Emily Jacir’s work spans a diverse range of media and strategies including film, photography, social interventions, installation, performance, video, writing and sound. Recurrent themes in her practice include repressed historical narratives, resistance, political land divisions, movement (both forced and voluntary) and the logic of the archive. Jacir has shown extensively throughout Europe, the Americas and the Middle East since 1994.
Awards include a Golden Lion at the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007) for her work “Material for a film”; a Prince Claus Award from the Prince Claus Fund in The Hague (2007); and the Hugo Boss Prize at the Guggenheim Museum (2008).
In 2003, belongings was published by O.K Books, a monograph on a selection of Jacir’s work from 1998–2003. Her second monograph (2008) was published by Verlag Fur Moderne Kunst Nurnberg.
She has been actively involved in education in Palestine since 2000 including PIVF and Birzeit University. She is a full-time professor at the International Academy of Art Palestine where she has been teaching since 2006. She conceived of and co-curated the first Palestine International Video Festival in Ramallah in 2002. She also curated a selection of shorts; “Palestinian Revolution Cinema (1968–1982)” which went on tour in 2007.
Nato Thompson: Let’s begin by talking about what happened, or didn’t happen, in Venice. You were participating in the first ever Palestinian Pavilion in Venice this summer, along with Taysir Batniji, Shadi Habib Allah, Sandi Hilal, and Alessandro Petti, Jawad Al Malhi, and Khalil Rabah. The exhibition, titled Palestine c/o Venice, was curated by Salwa Mikdadi. Your project, as I understand it, was to translate the names of the vaporetto stops into Arabic for the public to see. I believe the project was rolling along and then suddenly—before the exhibition opened—you were informed that it had been cancelled. I am sure that was shocking for you, and frustrating. Maybe you can describe your project and walk me through the steps that led to the cancellation of your work.
Emily Jacir:Yes, stazione was going to be a public intervention situated on each of the vaporetto stops along Line One. It would have begun at the Lido stop and ended at Piazzale Roma. I translated the names of each vaporetto station along this route into Arabic and was going to place these translations next to their Italian counterparts, thereby creating a bilingual transportation route through the city. I sent the curator my proposal in the summer of 2008 and she accepted the work. On the 29th of October 2008, our commissioner in Venice, Vittorio Urbani, had a meeting with Vela, the company dedicated to the marketing of Actv (the vaporetto company), and they approved of the project. As they wanted to feel “backed” by the city, Vittorio secured from the Comune di Venezia a letter endorsing my project in December 2008. In mid-January, at another meeting with Vela, Vittorio made final arrangements and they agreed that I could place the inscriptions on all the stops on Line One. We began negotiations to decide such things as which materials I should use, for example, the company preferred vinyl to match the Italian inscriptions rather than paint. In that meeting, they also discussed arranging an official press presentation of my project shortly before the opening, and trying to arrange for the Mayor of Venice to attend it. They asked me to prepare a simple text to display at some of the vaporetto stops that would explain to visitors and the public of Venice the spirit of my initiative. The vaporetto company was so excited about the project that they even offered to cover a substantial part of the cost of production of the vinyl texts, and the manpower needed to install it and deinstall at the end of the show. So we began the production process with them and began outsourcing the production of the vinyl inscriptions, deciding on the final count, how many I needed for each stop, etc., etc. Then, all of a sudden, in March, I received a phone call from Salwa Mikdadi telling me that the project has been shut down.
NT: So, what was the rationale behind shutting the project down?
EJ: I can tell you what my own personal theories are about it, but I have no factual evidence to support any of them. I was not given an “official” reason or a straight answer from anyone involved in this as to what lay behind the cancellation. Supposedly, the vaporetto company received pressure from an outside source to shut it down for political reasons.
NT: Surely they must have given you an “unofficial” reason? Or maybe, to back up, what do you think was the reason? I must caution that, as someone who works on public projects, I know that there are a variety of boring reasons why certain projects do not work out: fire code, permits, insurance, bad management, interpersonal tensions—say someone in the vaparetto organization doesn’t get along with someone organizing the Biennale. I wouldn’t necessarily jump to the belief that this was an act of censorship. But you are a Palestinian artist, which inevitably leads to speculation. It wasn’t all that long ago that, in 2005, artist Gregor Shneider’s proposed replica of the Ka’ba in Mecca for St. Mark’s Square was cancelled. There is a precedent in Venice for censorship of work relating to Islam and Arab culture, so your situation invites speculation.
