In its 122-year history, the Venice Biennale has arguably grown to become the world’s most important and high profile contemporary art exhibition. Each Biennale commands the attention of artists, curators, critics, gallerists, celebrities, collectors, and the media on a global scale.

This year, as part of the festivities ushering in the 57th Venice Biennale, UNSW Art & Design graduate Paul Handley's practice is represented by an installation as part of the Personal Structures exhibition, presented by the Dutch not-for-profit organisation, Global Art Affairs Foundation.

Personal Structures is a long-running project, established in the 1960s, that through symposia, exhibitions, and publications aims to unite artists and to stimulate further creative exploration of common themes of interest and concern. 

Handley’s installation explores what he refers to as; “big-picture social issues that cross borders and even continents”. Titled Déplacement (Smuggling Pod), the work highlights the plight of more than 500,000 migrants from war-torn Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan who sought refuge on the island of Lesvos in 2016. Handley visited the island and photographed the many abandoned life-jackets, covering 10 acres of land, that were left behind on the beaches. 

For Déplacement (Smuggling Pod), Handley has assembled a ring of orange life jackets on a bracketed rack. The circular display method symbolizes both struggle and hope in the context of the search for better lives for refugees and displaced peoples and the achievements that are possible when individuals, communities, and nations work together to facilitate a safer world. 

Paul Handley is a multi-disciplinary artist who lives and works in Melbourne, Australia.