• Ideas
  • May 15, 2019

58th Venice Biennale, Part 3: National Pavilions in the Arsenale

The Arsenale complex with CHRISTOPH B

For those who noticed the massive, 23-meter-long rusting fishing boat with two gaping holes in its hull, sitting next to the placid Arsenale shipyard’s waters—and it seemed like many biennale-goers did not—Christoph Büchel’s Barca Nostra (“Our Boat”) (2019) was a horrific piece of evidence testifying to the thousands who have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in the past decade. It certainly doesn’t look like an artwork, next to the shipyard’s old crane. But it has a story to tell in this context. More than 800, and possibly as a many as 1,100 people, were packed into the ship when it sank after colliding with a Portuguese rescue boat in April 2015 off the coast of Libya.