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Birkbeck students awarded prestigious British Council Venice Fellowships

Two students from the Department of History of Art will spend a month in Venice conducting independent research and mediating an exhibition, as part of La Biennale di Venezia.

Venice's famous bridges crisscrossing the canals

Birkbeck is partnering with the British Council on the 2019 Venice Fellowships programme which forms part of the British Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Birkbeck will support two History of Art students, Corinna Henderson and Patricia Yaker Ekall, to spend a month in Venice, conducting independent research and mediating the exhibition, Cathy Wilkes, curated by Dr Zoe Whitley.

The students are given an exclusive opportunity to spend a month in Venice during one of the world’s most significant art and architecture exhibitions organised by La Biennale di Venezia, which will run from 11 May – 24 November 2019.

The Venice Fellowships programme offers students, graduates and researchers the opportunity to become actively involved in La Biennale di Venezia and gain first-hand experience of the British Pavilion, this year’s curators and their vision.

The British Council has commissioned Cathy Wilkes, the renowned artist to be represent Great Britain at La Biennale di Venezia, one of the world’s most significant art and architecture exhibitions. Since the late 1990s, Glasgow-based Cathy Wilkes has built a considerable reputation for sculptural installations of profound and mysterious intensity, which often evoke interiors and places of loss.

Corinna Henderson, MA History of Art student said: “I am delighted to have been chosen for one of the Venice Steward Research Fellowships. As my interests lie in exhibitions, curating and interpretation, I am particularly excited to be working during the opening of the Biennale. It will provide me with a great platform to learn and network with organisers from all over the world. I'm most excited about collaborating with other Fellows, whilst developing my research in such a vibrant location.”

Patricia Yaker Ekall, BA History of Art student said: “I'm thrilled to have been chosen. Not only am I aware it's an honour, but I know it's also a huge opportunity to experience the art world in action. I was nervous about applying as a first-year student, feeling that I had not much to recommend me at Birkbeck. Aside from my love of the arts, the only things that convinced me to apply were a genuine enthusiasm for this year's theme and admiration of Cathy Wilkes' work (which immediately triggered my creative response to the theme!).

“Venice is one of the world's most inspiring cities, so to be able to spend a month there to carry out my research is a real treat. I'll be looking into the city's history as part of my research, so naturally being on location will be a tremendous help. As well as the adventure the experience will bring, I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the task of being a custodian for the British Pavilion.” 

Genevieve Marciniak, Venice Fellowships Programme Manager, British Council, said: “The Venice Fellowships programme is a fantastic international experience for students, graduates, early-career artists and cultural professionals – with bespoke training in London, skills development opportunities at the British Pavilion, and a chance to expand networks across the UK and internationally. The Fellows are involved in research and the production of creative responses to the Biennale and Venice itself. This is key for our UK partners engaged in improving outward mobility and employability. For the British Council, it is very important to support emerging artists, architects, curators and researchers – and to place informed mediators at the heart of the British Pavilion.”

The British Council has been responsible for the British Pavilion in Venice since 1937, showcasing the best of the UK’s artists, architects, designers and curators to an international audience.

The Fellowships programme was initiated in 2014 by the British Council to strengthen the British Pavilion contribution as a platform for ideas and research. This programme aims to educate and enrich the exhibition, making it a reference point for universities and arts institutions. The Fellowships offers a way of viewing and experiencing art and architecture that provides a new outlook on issues of public and private space, artistic process and display.

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