EJ: As I recall, Gregor also never received an official explanation as to why his project was censored. I think it is important not to conflate “Islam” and “Arab,” which are two very different things. Gregor’s work referred to Islam, but my work was completely secular, addressing cultural exchange between Venice and the Arab world. I really don’t think the fact that I am a Palestinian was the issue in Venice, and I am a bit wary of unpacking this through that lens. I think it is more likely that the issue was the work being presented in the public realm, in the streets of Venice, and not being confined to a designated “art” space. Perhaps what was more at issue was that my project was part of an official Palestinian presence in Venice, which in itself was controversial. There is also the current political situation in Italy right now—the surge of the Lega Nord party in the Veneto region. A friend in Torino was sure that the reason stazione was shut down by the City Authorities is because at this moment in time it is particularly problematic to have Arabic writing in the Veneto. At one point, I was told by one of the organizers of Palestine c/o Venice that it was shut down for “security reasons,” but later the person who told me that took that statement back because I was about to go public with it. I remember that,when Vittorio told me about his January meetings with the vaporetto company, he had to reassure them about the fact that the content of the Palestinian exhibition itself would not be “offensive and deliberately provocative.” We did ask for the help of The Biennale Committee, but they did not want to get involved and said that it was a matter between the vaporetto company, our Commissioner, Vittorio Urbani, and the curator, Salwa Mikdadi. Many colleagues of mine in Italy intervened on my behalf to try to find out more information and sent letters to Vela asking for answers, explaining my project, expressing their support for Vela and the project. The vaporetto company did not respond to these letters nor return anyone’s phone calls. Some told me that the vaporetto company was forced by an outside source to shut it down immediately and the City Council was insinuated in this. I personally went to touch base with Vela the day of the Biennale opening in June to try to get more information, but was not given any direct or clear answers. All I could confirm was that the decision came from outside Vela. What came as a huge surprise to me during that meeting was that the man I spoke with mentioned the attacks on Gaza last December and said that this played a role in shutting down the project, as it made the parties involved in the project “nervous.” None of us involved in this had speculated that Gaza would have anything at all to do with this!
Another interesting twist is that, when the vaporetto company stopped my project, they discussed with our Comissioner a “counter-proposal,” in which I would do an exhibition of my proposal photographs of the public intervention inside a gallery. They even offered to sponsor the whole thing and provide an artist fee. I had quite a lot of pressure from Palestine c/o Venice to accept this offer.
NT: I would like to discuss other experiences you have been through to contextualize this one, but for now, lets focus on stazione. I can only imagine there were extremely difficult political realities to be the first-ever Palestinian Pavilion. Did you feel that an undercurrent in your conversations with the organizers and curator were that they didn’t want to become a pain in their first official representation? That they didn’t want their first foray into this cultural sphere to be complicated or controversial? It seems to me that your project took a hit, but also, possibly, an opportunity was lost. Surely, the rationale that the Arabic writing accompanying the vaporetto stops is too provocative feels more than a little conservative. Being unable to simply display Arabic in a public context feels like an issue cultural organizations should take on, even if this would provoke controversy. Isn’t that part of the role of art? To produce a dialogue?
