"(...) the Roma Pavilion’s ‘Call the Witness’ project on the other hand. ‘A makeshift exhibition evolving over time through the flux of “testimonies” […] considering the situation of the Roma and Roma art as emblematic for the world today’ this (...) project by Maria Hlavajova and Basis voor Actuele Kunst, Utrecht, not only managed to fly in the likes of Tom McDonough and Salman Rushdie for its series of talks, but also features this year’s single most rewarding ‘art’ film experience in the form and shape of Želimir Žilnik’s ‘Kenedi’ trilogy (2004–7), centered around the eventful life and times of a Kosovo-born Rom by the name of Kenedi Hasan. It is political cinema at its very best, and a damning indictment, in all its down-to-earth humility, of much of the irresponsible frivolities that get to pass for ‘political’ art in La Serenissima every two years or so."
- Dieter Roelstraete, "54th Venice Biennale," Frieze Magazine, September 2011 (available online here)
"If 'ILLUMInations' - modest and impeccable, full of more or less familiar objects, traditionally arranged- is symptomatic of anything, then it is of retreat not just from the global but form discursive innovation. On one level this is understandable: Just look at the Palazzo Grassi for a lesson in global marketplace homogogenization, and at the Roma Pavilion, where objects have been replaced with a painfully earnest program of talks and discussions, for reminders of why both routes might have run their course."
- Claire Bishop, "Safety in Numbers," Artforum, September 2011
"The Roma Pavilion’s strength, I believe, lies in both an enormously interesting network of individual artists living across Europe, who work from within their Roma subjectivities—not only are they Roma, but Roma issues are their point of departure and an important theme—but also in the fact that in the context of the national representations in Venice it is per definition an extra-national pavilion, belonging to no single nation. I think this opens up a whole new field of possibilities for us to think otherwise about art and its potentials in the world of today and tomorrow. The collaborations that made up the Roma Pavilion project worked outside both the market economy and the nation-state in the traditional sense, and so with some of the most remarkable Roma artists and thinkers we at least tried to imagine what art beyond the product/propaganda conventions of our time could possibly be."
- Ekaterina Degot, "Political themes do not function as a critique of, but rather as an advertisement for neoliberalism," Interview with Maria Hlavajova, OpenSpace.ru, 12.08.11 (in Russian, available online here)
"(Alfred Ullrich's) contribution to the Roma Pavilion in Venice condenses his change from a young man to a political Sinti artist.'
– Wolfgang Eitler, "Gefährdete Erinnerungen," Süddeutsche Zeitung, 06.08.11 (in German, available online here)
"By creating images of the Roma that oppose those of mainstream culture, roma artists fight to reverse old stereotypes. This is (...) particularly apparent at the art biennale in Venice (...). Almost all of the exhibiting Roma artists belong to a new generation of artists that have studied at academies and colleges and understand how to be heard in the highly competitive arena of international art establishments."
- Roman Urbaner, "Sturm auf die Paläste," d|ROM|a, 30/11, Sommer 2011 (in German, available online here)
"A different example is the Roma Pavilion 'Call the Witness' situated in a palazzo of UNESCO. This penetrating project about the situation of the Roma makes one realize what difficulties this societal group still has to endure, in Europe and nationally. Maria Hlavajova, director of the Utrecht-based arts centre BAK composed the exhibition and Aernout Mik rebuilt Constant's Design for a Gypsy Camp from 1956-58. Its precisely the background of the Biennale's national contributions that strengthens the political eloquence of this transnational pavilion."
