THE ALTERSEA OPERA

NORDIC PAVILION AT THE 60TH INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITION, BIENNALE DI VENEZIA 2024

THE ALTERSEA OPERA

NORDIC COUNTRIES PAVILION AT THE 60TH INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITION, BIENNALE DI VENEZIA 2024

curated by Asrin Haidari

Artist: Lap-See Lam with Tze Yeung Ho and Kholod Hawash

Commissioned by Moderna Museet, Stockholm

with co-commissioners Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) and
The Finnish National Gallery Kiasma

Venice Local Consultant

 

WELCOME ON BOARD THE NORDIC COUNTRIES PAVILION AT THE 60TH INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITION – LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA.

 

After taking part of the exhibtion’ projects The Sami Pavilion (2022) and Joar Nango’s Girjegumpi (2023), M+B Studio has renewed the collaboration with the Nordic Countries as Local Consultant in Venice.

 

Conceived and conceptualised by Swedish artist Lap-See Lam, and realised in collaboration with Norwegian composer Tze Yeung Ho, Finnish textile artist Kholod HawashThe Altersea Opera is a poetic exploration of the existential implications of displacement and belonging which veers between the real and the imaginary.

Visitors become passengers as they cross the threshold into the skeletal vessel, powered by magical sails made of stories and filled with mythological water creatures trying to find their way back to the places of their past. A richly layered audio-visual installation, The Altersea Opera is inspired by the spirit of the Red Boat Opera Company – the travelling opera troupe which popularised Cantonese opera in the 19th century.

Lap-See Lam’s research for the creation of the opera’s dragon ship took her to Hong Kong, and she has worked closely with master bamboo scaffolder Ho Yeung Chan. For centuries, bamboo scaffolding has played an important role in the cultural and architectural history of the region, and has been used to build temporary stages for Cantonese opera, a celebrated art form in Guangdong province in southern China.

The dragon ship is inspired by Floating Restaurant Sea Palace, a three-storey vessel built in Shanghai and towed to Gothenburg in 1991. When the business failed, it took on an afterlife as a ghost ship at the Gröna Lund theme park, where Lam discovered it in a dilapidated state before it was moved to its present home in a remote boatyard.

At the centre of the installation, and brought to life by a film shot on board the Sea Palace, we find Lo Ting – half fish, half man – a figure from Hong Kong mythology reimagined across the passage of time through Lam’s script that tells the tale of his longing to return to a former home, Fragrant Harbour – only to find it transformed beyond recognition.

The haunting composition by Tze Yeung Ho, which combines extended playing techniques with baroque ornamentation, is performed with an eclectic array of instruments. The piece blends the libretto, written by Lap-See Lam (with contributions by Ivan Cheng as Future Lo Ting) with poetry, lullabies, and pop songs that draw on the artists’ diverse cultural histories. Kholod Hawash‘s textile works form a sculptural installation in the Pavilion. Her embroideries conjure a distinctive world of motifs, sewn stitch-by-stitch through jodaleia and tatreez (Arabic for quilting and embroidery), with elements from folktales and archaeological landscapes.

 

 

Moderna Museet invited Lap-See Lam to create an ambitious multi-modal installation. In collaboration with curator Asrin Haidari, Lam extended the invitation to Norwegian composer Tze Yeung Ho and Finnish textile artist Kholod Hawash, and an international ensemble of collaborators ranging from singers, costume designers and filmmakers to interpreters and a certified bamboo scaffold engineer.

 

Photo Credits:

Installation view, Lap-See Lam, The Altersea Opera, 2024. With Kholod Hawash and Tze Yeung Ho. The Nordic Countries Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale de Venezia, 20 April – 24 November, 2024. Photo: Michael Miller/Moderna Museet. Textile work © Kholod Hawash. © Lap-See Lam. Courtesy the artist, Moderna Museet and Galerie Nordenhake. Dragon head made by Lu Guangzheng.

Installation view, Lap-See Lam, The Altersea Opera, 2024. With Kholod Hawash and Tze Yeung Ho. The Nordic Countries Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale de Venezia, 20 April – 24 November, 2024. Photo: Jan Ahlstedt/Moderna Museet. Textile work ©️ Kholod Hawash. ©️ Lap-See Lam. Courtesy the artist, Moderna Museet and Galerie Nordenhake.

From The Altersea Opera LIVE – a unique activation Friday 19 April and Saturday 20 April to mark the opening of The Altersea Opera, 2024, by Lap-See Lam with Kholod Hawash and Tze Yeung Ho. The Nordic Countries Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale de Venezia, 20 April – 24 November, 2024. Bruno Hibombo as Past Lo Ting. Photo: Jan Ahlstedt/Moderna Museet. Textile work © Kholod Hawash. © Lap-See Lam. Courtesy the artist, Moderna Museet and Galerie Nordenhake.

Lap-See Lam, “The Altersea Opera”., 2024 Film still: Lisabi Fridell/Egerstrand&Blund. Textile work © Kholod Hawash. © Lap-See Lam. Courtesy the artist, Galerie Nordenhake and Moderna Museet.

Textile work (details), “The Altersea Opera”., 2024 Textile work © Kholod Hawash. Photo: My Matson/Moderna Museet

Portraits, Photo: Mattias Lindbäck/Moderna Museet