The Georgian Pavilion in the 60th Venice Biennale presented The Art of Seeing– States of Astronomy, a collaborative project presented by a team of Georgian and French curators and artists.


The Art of Seeing—States of Astronomy showcases 65 Maximiliana or the Illegal Practice of Astronomy, a 1964 work by Georgian artist, poet and editor Ilia Zdanevich (1894–1975) and Max Ernst (1891–1976), along with its related archives. The art book is dedicated to Wilhelm Ernst Tempel (1821–1889), a German astronomer and lithographer, known for his unconventional, sensual approach to astronomy, who was overlooked by contemporaries due to his lack of academic training.


Zdanevich traced his own history back to Tbilisi, where his publishing house, named “41 degrees” after the latitude Tbilisi shares with Rome, Madrid, New York and other cities, promoted a futurist poetic language known as “ZAUM.” He adopted the name Iliazd soon after emigrating to Paris in 1921 and brought out several major books, including Maximiliana, a landmark project that spans four countries and three languages, merging poetry and astronomy to highlight the experience of exiles in both physical and metaphysical senses.


In this context, the exhibition held at Palazzo Palumbo Fossati aligns with the theme of the current Venice Biennale, “Foreigners Everywhere”. It spins around Maximiliana, along with materials from Iliazd’s archive, that document Iliazd’s journey to Venice and Marseille and his persistent efforts to recover Wilhelm Ernst Tempel’s biography.


In response to the Venice Biennale’s programme “Global Modernisms”, curator Julia Marchand (France) and research curator Davit Koroshinadze (Georgia) have crafted an original concept for a living archive, initiating the audience to Iliazd’s experiments, who brought his ideas from the Global South and transformed it into a cosmopolitan discourse. Maximiliana remains a perfect example of how, through typography and painting, the language of the cosmos was brought to life. French artists Rodrigue De Ferluc and Juliette George have created unique furniture inspired by Iliazd’s typography in Maximiliana to establish a visual and spatial identity for the exhibition. Georgian artist Nika Koplatadze reinterprets Maximiliana through a contemporary art lens in a series of artistic books informed by his readings of star maps and other cosmic matters. In addition, Grigol Nodia’s video art, titled Lonely Planet, turns the theme of migration into a broader, cosmic exile in search of the other and eros.


Wilhelm Ernst Tempel’s lithographs from the Arcetri Observatory Archives, included in the exhibition, provide a unique context for understanding the history behind Maximiliana and Iliazd’s journey.

Artists: Nikoloz Koplatadze, Grigol Nodia, Juliette George, Rodrigue De Ferluc, Iliazd, Max Ernst, Wilhelm Ernst Tempel

Curator: Julia Marchand

Research curator: Davit Koroshinadze

Commissioner: Magda Guruli

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