EJ: Absolutely that is the role of art! And you are also right in bringing up the difficult political realities of the first ever Palestinian Pavilion, which I was very empathetic to and sensitive to. I did not want the circumstances of the “cancellation” to eclipse our exhibition. However, I ended up being very disappointed with the way Palestine c/o Venice handled the situation, as they were more concerned with shutting down a dialogue. In many ways, I consider their response a form of self-censorship. Pavilion organizers felt that since there was never an “official” letter rejecting the project—something in print—given to the curator, that it was best to be quiet. Another issue for the organizers was that we did not have a written agreement (signed contract) with Vela regarding the project, and since they are in fact a private company, they believed there was simply nothing to be said publicly. When I was first informed about the cancellation, I was told that if I went public, my actions would impact the other artists in a harmful way and that I would also be harming the current and future Palestinian participation in Venice. “The press will have a field day with this and will not talk about the other artists,” was a line I heard over and over and over. Other things happened too. According to the curator, after she asked European Parliament member and long-time supporter of the Palestinians Luisa Morgantini for help in the matter, her response was, “It is best not to make a big thing out of this at this time, it is not good for Palestine or the exhibitions at Venice, it will not help us in any way.” All these concerns and fears are understandable, but I think that the simple fact that ACTV, Vela, the Commune and the Biennale organizers all approved the project and we were moving forward and then it was mysteriously shut down has wider implications that I do not think should be allowed to be ignored. I don’t have great hopes about anyone coming clean about this or being able to find out exactly who decided to shut down this project and how. It is upsetting to me because this is precisely how such incidents are suppressed. Somewhere along the line, someone didn’t want the details of what really happened getting out. The reasons remain nebulous, as does the chain of events that led to the vaporetto company’s change of mind and their decision to cancel the project. At the opening ceremony of Palestine c/o Venice, where several notables made speeches, Laila Shahid announced, “We are very sorry Emily Jacir’s project was not accepted.” That was it. Everything that happened was swept under the rug and reduced to that. I had a great conversation with Jean Fisher who speculated that “the blockade on publicity about your project for the sake of preserving the event could even have deterred solidarity with you among the other participating artists.” This was something I had not even thought of and ultimately ended up being a most distressing reality.
Regarding your point about displaying Arabic script in public, some people believed that this was not the issue and used the example of the UAE pavilion posters, which were in Arabic and were plastered all over the city, airport, and vaporetti. Some said that if I had been represented in the UAE pavilion, most likely my project would have gone forward as that country’s existence is not a point of contention. I tend to disagree with this assessment. I actually do believe that the Arabic script was a problem to them. It is true that the UAE had ads in Arabic all over the city, but those ads were “safe,” meaning the Arabic script was confined to the borders of the posters representing the pavilion and so, in a sense, were locked into a defined “other” space—creating a clear “us” and “them.” When Arabic crawls out of those borders and inserts itself into what they consider “their” space and becomes part of the cityscape, it is a completely different thing. Perhaps this was the very thing that was so threatening to them.
NT: I suspect this is the crux of the issue. The question is, to what degree are the politics of inclusion more important than the politics that have historically made that inclusion difficult? I think it is important to not get into a finger pointing game, as communities that experience oppression—Palestinians—simply have more difficult problems to contend with. Everyone is up against the wall, trying to walk a tightrope. I am sure that the curators felt like one false move and everything would crumble. But sweeping this condition under the rug is probably not the best option, only in so much as it won’t provide a road map for future situations like this—and certainly there are many more to come. I have been reading this incredible book on the history of hip-hop called Can’t Stop Won’t Stop by Jeff Chang, and through this history, you follow the gradual inclusion of black culture into the American mainstream. Under the politics of cultural inclusion, there is a desire to not upset the political and class lines that make this inclusion possible, at least in any tangible way. How would you have preferred the situation had been dealt with? Are there other situations you have experienced that are similar to this?
EJ: It would have been great if Palestine c/o Venice had made a public statement about the reality of what happened, not only at some of the events they had organized in Venice, but also to the press. At the very least they could have posted a statement on their website with the basic details of the situation. I would have preferred not to have my project dismissed by describing it as simply “unrealized,” or that it wasn’t “accepted,” or Emily’s proposal was “rejected.” You can empathize with the fears behind such choices, but it doesn’t mean you should tolerate silence. I think it is especially important that communities who face oppression deal with these issues openly and try to attack them head-on; if not, you end up with a situation like we have now in Ramallah, with an extremely corrupt regime. Silence allows the status quo to continue. Silence within oppressed communities is extremely dangerous, and allows abuses that happen inside the community to go on unchecked. On another note, I presented an extremely political work in Robert Storr’s biennale in 2007 and was awarded a Golden Lion for it from Venice, and I felt that that gave us a powerful platform to speak from—and to speak from loudly—when we were shut down. If I can’t talk openly about the cancellation after winning an award like that, then when? Additionally, stazione, in contrast to the 2007 work, did not carry the same kind of political connotations.
NT: It might also be instructive to hear from you what other situations you have experienced in regards to censorship. The issue of Palestine is clearly controversial and I suspect you have been at the center of some heated, behind-the-scenes discussions at museums.
