Paraguay and the South American Encyclopedic Palace at the Biennale

Participating at the Venice Biennale for the first time, Paraguay attempts to reunite with the art world through photography, installation – and videogames. The first Paraguayan representatives to exhibit at the Venice Biennale, are Pedro Barrail, Félix Toranzos, Diana Rossi and Daniel Milessi.

Curating the
first Paraguayan exhibition at the Venice Biennale is Osvaldo González Real,
art critic and professor at the Institute of Fine Arts of Paraguay. The exhibition’s
ambitious title – The Encyclopedic
Palace of Paraguay
– openly pays tribute to the main event itself, as well as indicating
the small country’s aspiration to offer the pavilion’s visitors a varied
collection of artworks representative of Paraguay’s rich cultural traditions.
The artists selected for this feat are designer Pedro Barrail,
visual artist Félix Toranzos, painter Diana Rossi, and graphic designer Daniel

Pedro Barrail is a contemporary artist and
architect who works in a mélange of
different media; his pieces range from unique furniture designs with an edge (e.g.
chairs and tables covered in hand-made tribal tattoos) to more conventional
color photographs. In Venice, Barrail has set up a photographic installation
entitled View of Point, simply
comprised of an image on a canvas covering the whole wall. Curiously, the image
is of the main room containing the image itself. Barrail explains in detail, ‘In the center of the … photo there is a red
dot; “You are not here” it tells us. The red dot is [the] “view
of point” that will guide [the viewers]… to nothingness.’ This image
is, according to the artist, a metaphor of Paraguayan cultural isolation and of
its restless wandering in the surrounding world.

Sacred Totem of the
the title of the installation by painter Diana Rossi showcased at the
Paraguayan Pavilion. A prehistoric fossil recently found in Paraguay was the
artist’s main source of inspiration. Curator González Real explains in detail, ‘This is an installation that
represents the anteater (yurumi) totemic animal of the tribe Ache-Guayaki. For
Indians this mammal is considered genitor, sacred ancestor and icon of the
ancient inhabitants of this land. … The work also recalls the genocide committed
against these tribes in 1973 … The idea of Diana is to pay tribute to the memory
of the disappeared.’

A more conceptual installation is brought by Felix Toranzos, a
visual artist, architect and graphic designer well known both in Paraguay and
abroad. Toranzos brought to Venice his Palace
of the Winds
, an abstract ‘wandering museum’ that aims to recall the
marble, octagonal clock tower found in the Roman agora in Athens, Greece. This
tower was constructed in the 1st century BC and its exterior walls all depicted
images of the winds. These images, juxtaposed with images of architectural
details of a 19th century villa, form the decorative elements of the Palace of the Winds.

Explaining Paraguayan history through art is the objective by graphic
designer and video artist Daniel Milessi, who brought to the Biennale Yasururu Sororo, ‘an imaginary
encyclopedia of Paraguayan history in videogame format’, as explained by the
artist himself. His videogame presentation is a revisionist conception of history, from
colonial days to the present. ‘[It is] a history of invasions … taken as a game, a game
where no one can win,’ he further explained.

Watch Tuicha Ñonairo (2011), an animation about Paraguay’s wars, by Daniel Milessi:

Paraguay is the only South American country
amongst this edition’s first-time exhibitors: the Bahamas, Côte d’Ivoire, the Kingdom
of Bahrain
, Kuwait, the Maldives, Nigeria, and the Republic of Kosovo.
According to Paraguayan commissioner Elisa Victoria Aquino Laterza,
participating at such an international and prestigious event like the Venice Biennale
will give Paraguay the possibility to reunite with the world through art.


Artists: Pedro Barrail, Félix Toranzos, Diana Rossi, Daniel

Commissioner: Elisa Victoria
Aquino Laterza

Deputy Commissioner: Nori Vaccari Starck

Curator: Osvaldo González Real

Venue: Palazzo Carminati,
Santa Croce 1882

About The Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Project

The 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale will take place from 1 June – 24 November. The Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Series is an article series leading up to the start of the exhibition. With 88 countries participating in this year’s Biennale — 10 of them for the first time — and 150 artists from 37 countries, our coverage over the next couple of months will highlight a selection of the National Pavilions that will be participating in the 2013 edition of the Venice Biennale. Watch this space for our daily Venice Biennale updates or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!

By Marinel Valentini