The artist collective Isuma, led by Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn, will represent Canada at La Biennale di Venezia, 2019 – 58th International Art Exhibition.
Isuma, meaning “to think, or a state of thoughtfulness” in Inuktitut, is Canada’s first Inuit video-based production company. It was co-founded in 1990 by Zacharias Kunuk, Norman Cohn, Paul Apak Angilirq (1954-1998), and Pauloosie Qulitalik (1939- 2012) to preserve Inuit culture and language and to present Inuit stories to Inuit and non-Inuit audiences around the world.
Isuma’s ground-breaking features, documentaries and television series have been screened at the Cannes Film Festival (2001, Camera d’or) and dOCUMENTA 11 and 14 (2002, 2017), as well as at the Edinburgh International Film Festival (2001), the Flanders International Film Festival Ghent (2001), the Toronto International Film Festival (2006) and the Sundance Film Festival (2009), among others. Their work is represented in major art institutions including the National Gallery of Canada. Recent projects include the feature drama, Maliglutit (Searchers), the TV series Hunting With My Ancestors, and the first Haida-language feature film, Edge of the Knife.
Isuma artists are closely involved in their community. Over the course of its career, the collective helped establish an Inuit media arts centre, NITV, and Artcirq, a youth media and circus group. Among other projects, in 2008 they launched IsumaTV, the world’s first website for Indigenous media art. In 2012, Isuma produced Digital Indigenous Democracy, an internet network to inform and consult Inuit in low-bandwidth communities facing development of the Baffinland Iron Mine.
"Since the mid-1990s the Isuma collective has been challenging stereotypes about ways of life in the North and breaking boundaries in video art." – Marc Mayer, National Gallery of Canada Director and CEO
Isuma was selected by a national committee of experts in contemporary Canadian art comprised of: Naomi Potter, Director and Curator, Esker Foundation; Matthew Hyland, Director, Oakville Galleries; Candice Hopkins, Curator for Documenta 14; Josée Drouin-Brisebois, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Canada; and Marc Mayer, Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada. Their representation at Venice marks the first presentation of art by Inuit in the Canada Pavilion.
The Venice Biennale is the only international visual arts exhibition to which Canada sends official representation.
Canada’s representation at the Venice biennial has played a part in shaping the role and place of Canadian contemporary art within international circles, helping to launch or elevate the international careers of many of the country’s most celebrated artists, including Emily Carr, David Milne, Jean Paul Riopelle, Alex Colville, Guido Molinari, Michael Snow, General Idea, Geneviève Cadieux, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Rebecca Belmore, David Altmejd, Shary Boyle, and Geoffrey Farmer.
Located in the heart of the historic Giardini di Castello, the Canada Pavilion boasts one of the most desirable locations in Venice.
The 2019 Venice Biennale will take place May 11 to November 24, 2019.