EJ: Yes I have, but prior to this, all such attempts were limited to the USA, and, as you know, censoring Palestinian narratives in the USA has a long history and is a different discussion. I have not had to deal with censorship of my work thus far in Europe or in the Middle East, so this was a first. It is funny, I remember one of the first times I met you—we were at a conference, I don’t really remember where—and you said to the group something like, “You want to talk about censorship, just mention the word “Palestine” in any institution.” I felt so relieved to hear someone admit that out loud! I really don’t think that what happened in Venice was an attempt to silence a Palestinian narrative, though. Naturally, I have been in other situations where there were attempts to silence or block my work, but they were handled very differently than this.
NT: Let’s switch gears then, to think through some prior experiences you had on U.S. soil. In 2002, your work was at the center of a controversy at the Queens International. There were two installations on display, with the first being Memorial to 418 Palestinian Villages Were Destroyed, Depopulated and Occupied by Israel in 1948 (2001), consisting of a refugee tent embroidered with the names of the 418 villages that had been decimated as a result of the 1948 war. The second piece you presented was about the 1964 World’s Fair, whose grounds are right there. Accompanying this installation was a publicly available reproduction of a pamphlet from the 1964 Jordanian Pavilion at the World’s Fair, which included a poem about the Palestinians exiled in 1948. The Queens Museum’s Director, Tom Finkelpearl, began to receive calls complaining about the “anti-Israeli” sentiment in the pamphlet, a reaction that generally accompanies most Palestinian art in exhibitions, and the press jumped on it. In response to the pressure, the pamphlet was displayed under glass and not made publicly distributable. Standing by the artist’s right to provoke discussion, Finkelpearl did not bow to pressure to have the installation removed, but the project was ultimately modified. How did you feel about this response? Did you work with Tom to arrive at this decision? It seems to me that the museum might have felt that the pamphlets might have been assumed to be the position of the museum itself, and so wanted to clarify its reception. Do you think this was an appropriate interpretation?
EJ: First, I should begin by saying that I was really impressed that Tom Finkelpearl had the guts to exhibit Memorial to 418 Palestinian Villages Were Destroyed, Depopulated and Occupied by Israel in 1948 in a New York City institution. I was acutely aware that he was doing something no one had really done before and I seriously doubt another institution would have accepted to show the work at that time.
My mother had worked as a guide at the Jordanian Pavilion in the summers of 1964 and 1965, and she had told me that there was a huge controversy with the Pavilion because of a mural by Jordanian artist Muhanna Durra. It was a mural called Mural to a Refugee. It was a Palestinian mother holding her child in her arms, with a poem written by Salah Abu Zaid. Some in the Jewish community in New York tried to pass a resolution calling for—and I am quoting from The New York Times here, from Friday June 19, 1964)—”The immediate removal of the controversial mural in the Jordanian Pavilion which acts as a daily and constant irritant and a source of insult to millions of people in this city, the state, and the world.” While researching the archives of the World’s Fair in the Queens Museum, I found the brochure that my mother and the other guides were distributing to people in 1964. Inside this brochure, there is a picture of the mural with the poem. I decided to reprint the brochure and reactivate it as an object, with this strange 38-year time-lapse. The refugees are still not allowed to return home, more refugees have been made, and things have become worse. I reprinted the brochure exactly as it was distributed in 1964, and it was supposed to be passed out during this exhibition. My idea was that people would have this brochure in their hands and then, when they would leave the museum, they would be walking through the exact same fairgrounds, decades later.
Once again, 38 years later, there was a controversy. After several people contacted the director of the museum, I was asked to cease distribution, but I would be allowed to have the brochures on display in a Plexiglas box. This turned the brochures into an inactive, dead object, which was not my intention and so, for me, the work ceased. Tom allowed me to distribute the brochure on the day of the opening only as long as I personally passed them out and they had a sticker on them that stated, “I reprinted this brochure as my artwork. Emily Jacir.” I think your interpretation is correct and, even though I consider what happened to the work a form of censorship, I willingly agreed to it, and yes, I worked with Tom. The most important thing for me was that I wanted to support him. I did not think it would be useful to anyone to be unwilling to compromise or support him and his institution the way they have supported me. I understood that his constituents were really upset and that he felt obligated to them. I could see he was put into a terrible position. Considering the circumstances, I really believe that both Tom and I handled the situation as best we could together.
