Venice Biennale 2015: Swatch Faces

A pavilion full of glowing flowers, a sound project and more across the Italian event's 56th edition

With 15 artists exhibiting across two pavilions for seven months, “Swatch Faces”—the Swiss watch house’s contribution to 2015’s Venice Biennale as its main partner—is impressive in numbers. In person, it’s even more so—from glowing flowers to large-scale photo works, sound projects and more.


One pavilion was entirely conceived by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos and is located in the area of Giardini—the historic heart of the event. “Il Giardino dell’Eden” (or the Garden of Eden) is an inflated silver plastic structure that hides a beautiful garden. Inside, hundreds of plastic flowers glimmer thanks to a complex system of lights and optic fibers. At various times each day, visitors might come across a performer (also covered in lights) who dances through the labyrinth.

The second pavilion is full of work that has resulted because of the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai. Part hotel and part artist residencies, it’s a place where over 150 artists have worked. Carlo Giordanetti, Art Director at Swatch, explains the connection between Shanghai, Venice and the brand: “Back in October in Shanghai we put together the ‘Faces and Traces’ exhibition, to show artists who came to the Art Peace Hotel. This first exhibition, my first as a curator, turned out to be a great exercise. When we saw the interest of the art world we understood it could work at Venice Biennale too.”

Another one of the artists on show is Chiara Luzzana, a musician and sound engineer who created “60BPM” for Swatch. Chiara doesn’t play an instrument, and instead uses recording of sounds emitted by objects. “Because the seven notes are not enough for me,” she tells CH. She decided to approach Swatch regarding a sound project. “Each watch has a different sound and the smallest have the stronger voice. I recorded the sound of each model with a special stethoscopic microphone I have invented. I also recorded the sounds of the Swatch factory in Switzerland. The watch hands have become my guitar,” she says. Luzzana collected 2400 different sounds and culled it down to a total of 114 to create her stunning six-minute soundtrack.


Also part of “Swatch Faces” is Alec von Bargen‘s photo project, “Man Forgotten”—a black and white image of a person walking on a stormy beach, with splashes of transparent, metallic red. The image is divided and displayed along the wall and the floor. “My work in general is broken up into panels, because I don’t see memories as something made of one image; it’s fragments,” von Bargen tells CH. “This series, it’s a continuation of my research into the human being trying to find its place in the world—from political refugees that are forced to escape to just trying to find your place,” he continues.


Yan Wang Preston‘s project began in 2010, when the artist followed the Mother River (a sacred river in Chinese culture) from source to mouth, taking a photo every 100 kilometers. The journey took Preston from rocky cliffs to frozen valleys, providing truly grand views. The final 62 pictures and a map tracing her journey—with thumbtacks marking the location of each photo—create a stunning narrative of an adventure.

The 56th Venice Biennale theme is “All the World’s Futures” and runs through 22 November, 2015.

Yan Wang Preston image by Paolo Ferrarini, all others courtesy of Swatch