Carpet for the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

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Sarah Browne, Carpet for the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, wool and linen carpet, leftover stock from Donegal Carpets Factory, 300cm x 300cm x 2.5cm. Installation view at Istituto Santa Maria della Pieta, Venice (Irish Pavilion). Photo: Ros Kavanagh

For Ireland's representation at the 2009 Venice Biennale, Browne commissioned a bespoke hand-knotted carpet from Donegal Carpets. This particular company was renowned for its prestigious tradition of producing hand-knotted rugs for Irish embassies abroad, as well as for other state institutions such as The White House and Buckingham Palace: far from its roots in the Arts and Crafts movement, the company now survives by machine production or by outsourcing labour to the Philippines. For this project however, Browne initiated the revival of a somewhat anachronistic mode of production. Local women who used to work at the factory (most of whom now work at the 'heritage centre' that has replaced it) were re-employed to make the carpet. While seeming to recall certain modernist designs, or perhaps to reference Eileen Gray, the design and colour choice was actually dictated by the decision to work only from the surplus wool stocks remaining at the factory.

A black and white, silent 16mm film work serves as a document of the carpet's making, and seeks to address the production of nationality by cultural and economic means. Suturing together stills and moving images, the film reflects on the differing senses of time the work stages – the carpets as static entities that exist elsewhere, and the women working within the factory-as-museum.

Sarah Browne, Carpet for the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, 16mm film on DVD, 18:03 minutes, b/w, silent
Sarah Browne, Carpet for the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, 16mm film on DVD, 18:03 minutes, b/w, silent
Sarah Browne, Carpet for the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, wool and linen carpet, leftover stock from Donegal Carpets Factory, 300cm x 300cm x 2.5cm; 16mm film on DVD, 18:03 minutes, b/w, silent; One Hour’s Drawing for One Hour’s Knotting (Sixteen Knots per Square Inch), acrylic and pencil on paper, 40cm x 30cm; One Hour’s Drawing for One Hour’s Knotting  (Nine Knots per Square Inch), acrylic and pencil on paper, 40cm x 30cm; Sarah Browne, Letter to Eileen Gray, Digital print on archival paper, 30cm x 40cm. Installation view at Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, 2012. Photo: Scott Massey
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All works commissioned for the Irish Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale, 2009. Artists: Sarah Browne, Gareth Kennedy, Kennedy Browne. Commissioner / curator: Caoimhín Corrigan. Ireland’s participation at the 53rd International Biennale, Venice is an initiative of Culture Ireland and supported by the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon. Supporting partners: Leitrim County Council; The Dock; Temple Bar Gallery & Studios. Exhibition partners: Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris; Farmleigh Gallery, Dublin;National College of Art & Design, Dublin.