Wallace Chan at the Biennale Arte in Venice

Whether he is creating intricate, opulent jewelry with precious gemstones or monumental sculptures made of titanium – the works of the Chinese artist Wallace Chan always convey his Buddhist philosophy. His exhibition “TOTEM“ can currently be seen at the 59th Biennale Arte in Venice. We met him in the city of the lagoons for an exclusive interview. 

Bettina Krause (BK): What is the concept behind this exhibition?
Wallace Chan: Visitors are invited to move through fragments of a ten meter high sculpture. The theme is uncertainty – in the darkened exhibition room it is difficult to ascertain how the fragments can be reassembled. Generally we look at sculptures as a whole from a distance, we move around them and the inside remains concealed. I wanted to open up this idea, so the observer can see the inside of the sculpture and become a part of it. They move through the fragments, which I call Totems, form a bond with them and acquire surprising, uncertain perspectives again and again.

Has this concept become a symbol of our world order?
Correct. We are currently living in extremely uncertain times but it is my hope that the fragments of the sculpture – and of our world – can be pieced together again to form an intact whole. So that the process of construction, deconstruction and reconstruction become complete.

So are you optimistic about the future?
At the moment our world is waiting to be repaired again. I believe that the world and we as people have the strength to heal ourselves. However, we have to work at it. The exhibition is a symbol of these connections and is deconstructed and reconstructed at different locations worldwide. In its current state it is reminiscent of strength and the possibility to heal and find balance again.

What does the title “TOTEM“ express?
The concept of a Totem is our attempt as people to establish a connection with the unknown. It is simultaneously our hope for something greater outside our reality. My earliest childhood memories include artistic carvings of dragons, phoenix and wondrous creatures at Chinese temples. The belief is that we are connected to the Gods because the figures are carved in the temples. The idea of the Totem is our attempt to enter a world that is unknown to us, to enter the uncertain.

What can visitors take with them from the exhibition?
The objective is to reflect on the process of deconstruction and reconstruction of ourselves: What is our self? What makes us what we are? Are we the person we seem to believe or are we beings formed by society? We live in a time of information overload and are bombarded with information. Sometimes we think it is a part of us because we absorb the information unfiltered without reflecting on our own existence. I think this is a good place for contemplation and to reflect on the idea of our own self – where it originates and where it goes.

Can art contribute to overcoming the crises of our time?
Yes, because art has the power to help us to transcend. Whatever we are currently experiencing in the physical world – it gives us the possibility to dream of a better, higher, more beautiful world full of good. I believe in the power of art and I cannot imagine a world without it. Without art there is no hope. 

TOTEM by Wallace Chan
April 20th – Oktober 23rd, 2022
Fondaco Marcello
Calle del Tragheto, Venedig

Photos Copyrights:  Massimo Pistore