NT: There is a certain myth that is worth upholding—that institutions can withstand the criticisms of their constituents. What appears to have occurred in Queens certainly reflects the dynamics of pressure many museums experience during the heated period of a controversy. They often are accused of supporting the viewpoints that they are displaying. The general go-to defense is that the institutions support the right of any artist to express her viewpoint. This is the same right afforded faculty at schools. What makes your experience different is that you were handing out a historic political document, and in a not-so-surprising, yet still illuminating, turn of events, the controversies unleashed then were to some degree re-ignited. You were simply representing a document.
Now, you are clear that you appreciated the compromise that you and Tom arrived at in negotiating these difficulties. As a director of a museum, Tom probably didn’t relish the idea of completely alienating a certain infuriated segment of his audience (and potential, if not existing funders) and so felt the need to navigate this terrain with some gravity. Balancing the public perception of a certain community with the museum’s responsibility to the artist is no simple task. But I do wonder if this position, “The artist is free to express whatever they want,” acts as a convenient alibi for a more political narrative.
Certainly, if we were to take your situation and position it as a neo-Nazi art exhibit, we begin to feel the limitations of this kind of defense. Does the museum really support the right of an artist to say anything? Aren’t they in some way always culpable for the positions the artists’ take in their galleries? Certainly, they are. And in fact, it is the recognition of this that makes the audiences who don’t appreciate any critique of Israel—and for some, sympathy for the plight of Palestinians might fit in this—feel that institutions are being less than transparent.
These problems also showed up in your experience at the Wichita State Museum, where an exhibition of yours, Where We Come From (2001–3), became the source of another controversy. In this project you asked Palestinians the simple question, “If I could do anything for you, anywhere in Palestine, what would it be?” The resulting images and and reflections of you performing these actions, such as going to a mother’s grave in Jerusalem or going to Haifa to play soccer with the first Palestinian boy you met, were displayed in the gallery. A growing list of complaints began to pile up at the museum that the exhibition was “unbalanced.” How did this play out?
EJ: Yes, I can talk about that, but first I am curious why you called the brochure a “political document”? The inside was a reproduction of a painting, with a poem underneath. The front had a black and white image of the pavilion and said “Pavilion of Jordan—The Holy Land” and “Mural to a Refugee.” The back had an image of embroidered dresses and said, “At the Jordan Pavilion you can visit:,” and then had a list of the exhibits taking place within the pavilion. Lets take the inverse of your example of a neo-Nazi art exhibit and say the brochure was a poem and painting that dealt with the Holocaust—would it then be deemed a “political document?”
NT: To be honest, I think it wasn’t the best use of words. “Political document” isn’t the most appropriate phrase, because that leads the imagination to either a manifesto or reprint of a U.N. charter. It certainly doesn’t bring to mind what you were passing out. Except that it is an official pamphlet of a nation state. That certainly is political to some degree in terms of capital “P” Politics.
But maybe there is something in a more general consideration of why people might think of it as political. I think anything dealing with refugees is, colloquially speaking, considered political. That is to say, borrowing from my own interpretation of Rancière, that this idea of the political fits within the distribution of the sensible of political issues. Within the language of what people consider “political,” and also those things that people do not, certain political conditions, geographies, events, and people fall within this spectrum, in large part due to the constructed dialogue around it. So, refugees, in all their iterations, tend to be categorized as political, whether it is a poem or a mural or a doodle. That said, we can also say that anything dealing with Palestine is considered, in a larger context, political. As your experience attests, your work becomes embroiled in political controversy even when it is seemingly nonpolitical, such as simply writing Arabic in Venice.
EJ: Except that there is a key point which your slip alluded to, which is that the Palestinian refugee story in and of itself gets marked as “political” by those who want to censor it, which is not what would happen to similar works of art, in a New York institution, that dealt with Holocaust refugees, Rwandan refugees, or, for example, the current situation in Darfur. It is how the term “political” gets misused and becomes an excuse for the censorship. We both know that the censorship in Queens was not because the work was merely political. It is not about categorizing refugees as political, it’s that not all refugee narratives are afforded the same recognition or acknowledgment and that some are specifically silenced.
