Why I Can't Stop Thinking About 'Barca Nostra'

This article was previously published in the special edition, VENICE (July 2019).


I was, admittedly, a little nervous to write this piece concerning the Barca Nostra (Our Boat) at the Venice Biennale. Firstly, because I have never been to the Venice Biennale, or any biennale for that matter. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the general rule for reviewing something as subjective as a piece of exhibited work is that it is only accurate when one has experienced its impact first hand. Secondly, the sheer volume of published articles on Christoph Büchel’s Barca Nostra is enough to make anyone feel intimidated. If we were to amalgamate the general information from these (varying in opinion may I add) online articles, it would read like something along the lines of: a fishing boat boarded by around eight hundred migrants from Libya to Italy which tragically sank in 2015, its remains excavated and placed, unlabelled, in the Arsenale for this year’s exhibition.

Christoph Büchel, 'Barca Nostra' (Our Boat), 2019 (Image: Luca Zanon Awakening/Getty Images)


The Swiss-Icelandic artist has curated a mysterious presence surrounding his work: Büchel gave no statement or interview which would aid us in trying to decipher his intentions. This, in turn, caused the press to run amok with their own interpretations of the artist’s ‘work’. I emphasize this deliberately, as unsurprisingly we find ourselves entering the age-old discussion of whether something is or isn’t an artwork. At this point I feel I should come clean about my own stance in the