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Introduction to PROFORMA Pavilion

Chris Bailkoski

Just as this text was being finalised, a photograph of a supermassive black hole in galaxy M87 was captured for the first time in human history. The result of supernova, a simultaneously imploding/exploding star, creating the image was a monumental human effort, the result of eight international observatories and around 200 scientists, from physicists to mathematicians. Resembling something like a ring donut, the image captures one of the most powerful events in the universe since the Big Bang, one that creates new ways of life while destroying others, the ultimate cosmic performance. 


It seems there was a coincidental prescience that this image was released on the eve of PROFORMA Pavilion at Corte Supernova in Venice. In our microcosmic court, the supernova is an exhibition in daily flux, the result of six consecutive weeklong artist residencies, all made visible via our significantly smaller but equally dedicated team at PROFORMA and multiple international partners. PROFORMA is a contemporary art organisation which provides a platform for artist collaborations, exchanges and residencies in UK Greater Manchester, nationally and internationally. With a dynamic approach to exhibition making, our aim is to reflect the immediacy of performative-led practices alongside developing long term networks and partnerships internationally, which has taken on an urgency in recent times. With the chaotic political climate in the UK, personal identity has become increasingly marginalised and overlooked. 


The six PROFORMA Pavilion artists, Omid Asadi, Lizz Brady, Nicola Dale, Nightshift International (Sarah Boulter & Elliott Flanagan) and John Powell-Jones, each explore important aspects of identity and providing them visibility internationally is vital to counter this marginalisation back home. Our Venetian residency-as-exhibition-as-event incorporates performance, intervention, film, sound and live art, exploring topics from psychological isolation and personal reality; power structures, immigration and conflict; superficial boundaries, mental health and social engagement; to relationships, intimacy, and aspiration. Through the disruption of conventional exhibition practices, Corte Supernova becomes a space that embraces the chaotic politics of change and processes of making through daily activity, weekly discussions and transformative events. 


Given the serendipitous timing of shedding light on universal and local supernovas, we are working closely with Venetian residents and partners in order to deliver an exhibition that reinvests in the city and highlights their own overlooked identity, especially during Biennale season. To this end, producers PAS-E, activists We Are Here Venice and collective Esperienza Pepe are key to the dissemination of PROFORMA Pavilion. These partnerships have taken years to develop and our intention is to continue to work on future projects in the years after this six-week residency. In the meantime, audiences are invited to visit the exhibition multiple times during their own stay in Venice, contributing in some way to this vibrant celebration of identity in political times.

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