Postcard from Venice: Eye Suriyanon

At this year’s Venice Biennale, SCAN is delighted to be supporting Glasgow-based artist Eye Suriyanon in the British Council’s Fellowships Programme, a unique opportunity for creative individuals to spend a month at the world’s most important art biennale. This year, 66 Fellows are spending time invigilating at the British Pavilion during John Akomfrah’s exhibition, and developing their own creative and scholarly projects.

SCAN caught up with Eye after the Biennale opening week to see how the Fellowship is going.


What are your hopes for the Fellowship to Venice this year?

From this Fellowship, I hope to have a better understanding of the work that the British Council does and how an international exhibition is produced, starting from the selection of the artist and the curator by the panel of commissioners, then the financial matters of how sponsorship, fundraising, patronages and commissioning works. During my stay, it’s a chance for me to connect with the Global majority and experience artwork from lessen known or lessen publicised regions. Finally, a way to form connections with future collaborators across the UK and beyond.


What have been some highlights so far?

There’s so many to choose from! Here are some of my highlights.

1. My train journey from Glasgow to Venice. I had breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, dinner in Stuttgart and a coffee in Venice. The transfers between trains and stations was more straightforward than I thought. I ended up with time to walk around the cities.

2. Meeting the other fellows in person – we are now a little family that shares dinner together.

3. Listening to Sir John Akomfrah talk about the work as we gathered in a big group on the iconic steps of the Pavilion. I became overwhelmed with emotions as I realised that I was in Venice and now, a part of their journey.

4. Being able to express my gratitude to Sir John Akomfrah, the British Council and SCAN for making this fellowship possible.

5. Getting a hug from Sir John Akomfrah when I was crying after I expressed my gratitude.


What was your response to John Akomfrah’s work, and have you had any notable conversations about it while invigilating the exhibition?

Listen All Night To The Rain has been one of the most considered pieces I have seen so far. It is something that will keep you contemplating after your visit as it’s rich with history, migration and a sense of injustice. The selected archive material and presentation of the work doesn’t demand you to engage with it. The way it has be set out gives the visitor more agency. They can choose to stay or leave as they please. The context is heavily layered and has been treated with utmost care whether it’s through the text, visual or sound. My notable engagements are with children. They would often ask how it was made, where the speakers are and other questions that other adult visitors may be too scared to ask.


How is your own research coming along?

The pre-opening and the first week have been intense and I’m slowly recovering. I am making a sound piece, and I have discussed for a space near the pavilion to set up a small table where visitors can contribute their voice and pronunciation of vowels in their native language. This will create an ethical voice data set that I will use for further development of the piece.


All photographs by Eye Suriyanon. Keep an eye on SCAN’s social media and news pages for further SCAN member and friend activity in Venice.