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First Person

Her winding path

Sculptor/installation artist and New York resident Sarah Sze is representing the United States at the Venice Biennale. The Italian city reminds her of her hometown, Boston.

Sarah Sze.

Suki Dhanda

Sarah Sze.

 The work I am installing here in Venice is a response to the building, it’s site specific. The [US] Pavilion is a building that’s very symmetrical and very hierarchical. I’m TRYING TO THROW OFF THAT SYMMETRY, so the whole movement through space becomes more of a circuitous route of moments of discovery.

IN VENICE YOU’RE CONSTANTLY GETTING LOST and finding yourself, because routes are winding, like the route I’m trying to create. Discovery and spontaneity are part of your experience at every turn.

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For materials, I am using things that are just basic daily life here, like receipts from local places that you can actually read and tickets from the vaporetto [water bus]. Most of the streets are actually CANALS THAT HAVE BEEN LAND-FILLED, so that sort of natural winding and turning you have is very specific to waterways.

Much of Boston is also landfill, so you have the edge of water defining space. And I’ve been told that, historically, you had carts behind horses that wandered through, that created a path, that created a street, that created a road, that created a highway. So THE WAY YOU MOVE THROUGH THE BOSTON AREA is very much about a winding path.

One of my favorite places growing up was PLIMOTH PLANTATION. I love being in a place where you can imagine the history so directly. You feel that very much here. It’s impossible not to imagine a ship coming into Venice and having the entire city lighted by candles, because it’s so close to what still exists.  — As told to Joel Brown

Interview has been edited and condensed. Send comments to

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