A mosque from Iceland at Venice Biennale

THE MOSQUE will be installed in the historic church of …

THE MOSQUE will be installed in the historic church of Santa Maria della Misericordia in the Cannaregio sestiere. Photo: CIA Centre for Icelandic Art

Christoph Büchel will be representing Iceland at the Venice Biennale which begins on May 9th. The piece, titled The Mosque is located in a deconsecrated 10th century church and is set up in collaboration with the Icelandic Muslim Society. Mosques have neither risen in Venice or in Iceland.

According to a press release from the Centre of Icelandic Art, The Mosque will serve as a place of activity for the Venice Muslim Community and will offer an ongoing schedule of educational and cultural programs available to the general public.

"The creation of mosques is a source of contention today in locations around the globe. As the Venice Biennale contribution of Iceland, a country with one of the lowest immigration rates in the Western world, The Mosque also creates a reference point specifically for the Muslim Community of Reykjavik. The Iceland Muslim Community is gradually becoming a part of the social fabric there, and after twelve years of political debate and media controversy, is finally preparing to construct the first purpose-built mosque in the history of the nation’s capital," it states in the press release. 

Björg Stefánsdóttir, Director of the Iceland Art Center, Commissioner of the Icelandic Pavilion, commented, “La Biennale di Venezia has always been a window to the world of contemporary art and a great platform of discussion among countries. It is a place where the boundaries are tested and sometimes taken to the limit. The Icelandic Art Center is proud to present The Mosque, initiated by Christoph Büchel at the Icelandic Pavilion. Choosing Christoph fulfills the idea of the Icelandic Art Center to promote dialogue and communion among cultures, so much needed at home and abroad.”

At the Cannaregio church site of The Mosque, visitors will find the physical attributes of Muslim worship – the qibla wall, the mihrab, the minbar, and the large prayer carpet oriented in direction of Mecca – juxtaposed with the existing Catholic architecture of the Church of Santa Maria della Misericordia in a visual analog for the layering of history, religion, and culture that gives rise to both progress and conflict.

Christoph Büchel, born in Switzerland in 1966 is recognized internationally for his conceptual projects and complex large-scale installations. Büchel often draws upon current events and politics, re-appropriating mass media sources and everyday life situations. He lives in Seyðisfjörður, east Iceland. 

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