun Karaman projects out to the visitors and extends throughout the pavilion’s premises.

  • Ilit Azoulay, Queendom panel 4, 2022. Inkjet print, 140x355 cm. Courtesy the Artist_ Braverman Gallery. © Ilit Azoulay_ L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art, Jerusalem
  • Within the terra artis of Queendom, the migration of visual data can be explored. What do images that are twice removed from their source remember—and in a digitally connected world, can these be recontextualized? Is it possible for art to transition from its assigned identity? What at first appears to be an innocent foray into a realm of fantasy is, in fact, a call to take responsibility for one’s imagination.

  • Ilit Azoulay, Queendom Panel 2, 2022. Inkjet print, 395x150 cm. Courtesy the Artist_ Braverman Gallery. © Ilit Azoulay_ L.A. Mayer...

    Ilit Azoulay, Queendom Panel 2, 2022. Inkjet print, 395x150 cm. Courtesy the Artist_ Braverman Gallery. © Ilit Azoulay_ L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art, Jerusalem

  • Ilit Azoulay, Queendom Panel 3, 2022. Inkjet print, 215x135 cm. Courtesy the Artist_ Braverman Gallery. © Ilit Azoulay_ L.A. Mayer...

    Ilit Azoulay, Queendom Panel 3, 2022. Inkjet print, 215x135 cm. Courtesy the Artist_ Braverman Gallery. © Ilit Azoulay_ L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art, Jerusalem

  • Ilit Azoulay, Queendom Panel 6, 2022. Inkjet print, 149x182 cm. Courtesy the Artist_ Braverman Gallery. © Ilit Azoulay_ L.A. Mayer...

    Ilit Azoulay, Queendom Panel 6, 2022. Inkjet print, 149x182 cm. Courtesy the Artist_ Braverman Gallery. © Ilit Azoulay_ L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art, Jerusalem

  • Ilit Azoulay, Queendom Panel 1, 2022, Inkjet print, 160x395 cm. Courtesy the Artist_ Braverman Gallery. © Ilit Azoulay_ L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art, Jerusalem
  • The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue in English, Arabic, and Hebrew published by DISTANZ Verlag, with contributions by Naomi Alderman, Timo Feldhaus, Tehila Hakimi, Hanin Hannouch, Shelley Harten, Sheikha Helawy, Adi Keissar, Lali Tsipi Michaeli, Vicki Shiran, Anat Zecharia.

    Queendom is also accompanied by a digital platform launching in May 2022 that features special programming including talks between the artist and curator and contextual materials and insights that delve into the artist’s archive-based methodology.

    Queendom (2022) is curated by Dr. Shelley Harten, Curator for Contemporary and Modern Art and History, Jewish Museum Berlin.