Chapter 9 Tarnishing History through Matter: Gal Weinstein’s Sun Stand Still at the Israeli Pavilion in Venice

In: Imagined Israel(s): Representations of the Jewish State in the Arts
Luna Goldberg
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In 1946, two years prior to the founding of Israel, an initial query about the construction of an Israeli Pavilion was submitted to the mayor of Venice. Five years later, Zeev Rechter was appointed as the architect for the Biennale project. Built in a style characterizing pre-state construction in Israel and completed in 1952, the Pavilion and its architecture played an important symbolic role in the construction of national identity at a time when the “newly founded Israeli state faced the challenge of uniting its heterogeneous population into a national community.” The Pavilion was to represent Israel on an international platform, and Rechter’s modernist design reflected the state’s longing to promote the country as part of the West. Over the years, several artists representing Israel at the Venice Biennale have transformed the Pavilion through architectural interventions. Most recently, Gal Weinstein visibly “aged” the Pavilion by growing layers of mold on the walls and floors of the space in his 2017 exhibition Sun Stand Still. This chapter takes the exhibition as a case study, examining how Weinstein uses materiality and installations disrupting the modernist architecture and functionalist aesthetic of the Pavilion as a means of critiquing how the nation forged its image on a global stage while simultaneously reflecting on the current state of the country. The centerpiece of the exhibition—an installation of molding growths spread throughout the building that actively age and decay the interior of the structure—serves as an allegory for the nation, Weinstein’s manipulation of the interior of the Pavilion functioning as a metaphorical critique of the state.

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