Steve McQueen Takes the Biennale by Storm

The artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen, who represents Britain in the 53rd Venice Biennale, is best known for his film Hunger, about the hunger strikes in Northern Ireland in the 1980s. Now he's turned his lens on the Biennale itself. In Giardini, shot in the dead of winter in the gardens where the exhibition is held, strange men lurk in dark corners and greyhounds scavenge amid trash-strewn national pavilions. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Christopher Werth in Venice. Excerpts:

What is Giardini about?
The film is about pouring hot mold in between the spaces of the Giardini, then taking it out and projecting it. This is the only place I know where nationalism and art actually exist. When you go back in the winter, when people aren't here, it's almost an abandoned graveyard. For six months it's art, and for six months it's itself.

How important was it to make the film representative of Britain?
These lines are always blurred in our lives. I don't walk around thinking, I'm British. All I've got to do is push [the record] button and it's British. It's easy.