Enter the immersive world of film noir at a disused hospital in Venice

Fondazione In Between Art Film returns to Venice with ‘Nebula’, by curators Alessandro Rabottini and Leonardo Bigazzi

disused hospital with screen
Basir Mahmood, Brown Bodies in an Open Landscape are Often Migrating , 2024 in “ Nebula ” , Fondazione In Between Art Film at Complesso dell ’ Ospedaletto, Venice , 202 4 . Courtesy of the artist, and Fondazione In Between Art Film
(Image credit: Photo: Lorenzo Palmieri)

Two years ago, ‘Penumbra’ was a surprise hit at the Venice Biennale. Who would have thought a group show of film would be so popular at an event where people are known to ‘power walk’ through exhibitions that have been months or even years in the making?

For the Venice Biennale 2024, the Fondazione In Between Art Film – which commissions art films and stages exhibitions – returns with ‘Nebula’, a different staging in the same space, a disused hospital, by the same curators, Alessandro Rabottini and Leonardo Bigazzi. The building, Complesso dell’Ospedaletto, constructed over 400 years, is an enigmatic maze of rooms looking onto a courtyard that is both impossible to ignore and adaptable to staging. Working with the same designers, 2050+, the team took a more immersive approach than with ‘Penumbra’, letting the films guide the installation while keeping the sense of noir they adopted in 2022.

disused hospital with screen

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Until we became fire and fire us,2023–ongoing in “Nebula”, Fondazione InBetween Art Film at Complesso dell’Ospedaletto, Venice,2024.Courtesy of the artists, and Fondazione In Between Art Film

(Image credit: Photo: Lorenzo Palmieri)

‘We wanted to use the same space, and clearly we were working with the same medium, so we started thinking of how to give a different experience to viewers,’ says Rabottini. ‘The dynamic was slightly different. We were aware of the space, and we made [the viewers] aware of the space.’

Each of the eight films has its own unique setting – variously defined, for example, by foil-lined walls, padded white medical fabric, or a ringing bell – which overflows out of its location into the rest of the building. There is a sense of dissonance and miasma as you negotiate the exhibition before landing on a work in its particular space.

‘Nebula’, by Fondazione In Between Art Film in Venice

disused hospital with screen

Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Nebula, 2024 in “Nebula” Fondazione InBetween Art Film at Complesso dell’Ospedaletto, Venice,2024.Courtesy of the artists, and Fondazione In Between Art Film

(Image credit: Photo: Lorenzo Palmieri)

On entering the venue’s 18th-century chapel, you are greeted by the towering triptych of Basir Mahmood’s Brown Bodies in an Open Landscape are Often Migrating (2024). A multi-channel work playing on three huge screens, designed to mimic the shape of a phone, dominates the space. A call and response is taking place; men beckon each other or signal with flags and we see shots of a rocky landscape mirroring the hand gestures of the frescoes that decorate the walls, barely visible in the near darkness. The film tells the story of those who migrate, walking through rural areas of Pakistan and how they communicate. Using social media and other methods, people share information on how to travel, their journeys sometimes taking years.

‘If you see from a Central European point, mostly people realise that these migrants exist when they are at their borders or at their shores,’ the artist says. ‘But these journeys take place, sometimes, over five or eight years, and they start travelling when as young as 12 years old. So imagine you start as a young boy, you end up as a teenager or a man when you arrive, and most of the time you don't end up there. For me, it was important to speak about the density, the vastness of the space and also the time that it takes to reach any destination.’

Chrisitan Nyampeta’s film When Rain Clouds Gather (2024), which follows three friends in New York trying to plan a night out, looks at the difficulties of different roles and positions in the art world. Through the lives of these friends, Nyampeta explores how politics, ideals and realities transfer from discussion into real life.

‘For this film, I wanted to experiment with conventions alongside friends and collaborators, in search of forms that move at the rhythm of life,’ he reveals. ‘I wanted to find a way to commemorate and to imagine and to inspire into action, but never to manipulate.’

In the work, the friends discuss high and low culture, why one international crisis captures the public’s imagination and not another, and the dilemma of making art and maintaining a steady life and income.

‘If this film raises dichotomies, it is only because life itself is painfully contradictory’ continues Nyampeta. ‘The principal role of this film is to support ongoing and preceding conversations about what to do and how to do it in the face of the brutality from those who are supposed to look after us. The film does this playfully and with a lot of creativity and openness. Perhaps the resulting tension between the global histories bearing upon the world today paired with life's little annoyances create what can be described as dichotomies.’

Installed in the most recently built part of the hospital is Until we became fire and fire us (2023-ongoing) by Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme. Installed across five rooms, this work uses poetry, installation, music, performance and drawing, with several interlinked films to explore states of being related to their Palestinian heritage.

Another standout work is Ari Benjamin Meyers’ Marshall Allen, 99, Astronaut (2024) – a loving portrait of a 99-year-old flautist who is the last living member of the Sun Ra Arkestra jazz group – rounding out a stunning ensemble of works that make ‘Nebula’ a highlight of the biennale.

‘Nebula’, until 24 November 2024 at Complesso dell’Ospedaletto, Venice, inbetweenartfilm.com

For more must-sees, read our guide to the Venice Biennale 2024

Amah-Rose Abrams is a British writer, editor and broadcaster covering arts and culture based in London. In her decade plus career she has covered and broken arts stories all over the world and has interviewed artists including Marina Abramovic, Nan Goldin, Ai Weiwei, Lubaina Himid and Herzog & de Meuron. She has also worked in content strategy and production.