Angelica Mesiti’s ASSEMBLY opens at the National Gallery

Art. 10

‘ASSEMBLY draws on a need to come together, to exchange and to learn from each other.’


From Venice to Kamberri/Canberra, Angelica Mesiti’s ASSEMBLY is now on display at the National Gallery of Australia.

After debuting at the 2019 Venice Biennale, ASSEMBLY opens this Saturday 5 November when visitors to the National Gallery will be able to immerse themselves in Mesiti’s world as they view the 25-minute, three-channel video installation.

A leading voice of her generation, Mesiti was commissioned by the Australia Council for the Arts to produce ASSEMBLY for the Australian Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia. Acquired by the National Gallery in 2018, this will be the first time the work has gone on display.

An Australian artist based in Paris, Mesiti is renowned for her video works that consider how communities are formed through shared movement and communication. Mesiti explains ‘In ASSEMBLY, I explore the space where communication moves from verbal and written forms to non-verbal, gestural and musical forms.’

ASSEMBLY features a wide range of historic and contemporary places, events and objects with strong connections to democratic processes and aspirations. The work was filmed in Australia’s Old Parliament House and the Palazzo Madama, the seat of the Italian Senate in Rome. Australian writer David Malouf’s poem ‘To be written in another tongue’ (1976), an imaginary conversation with a Lebanese ancestor, was transposed into shorthand by a stenographic machine used in the Italian Senate. This stenographic rendering of Malouf’s poem was then translated into musical notation and arranged as a musical score by the Australian composer Max Lyandvert. Musicians and performers, including the Torres Strait Island choreographer Deborah Brown, transpose and improvise with the score, in a series of acts of translation that increasingly render an English-language account of the complexities of intergenerational, cross-cultural communication as an inclusive, participatory and democratic experience.

‘Collaboration is an important part of my practice, and a central element in the work itself. ASSEMBLY draws on a need to come together, to exchange and to learn from each other. I thank and acknowledge the dancers, singers, musicians, film and sound practitioners, the designers, architect, installation and project team who helped me bring this work to fruition,’ said Mesiti.

National Gallery Senior Curator, Photography Shaune Lakin says Mesiti probes the nature of connection through the many faces of modern Australia: ‘ASSEMBLY brings together over 40 artists, performers and musicians of multiple ancestries who together demonstrate the power of solidarity and collectively.’

Angelica Mesiti, ASSEMBLY was originally commissioned by the Australia Council for the Arts for the Venice Biennale 2019 and curated by Juliana Engberg.

November 10 2022