The Inuit are the protagonists in the Canada pavilion with a film by the ISUMA collective

Almost two hours in length, “One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk” tells of the encounter that took place in 1961 between an Inuit inhabitant and a government agent charged with convincing him to move his family to an urban centre.

Padiglione del Canada, Biennale di Venezia

Discussing artistic aims here is a complex and insuperable theme, but nonetheless it should be said that beyond any personal opinions, the Canada pavilion, with the work of the artistic collective ISUMA, can undoubtedly be credited with two important social-cultural merits. The first and most evident is that of focusing attention on the generally unknown vicissitudes of the Inuit population, using art as a means to teach us something new. The second, perhaps less explicit but just as important, is that of expressing the importance of an open sharing of culture and awareness. In fact for years this collective has been collecting freely usable material on an internet platform which also forms an integral part of this exhibition (the material can be seen in cyberspace at

The aim of the Canadian collective is to valorise the Inuit culture by focusing on the consequences of what this population has suffered following its relocation, which took place according to the wishes of the Canadian government in the 1950s and 1960s. The Inuit are in fact a population originating from the Arctic coasts which currently live in Canada, concentrated in a number of settlements in the northern regions.

The main work in the pavilion is the latest film by ISUMA, entitled “One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk”. Presented on multiple screens with subtitles in the languages spoken by most of the visitors to the Exhibition, the film tells of an encounter that took place in 1961 between the protagonist Noah Piugattuk and a government agent who had the task of convincing him to move his family, a nomadic group which lived and hunted with packs of dogs in the northern area of the Island of Baffin in a settlement, in accordance with the traditions of their ancestors.

This feature film shows us one of the worst aspects of nationalistic ideology, imposed on a minority group which does not feel part of a cultural system which is perceived on the contrary as incomprehensible, but, as Clifford Geerz wrote more than forty years ago on post-colonial states and nationalism:  “It would seem, then, well to spend less time decrying it - which is a little like cursing the winds - and more in trying to figure out why it takes the forms it does and how it might be prevented from tearing apart even as it creates the societies in which it arises”.

58th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia
58th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, “MayYou Live In Interesting Times”. Photo Francesco Galli. Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

Alongside the film - limited to certain periods, the next being from 16 to 21 September - will be live streaming transmissions (“Silakut Live”) that focus on the current problem of the environmental impact of expansion programmed by a mining company both on the areas previously inhabited by the Inuit and on the breeding grounds for whales and walrus.

The only real fault of this pavilion is not having taken fully into consideration the context in which the work is set, presenting a very long film (almost two hours) in the midst of an entire Exhibition to be visited.

Opening picture: installation view. Photo Francesco Galli. Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

ISUMA (Zacharias Kunuk, Norman Cohn, Paul Apak, Pauloosie Qulitalik)
Asinnajaq, Catherine Crowston, Josée Drouin-Brisebois, Barbara Fischer, Candice Hopkins
58. Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Biennale di Venezia
Giardini del Castello, Biennale di Venezia
11 maggio - 24 novembre 2019

Special Biennale

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