Curating Unity: A Multi-modal Reading of Archaic, the National Pavilion of Iraq at the 57th Venice Biennale

Anastasia Shanaah


The paper investigates meaning communicated by the exhibition Archaic, the national pavilion of Iraq at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017). The Venice Biennale is the only global art event that allows countries and nations to represent themselves on their own terms. In this sense, the system of national pavilions is traditionally regarded as an arena for soft power. The paper applies multimodal analysis both on the macro-level (Halliday metafunctions) and micro-level (investigation of artworks for meaning potentials) to understand the image of Iraq curated in the exhibition. The analysis shows that the curators did not shy away from showing a negative image of Iraq with its outdated governmental system and existing ethno-religious divides. However, the main narrative communicated by the exhibition emphasized the theme of historical, cultural, geographical, and human connections binding social diversity into an inclusive national unity.


Venice Biennale; national pavilions; multimodal analysis; Iraq; contemporary art

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