Tamiko Thiel @ Venice Biennial 2011

<< See Venice 2011 Index for all artworks and locations

“Shades of Absence”

Viewing locations and instructions:
Since 2022, Shades of Absence is online again, now in the ARpoise app

  • Download the free ARpoise app from the App Store or Play Store.
    • Allow access to camera and location!
  • View the Shades of Absence mARp to see sites in Venice.
  • Go to a site, open the ARpoise app and look around! The artwork will surround you.

In these pavilions of absence images of contemporary artists whose works have been censored are reduced to gold silhouettes and placed in the midst of terms of transgression. Each erased silhouette stands for countless unknown or lesser known artists who face censorship or persecution with no public support.

These works were created as a response to Biennale curator Bice Curiger’s question: “If art was a nation what would be written in its constitution?” as part of her theme on nationalism and internationalism at the Biennale.

There are three artworks in the series:


“Shades of Absence: Public Voids”
This work places golden silhouettes of artists, whose works of art in public spaces have been censored, into the public space of Piazza San Marco. This website lists various artists – including several cases at the Venice Biennial itself – as representatives for countless other often unsung and unprotected artists who have faced similar censorship.

“Shades of Absence: Public Voids” by Tamiko Thiel, Venice Biennale 2011. Silhouettes of artists whose works in public spaces have been censored – some at the Venice Biennial itself – stand in a golden pavilion made up of terms of censorship in Piazza San Marco.


“Shades of Absence: Schlingensief Gilded”

This is an intervention into the German Pavilion, that was awarded the Golden Lion Award for Best National Pavilion. In the spirit of the theater director Christian Schlingensief, “Shades of Absence: Schlingensief Gilded” intervenes into this memorial to the deceased artist, manifesting his ironic absent presence surrounded by a halo of terms of censorship often used to describe his works. This website has  information on several cases in which Schlingensief’s works had been censored.

“Shades of Absence – Schlingensief Gilded” in the German Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2011

“Shades of Absence: Schlingensief Gilded” in the German Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2011

“Shades of Absence: Schlingensief Gilded” in front of German Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2011


“Shades of Absence: Outside Inside”
This work is located directly in front of the Central Pavilion, on the Giardini main concourse. It creates a virtual pavilion for censored artists who, whether considered art world insiders or outsiders, have faced threats of violence or arrest. This website provides information on the artists depicted, plus many similar cases.

“Shades of Absence: Outside Inside” by Tamiko Thiel, Venice Biennale 2011. Silhouettes of artists who face arrest or physical violence hover in a golden pavilion made up of terms of censorship in the Biennial Giardini main concourse.

“Shades of Absence: Outside Inside”, Venice Biennale 2011, Giardini


These works pose the question: What is the real value of an artwork for society? Is it the price it receives from the highest bidder at auction? Or is it the discussion that it provokes in the public sphere?  There are multiple shades of absence for censored works, with some artworks and artists becoming even more prominent due to censorship, and others – the vast majority – disappearing without a trace. At a time when well-known artworks are being destroyed and famous artists arrested, we need to be aware that most artists who are censored do not enjoy world-wide visibility and support.

Censorship of art and artists happens in all nations in many forms and for many reasons. Some artists may deliberately seek provocation, but others are stunned that their work is seen as controversial. Especially works in public places can be censored for unclear or unspoken reasons. The Venice Biennial has provided a protected space for artworks that have been censored elsewhere, but also censors artworks itself, especially in the public space of Venice.

Website: https://tamikothiel.com/AR/shades-of-absence.html

Bio (version 2011):
Tamiko Thiel (US/DE) is a media artist developing the dramatic and poetic capabilities of various forms of reality. She has degrees in engineering from Stanford and MIT and a fine arts degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. She exhibits internationally in venues such as the International Center for Photography in New York, the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, the ZKM in Karlsruhe, the ICA in Boston and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, and at festivals such as Siggraph, ISEA and Ars Electronica.

She designed the visual form of the Connection Machine CM-1/CM-2 (1986/’87), the fastest supercomputer in the 1980s and now preserved in the Smithsonian Institution. She was creative director and producer of Starbright World, an award-winning multi-user 3D online virtual playspace for seriously ill children done in collaboration with film director and Starbright Foundation chairman Steven Spielberg. Her virtual reality installation Beyond Manzanar (2000) is one of the first VR installations collected by a US art museum, purchased by the San Jose Museum of Art in Silicon Valley in 2002.

She has won prizes such as the IBM Innovation Award and grants from WIRED Magazine and the Berlin Capital City Cultural Fund (Hauptstadtkulturfonds), and fellowships from institutions such as MIT and the Japan Foundation. She has taught and lectured at institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University, the MIT Media Lab, the Bauhaus-University in Weimar/Germany, University of California/San Diego, the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television and the School of Film and Television in Babelsberg, Germany.


6 Responses to “Tamiko Thiel @ Venice Biennial 2011”

  1. Tobey Crockett Says:

    Brilliant! Thank you for sharing this vision with us

  2. BlaxxunRomania Says:

    Yep !
    Tamiko Thiel is a great artist !

  3. ottavia bassetti Says:

    It is amazingly powerful, Tamiko. Which I could have been there and then also a Venezia and enjoy the full immpersion.


  4. tamikothiel Says:

    Thank you Ottavia!

    We’ll be leaving the artworks up as a permanent installation, so perhaps we can meet some time in Venice and I can show them to you then!

    take care, Tamiko

  5. Past AR “solutions” « ARuGodt Says:

    […] For information on viewing the artworks in Venice during the Biennial (June 4th – November 27th, see https://manifestarblog.wordpress.com/thiel_venice-2011/ […]

  6. Augmented Reality and Censorship – Interaction Between Virtual and Real World Says:

    […] Tamiko Thiel, a media artist creates this art project. She has got degrees in engineering from Stanford and MIT and a fine arts degree. She is devoted herself in combining the technologies with arts.  […]

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