Czech and Slovak Republic Pavilion

Towards the end of W G Sebald’s novel Austerlitz, a depot of items taken by the Nazi party from Parisian Jews is said to be buried under the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. This fact resonates with the main character’s story, because Jacques Austerlitz is excavating his repressed memories and the collective past of his generation of wartime exiles. The depot’s subterranean collection feels at once familiar and utterly strange to him. His life is punctuated by encounters with photographs and fragmentary histories that perform a similar déjà-vu to the items in the depot. 

Dominik Lang’s collection of sculptures made by his father in the 1950s is also both foreign and familiar to him – coming from an era other than his own (he was born in 1980), and yet intensely personal. The sculptures allow him to access his father, and they also activate themselves in their contemporary context, making us contemplate the passage of time between their creation and this year’s 54th Biennale in Venice. While Sebald’s novel involves a very particular Czech post-Holocaust experience that is not present in Lang’s work, its treatment of the past’s objects and monuments is the same, disturbing original contents and proposing new readings. 

Here in the pavilion, the sculptures are arranged like tombs in Père Lachaise cemetery (the exhibition is appropriately entitled The Sleeping City) and we are invited to wander amongst them.