- Din Pieters, "ILLUMInazioni voorbij de landsgrenzen," Museum Tijdschrift, juli-augustus 2011 (in Dutch)
“The entire idea of nationality gets another impulse outside of the biennale terrain. In one of the wings of a big Venetian palazzo, the Romanian-Dutch (sic) director of Utrecht’s BAK, Maria Hlavajova, with the support of among others Unesco, the European Cultural Foundation and the Swiss Cultural Program, established a pavilion for a people that still is exposed to discrimination, ethnic registration and deportation: the Roma. ‘If contemporary art is the site where the world can be thought differently than we know it,’ writes Hlavajova in the catalogue, ‘then the Roma Pavilion is a proposition in that direction.’ The proposition is basic and crucial: to collect information and material that will picture Roma as people with an own culture. The movies, photos, and works of art that derive from it, as well as the lectures of among others Salman Rushdie and George Soros, are placed in a site that is set up after an idea by Constant Nieuwenhuys.”
- Anna Tilroe, "Nergens geworteld," De Groene Amsterdammer, 23.06.2011 (in Dutch)
"Also the Roma Pavilion must be mentioned for its clear artistic and political statement. A design by Constant from the 1950s for a Gypsy-enclave was beautifully put together by Aernout Mik, looking something like a 1920s Russian Constructivist pavilion dedicated to the Roma and their visual expression, as well as for the lectures of, among others, Salman Rushdie. This was no decoration for a pretentious, futile drama with a raised finger, but here an air of openness and tolerance could be breathed. A perfect connection to the general theme of the Biennale: illuminations."
– Gijs van Tuijl, "Nederland staart op Biennale in z'n navel," de Volkskrant, 10.6.2011 (in Dutch, available online here)
- Joerg Bader, "Vom Unterwegssein," Stylepark, 09.07.2011 (in German, available online here)
Roma Pavilion named one of the highlights of the 54th Venice Biennale: “Utrecht art institution BAK makes a Pavilion available to people with no permanent state: the Roma. In the opening week of the Biennale, a number of scholars and authors, amongst whom Salman Rushdie, delivered lectures on subjects related to Roma culture. Recordings of these statements are to be seen in an exhibition, the architectural design of which is based on a Gypsy camp designed by the artist Constant."
– Sandra Smallenburg, “Hoogtepunten van de Biennale van Venetie 2011,” NRC Handelsblad, 9.6.2011 (in Dutch)
“And what to think of the Roma Pavilion, which found its home just outside of the Biennale terrain? It is organized by BAK, an Utrecht-based art institution and offers a platform to artists with no homeland. It is perhaps the most powerful signal to the others that the national pavilions in the Giardini are the story of the past. An idea of the Biennale as a sort of a world exhibition or a Eurovision-style competition, for which the countries delegate their ‘best’ artists, is herewith critically shaken.”
– Sandra Smallenburg, "Politiek is overal op Biennale Venetie," NRC Handelsblad, 4.6.2011 (in Dutch)
"During his reading Salman Rushdie, listed as one of the artists contributing to the Roma Pavilion, put it thus: art and artists are in principle stateless and as such are the avant-garde of the present. ‘Whoever isn't rooted, is forced to invent himself anew, he has to be someone different—call him lucky or cursed, but this is the mass phenomenon of our time’.”
– Catrin Lorch, "Wir sind alle Roma," Süddeutsche Zeitung, 3.6.2011 (in German, available online here)
– Sanneke Huisman, "Call the Witness. Interview with Maria Hlavajova," Metropolis M, 27.5.2011, available online here
"Special attention should be reserved for one pavilion that is part of the collateral events of the (Venice) Biennale.The Roma Pavilion is in fact an intentional project of the Open Society Foundations and BAK, Utrecht.This project conquered a space (Palazzo Zorzi, Unesco Venice Office ) and is promising to be a 'work in progress' evolving every day with conferences, testimonials, and performances. Through their work, the Roma artists would tell their and their communities' stories, often painful, of integration and marginalization if not deportation."
- A. Di Ge., "Testimonianze Rom e la Norvegia Politica", Supplemento Settimanale de "Il Manifesto", 28.3.2011
Unless otherwise noted, translations into English of quotations from foreign-language press coverage are our own.