Muhannad Shono: The Teaching Tree

Muhannad Shono: The Teaching Tree

Saudi Arabia Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

View of The Teaching Tree, Saudi Arabian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, 2022. Sculptural installation, with palm fronds, pigment, pneumatics and metal structure, overall dimensions variable. Courtesy of Samuele Cherubini.

April 27, 2022
Muhannad Shono
The Teaching Tree
April 23–November 27, 2022
Saudi Arabia Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
Arsenale, Sale d’Armi

Multidisciplinary artist Muhannad Shono has been selected to represent Saudi Arabia at the 2022 Venice Biennale. Curated by Reem Fadda and Assistant Curator Rotana Shaker, The Teaching Tree is a large-scale, ambitious installation exploring themes of creation, regeneration, nature, and mythology.

Commissioned by The Visual Arts Commission, one of 11 sector-specific commissions overseen by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture, the installation will be on display at the Arsenale-Sale d’Armi from April 23 to November 27, 2022.

The Teaching Tree is a vast, 40-metre-long, organically formed structure made of palm fronds painted in black and animated by pneumatics. The enigmatic form fills the length of the pavilion, embodying Shono’s investigation of the drawn line and its potential for creation and destruction. Through this, he explores ideas of resilience and regeneration both in the natural world and within human imagination. Shono’s practice counters the limits of singular narratives, instead questioning truths, ontologies, and the basic concepts underpinning human life. Investigating the drawn line, Shono interrogates the impact of writing and the generation of thought, as well as their respective potentials. For Shono, embracing the line and mark making is an act of creative agency. As such, The Teaching Tree builds on central concepts within his practice, interrogating the self, tradition, mythology, and the natural world.

The stories of Al Khidr have also had a profound influence on Shono’s personal and creative life. Made of plant matter, it was known that wherever Al Khidr sat a garden would grow, symbolising rebirth, regeneration, and healing. The Teaching Tree thus alludes to ‘mother nature’ and its hope for rebirth in face of warning signs of past and future ecological struggles.

Commenting on his work, Shono said: “My work embodies the irrepressible spirit of creative expression: the power of the imagination that grows despite what may attempt to limit it but instead makes it more resilient. This is a resilience that is taught by nature, in its continuous cycles of death and re-growth, like trees nourished by the ashes of wildfires.”

The exhibition’s curator, Reem Fadda, added, “The Teaching Tree references the drawn line overgrown, now encapsulating a multitude of dimensions. This object becomes emblematic and dichotomous in imaginations represented, words written, and marks engraved, reflecting upon their irreversible effects on history.”

For high-resolution images please click here and for international media enquiries, please contact Rebecca Connolly, Flint Culture: rebecca.connolly [​at​]

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Saudi Arabia Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
April 27, 2022

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