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John Cale to Represent Wales at the Venice Biennale of Art 2009
John Cale on location in Garnant, S Wales, November 2008. Photo by Bevis Bowden.

CARDIFF.- The Arts Council of Wales announced that John Cale will represent Wales at the Venice Biennale of Art 2009 with a new, specially commissioned installation. The Venice Biennale, inaugurated in 1895, is the world’s pre-eminent showcase for contemporary art, and 2009 will be Wales’ fourth presentation at this prestigious event.

Born in Garnant, South Wales, John Cale attended Goldsmiths College, London. In 1963, Cale moved to New York, where he met LaMonte Young, Andy Warhol, and Lou Reed, with whom he founded The Velvet Underground. For Wales at Venice 2009, Cale will produce a new audio-visual work made in Wales, in collaboration with artists, filmmakers and poets. The work has at its heart Cale’s own personal relationship with the Welsh language and the issues surrounding communication. The work will fill the majestic Capannone space at the Ex-Birreria, the old brewery building on the island of Giudecca and home to Wales’ three previous presentations at the Biennale.

John Cale said: “As surprised and honoured as I was to be asked to contribute to the Welsh presentation at the Venice Biennale of Art 2009 it also was a challenge that I eagerly accepted. It offers an occasion to address certain pernicious issues in my background that had lain dormant for so long. There are certain experiences uniquely suited to the exorcism of mixed media and I am grateful for this opportunity to address them.”

Acknowledged as one of the greatest collaborators and producers, Cale has worked and performed with, among others, The Stooges, Terry Riley, Brian Eno, Happy Mondays, Modern Lovers and Patti Smith. Cale more recently has worked with Welsh bands, Manic Street Preachers and Super Furry Animals, with filmmaker Marc Evans on Beautiful Mistake (2000) and Dal:Yma/ Nawr (2003), and on numerous international films.

Cale’s own writing and music has always resonated with the bleakness and solemnity of the Welsh landscape, as well as the rich tradition of Welsh language strict metre poetry. Himself a published poet, he acknowledges the influence of Dylan Thomas in the troubled souls of his protagonists.

Cale is known for his exploration of the limits of sound, and cites John Cage as a significant influence upon his work. In early sensorial multimedia experiments and performances with the Theatre of Eternal Music, Cale blurred the boundaries of music, film, performance and visual art. He anticipated what has come to be accepted as sound art, and the DJ-centric sublimation of the nightclub experience, while fashioning a language of his own.

For Bruce Haines, Curator for Wales at Venice 2009, the Venice Biennale provides an exceptional opportunity to work with Cale: “John Cale has demonstrated a focused athleticism in his practice since he started working in the mid 1960s. While commercial success has not figured greatly in his career, Cale’s work is consistently admired and acknowledged as having a significant influence and inspiration on many artists internationally. As the premier art event in an over-subscribed art calendar, the Venice Biennale of Art has, since its inception, consistently showcased the most interesting and divergent practices in an often multi-disciplinary way – a key characteristic with which Wales will again engage in 2009.”

Mari Beynon Owen, Commissioner, Wales at Venice, said: “The new work will involve collaboration and interaction with creative practitioners in Wales leading up to June 2009, and we hope that it will inspire and energize a flow of creative interventions beyond the duration of the Biennale itself.”

Commenting on the selection, Chief Executive of the Arts Council Nick Capaldi added: “John Cale's unique contribution to contemporary art practice establishes his position as one of the art world's most significant and influential individuals. It is a contribution that deserves to be celebrated, and the Arts Council of Wales is delighted that he has agreed to represent Wales in Venice next year.”

Alun Ffred Jones, Minister for Heritage for the Welsh Assembly Government, said: “John Cale is a 'bard' in the widest sense - an artistic craftsman, whose work is firmly rooted in Wales’ cultural history, and it will be exciting to see how this manifests itself on such an important international platform.”

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