Commotion in Venice over Iceland's mosque
THE MOSQUE: The First Mosque in the Historic City of Venice by Swiss-Icelandic artist Christoph Büchel. Photo: Bjarni Grímsson
Iceland's contribution to the Venice Biennale could be in danger of not being opened at all today. The Biennale opens for the 56th time today and necessary permits have not yet been obtained for The Mosque by artist Christoph Büchel. The mosque, according to the title, is the first mosque in the historic city of Venice. Venetian officials sent a letter in April to the Center for Icelandic Art saying that the mosque could pose a security threat. They added that the site of the work would be difficult for police to survey, surveillance necessary in light of “the current international situation and the possible risks of attack by some religious extremists."
Büchel, a Swiss artist who lives in Iceland, and the curator Nína Magnúsdóttir however decided to continue building and today it is still unclear whether the Icelandic pavilion will actually open or not.
Still no permits only one hour before the opening
Icelandic art professor Guðmundur Oddur Magnússon who is currently in Venice, said to mbl.is this morning that a formal permit for the Icelandic pavilion has still not been obtained. "This is all we know, one hour before opening," says Magnússon. He adds that the atmosphere is tense and that those who have viewed the piece are astounded by its beauty.
Magnússon says he has been pondering on this security threat and what the threat actually really is, and whether it's simply idealogical. "There's nothing wrong with the exhibitit. There's nothing wrong with the place. There's a square in front of it and it's all completely without worry. Who is supposed to be attacking the piece? Catholics or Jews?"
The New York Times published a lengthy article on The Mosque at the Biennale yesterday titled Mosque Installed at Venice Biennale Tests City’s Tolerance.
THE MOSQUE: The First Mosque in the Historic City of Venice’, is situated in a deconsecrated church, Santa Maria della Misericordia Photo: Bjarni Grímsson
The Catholic church, Santa Maria della Misericordia,dates from the tenth century and has not been used for worship for more than 40 years.
Inside the church, the artist has placed prayer rugs and lights in the traditional manner. Muslims will worship in the mosque and guests are welcome. Photo/Bjarni Grímsson
A family from Treviso praying at The Mosque, an art exhibit by Christoph Büchel. Photo: Didier Descouens