5 Jun 2013

Tuvalu takes climate change message to Venice Biennale

5:08 pm on 5 June 2013

The tiny voice of Tuvalu is making a big cry at one of the world's most prestigious art shows, the Venice Biennale.

Tuvalu's US$500,00 pavilion is pushing the message it is likely to disappear under the onslaught of rising seas due to climate change.

Taiwanese artist Vincent Huang's main artwork there is an oil pump which operates a mock slaughter machine.

Pavilion visitors can set the device going and it sets in motion a machine which hangs and decapitates animals - metaphors for the victims of First World consumption.

VINCENT HUANG: The huge oil pump machine is almost six metres high.

SALLY ROUND: So does it make quite a big impact?

VH: Oh, yes. Exactly. Because the couple since last week, the preview, we accepted about 30 international media [who] came to interview. And most of the people say it's crazy the real situation nowadays we are facing, but also some people say it's too terrible because we are directly killing the animals. But I tell the people, actually we are living in modern society, everybody, everywhere, actually we are killing the environment. We also contribute to the climate change. We also contribute to how fast Tuvalu disappears.

SR: It must be very expensive to have a pavillion at the Biennale. How can Tuvalu affford this? Are they getting support from Taiwan?

VH: No, actually, because you know Tuvalu is a very poor nation, so they just give me sponsorship around US $10,000. The other budget is from the Taiwan Foundation. So far, we spent US$500,000. But, actually, this is cheaper because, for example, the Taiwan pavillion, they already spent over US$1 million. Most of our budget is from Taiwan - some small companies and other foundations.

SR: Do people know about Tuvalu? Many of the public coming through, are they wondering where on earth Tuvalu is? Do you think it's raising awareness?

VH: Yeah, I think so, because, actually, 99% of people before this came they never heard about where is Tuvalu. So I think after we explain the situation in Tuvalu everybody knew. And curators from Europe and America, they are very interested in trying to continue to invite us to exhibition to show the crisis for Tuvalu. Because I told them, Tuvalu is just like a symbol. When Tuvalu is underwater by the sea level rising, other cities [will also be] facing the same situation.