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Australia Pavilion Venue Attendant | Venice Biennale, Giardini - 2015

7 July to 3 August


Reflections on the value of 

Professional Development & Australia in the Arts

Venice Biennale | Australia Pavilion, 2015

Monitoring the artworks, asking people to resist the urge to touch and providing further information to visitors is a basic outline of what filled my days as a Venue Attendant at the Australia Pavilion in July. With the latter point, people were genuinely engaged and curious, an ode to the evocative and meaningful work of Fiona Hall, but also the more is more wunderkammer style of the exhibition. There was always something to talk about and always something people wanted an explanation on. Often these conversations would end with the visitor remarking that “Australia has the most talkative and informative staff” and then asking us “why” that was. The answer was always very easy and always the same. We were not simply there as security or to hand out flyers, as was the case with a number of the pavilions, and we also were not just given our positions lightheartedly, but were awarded them as a part of a professional development program run by the Australia Council for the Arts. We are all artworld professionals in various sectors. In my team alone we had experience in artist run spaces, commercial galleries, art fairs, private galleries, arts funding organisations, institutions and independent projects. We all brought very different things to the table and learnt a great deal from each other. On top of this, we were thrust into a situation that none of us had ever directly experienced before, using the advice from our preceding team and the many protocols in place to guide us through this incredible month long journey.

Verity Hayward and I had the same first day, a week after Lili Belle Birchall and Jane Barlow had learned the inside secrets of the building, the Biennale and the exhibition, 'Wrong Way Time', from Team 2. We were taught how to open the outward panels that become the door and window of Corker Denton Marshall’s impressive black box spaceship and were given a run through of the exhibition. Seeing the show for the first time was thrilling. After studying the works individually, reading countless essays and watching every online clip that mentions Hall’s name, seeing the installation as a whole was beyond exciting. The impressive building and the exceptional work were then met with comment after comment expressing admiration for the exhibition. We had visitors leaving in tears, truly touched by the thought-provoking nature of Hall's work and the strong environmental message that questions human intentions. We had people inspired, people uplifted and people leaving pensive and quiet. These reactions, the space itself, and the artworks, honestly made us all feel so proud to be Australian and so proud to be in the arts, a feeling that is sometimes hard to recognise when at home. Being in a situation that allows you to see what Australian art has to offer on the world stage, not only in the Australia Pavilion, but also in satellite exhibitions and Okwui Enwezor’s curated spaces, swells one with pride - as Australian artists have a unique, interesting and internationally valued perspective. - Olivia Welch

Olivia Welch with Fiona Hall's Manuhiri (Travellers) [2014] and three of Hall's clock works incorporating camouflage.

Left to Right:

Verity Hayward is an independent curator and writer who lives and works in Melbourne. She is Chair and Artistic Director of BLINDSIDE’s Board of Directors, and Gallery Administrator at RMIT Project Space/ Spare Room and School of Art Gallery. Verity holds a Masters in Arts Management at RMIT, and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Art History at the University of Queensland. Her previous volunteer roles include the Institute of Modern Art and the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. Curatorial projects include Tomorrow never dies (Linden New Art 2015), Curtain Call: The rough end of the pineapple (BLINDSIDE, 2014), and Lost in Translocation (RMIT Project Space/Spare Room, 2015).

Jane Barlow has extensive background in the museum and gallery sector, including developing and touring exhibitions, registration, collection and exhibition management, administration and curatorial responsibilities. Jane has held positions at Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmanian Museum and Arts Gallery, National Touring Exhibitions Support, Victoria and the City of Melbourne, Arts and Heritage Collection and is currently employed as Administration Officer, Art Operations at the Tasmanian College for the Arts, University of Tasmania. Jane graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) from the University of Tasmania in 1998, specialising in Painting and Photography and was a founding member of the Letitia Street Artist Studios.

Me - Olivia Welch

Lili Belle Birchall is a Melbourne based arts worker. She has worked with numerous Australian art galleries, including Heide Museum of Modern Art, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Ian Potter Museum of Art, and Centre for Contemporary Photography. Her experience includes assisting with front-of-house operations, invigilating gallery spaces, installing exhibitions, cataloguing collections and coordinating events. Lili Belle has a First Class Honours Degree in art history from the University of Melbourne where she is currently completing a Master of Arts and Cultural Management degree.


UNSW Art & Design. 'A&D at the Venice Biennale'. University of New South Wales Art & Design. 13 May 2015. Online. "..Bronwyn Papantonio is Projects Officer, International Signature Projects and Andrew Moran has a dual role as an exhibition installer and Pavilion Exhibition attendant. Others attendants who completed their degrees at A&D are Victoria Maxwell, Alyce Neal and Olivia Welch..."

Fairley, Gina. 'Guess who’s going to Venice?'. Visual Art Hub. 30 January 2015. Online. "...Volunteer Exhibition Attendants provide assistance in the Australian Pavilion for four weeks each during the exhibition. This year’s Volunteer Exhibition Attendants are: Mary Angove, Samuel Barbour, Lili-Belle Birchall...Annabella Snell, Thomas Hungerford, Diana Warnes and Olivia Welch..."

Australia Council for the Arts. 'Life-changing career opportunity for arts professionals'. Ausralia Council for the Arts. 28 January 2015. Online. "...Volunteer Exhibition Attendants provide assistance in the Australian Pavilion for four weeks each during the exhibition. This year’s Volunteer Exhibition Attendants are: Mary Angove, Samuel Barbour, Lili-Belle Birchall...Annabella Snell, Thomas Hungerford, Diana Warnes and Olivia Welch..."

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