To get back to what happened in Wichita, which was quite a different set of circumstances then at the Queens Museum—one thing they had in common was that both Tom Finkelperl and Kevin Mullins were open and transparent with me about everything that was happening, which made it feel that we were working together. I felt very supported by both of them. Kevin Mullins, the curator, worked for 2 years on organizing a solo show for me there and had chosen to exhibit Where We Come From. They were concerned that a controversy might arise and decided to organize a series of lectures and panels in order to properly “frame” my work. They wanted to bring together community members from all sides and believed that, through hosting my exhibition, they would also have the possibility of promoting a better understanding of the situation in Palestine/Israel locally. Notice that this only occurs when the Palestinian narrative is presented. No one ever wants “balance” when there are exhibitions from an Israeli point of view…anyways…never mind that….
One month before the opening, I suddenly received an emergency email from Kevin informing me that The Jewish Federation of Kansas had put enough pressure on the University to get what they wanted. They insisted on being able to place a brochure and a sign inside the gallery, on the walls of my exhibition room, expressing their views concerning Israel. They were given official permission from the Vice President of the University, Dr. Elizabeth King. Unbelievably, they were granted permission to do so without the University having any knowledge of what they would put in the room. They didn’t even have to submit a text or explain what the items would be! The Museum’s hands were tied by the University. Kevin Mullins and my gallery and loads of people let me know that I had their full support to cancel under such circumstances and many suggested that I should.
But this was too dangerous! The University had unilaterally decided to allow an outside religious group to have access to the museum in order to place posters and other materials inside my exhibition. As my good friend Kamran put it, “This is a major deviation from any norms of conduct in the arts and academic community—the precedent this sets is clear and disturbing; anti-gay groups can place materials at a show by a gay artist, anti-Semites at a show by a Jewish artist, etc.” I believed that if the Museum wanted they should invite the Jewish Federation of Kansas to put on their own exhibition and let them exhibit what they want in the space, but not during and on the walls of my exhibition.
I contacted friends and colleagues around the world, as well as various organizations like the National Coalition Against Censorship. It went around on emails and hit the blogs and the University started receiving an onslaught of letters, emails, and phone calls demanding that my work be exhibited without posters and texts. The outcry was incredible and far-reaching. I was amazed.
It finally ended with this from Dr. Elizabeth King, WSU Vice President for Advancement:
“Wichita State University is aware of the discussion generated by the scheduled exhibition of work by artist Emily Jacir at the Ulrich Museum of Art. The University is committed to going forward with the exhibition without conditions or limitations that could be considered to compromise the integrity of Ms. Jacir’s work as an artist. The University appreciates the widespread interest in the artist and the exhibition.”
It was quite a victory thanks to all the incredible people within the University who were brave enough to speak out, and all those people around the world who got involved in defending my exhibition.
NT: It must be frustrating that these political pressures follow Palestinian artists. Like you say, many viewpoints or forms of expression are not consistently called upon to “present the other side.” As much as the controversies do provoke public discussions, you must envy that ability to not have to get dragged into contentious dialogue all the time. Having myself been in a few controversial media spectacles about art and politics, I am semi-familiar with the chaos that a project can bring with it. At the first whiff of controversy, many organizers naturally go into reaction mode. Usually the first impulse is to do whatever it takes to move the spotlight off the institution. But this instinct often makes curators and directors think poorly and they end up doing things like Wichita almost did, turning against their mission for the sake of avoiding what they feel might be a distracting problem. Do you think this might have been what occurred in Venice? How do you apply the lessons you have learned in Wichita and Queens to the disappearance of your work in Venice?
EJ: In Wichita, the public discussions were actually planned before any kind of a controversy arose. Actually, it might have been that which brought on the controversy, ironically enough. They were so busy trying to preempt something that they opened the doors to the Jewish Federation of Kansas to make their request. This knee-jerk reaction in the U.S. of constantly having to “frame” Palestinian narratives through another lens is frustrating, as is the “let’s have a dialogue” mentality that gets imposed on artwork and film. I am thankful that, in Queens and Wichita, everything was out in the open and we were able to discuss and collaborate together to deal with the situation. This kind of thing usually happens behind closed doors and I am unable to speak about it publicly. An example is when I was in a group show of Arab artists from Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, and other countries that took place here in the USA. The curator was told by the director of the museum that the show could go up as long as the “Palestinian” was taken out. The curator did not accept and pulled the show. I don’t think you can compare the Venice situation to Wichita and Queens. The dynamics and parameters in Italy are quite different then in the USA. There are also other differences; for example, in Venice it was a public project outside in the city, whereas in Wichita and Queens, these were both exhibitions inside museum spaces.