The Teaching Tree

59th Venice Biennale
23 April - 27 November 2022

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"I came across the stories of Al Khidr, 'The Green Man', a character of Islamic and world mythology. Made of plant matter, his role was to be cut or decapitated, destroyed and grow back to life and even beyond his past limitation in order to change the course of history. [...] The sculpture is a symbol for the natural course of life with all of its complexity, suggesting there is always more to learn, another place to go, and another path to find."
- Muhannad Shono

Muhannad Shono, “The Teaching Tree,” 2022 - Photo © Simone Cherubini | Courtesy the Artist

For the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia at the 59th Venice Biennale, Muhannad Shono collaborated with Factum Arte to create The Teaching Tree: a 260 square meter sculptural work made of dried palm leaves, dyed black and applied over a metallic structure animated by a pneumatic machine. The work expands and contracts inside the space both visually and mechanically, giving it the impression of calm and steady breathing. 

The palm leaves were dyed black using three coating layers: a fire retardant, an oil-based coat and a layer of black pigment. A number of tests were carried out in Madrid by Silvia Alvarez before assembling and creating the bulk of the sculpture inside the Arsenale, in Venice, with the assistance of Alexander Carey-Morgan, Bradley Childs and We Exhibit. 

Flecks of pigment, detaching from the leaves over the course of the Biennale, will slowly and organically change the appearance of the sculpture. 

Pigment tests in Madrid © Oak Taylor-Smith for Factum Arte

The palm leaves being painted in Venice

Detail of the coating and the natural leaves © Bradley Childs

Muhannad Shono, “The Teaching Tree,” 2022 - Photo © Simone Cherubini | Courtesy the Artist

Muhannad Shono, “The Teaching Tree,” 2022 - Photo © Simone Cherubini | Courtesy the Artist

Muhannad Shono, “The Teaching Tree,” 2022 - Photo © Simone Cherubini | Courtesy the Artist


 

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