Leviathan is an artistic project looking at some of the urgent issues of our times. In dialogue with a wide range of marine biologists, oceanographers, political scientists, neurologists and trauma specialists, Leviathan explores the notions of marine welfare, migration and mental health and their possible interconnections.

Leviathan is an ambitious ten-part film cycle conceived and directed by Shezad Dawood inaugurated in Venice in May 2017 to coincide with the 57th Art Biennale.

The first two episodes of Leviathan are premiered in Venice as a site-specific collaboration between The Fondazione Querini Stampalia and the Institute of Marine Sciences and episode 3 will be shot on location in and around Venice, and added to the exhibition from the 1st of September. The exhibition also contains a dynamic series of textiles and sculpture, collectively imagining a world where the fault lines between marine welfare, mental health and migration are not fully understood or responded to.

Leviathan takes place in the newly-restored Palazzina Canonica, situated on the waterfront next to the Giardini della Biennale. Leviathan is presented by the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, the Institute of Marine Sciences and Fortuny, and curated by Alfredo Cramerotti. Following the launch in Venice, the project will embark on a three-year international tour, culminating in a final presentation of all ten episodes in 2020.


The exhibition is presented in the historic Palazzina Canonica, situated on the waterfront and open to the public for the first time since the 1970’s. Dispersed throughout the newly-restored rooms are the first two episodes of Leviathan, a suite of new textile paintings and a seminal new sculpture, responding to the underlying political allegory of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan.

Additional textile paintings and a new neon work are installed in the showroom and gardens of the Fortuny Factory in the Giudecca, established in 1919 and still operational today.

Leviathan, Shezad Dawood
7 May–24 September 2017
Palazzina Canonica
Riva dei Sette Martiri, 1364
Vaporetto Giardini
Tuesday–Sunday, 10am–6pm
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Fortuny Factory
Giudecca, 805, 30133
Vaporetto Giudecca Palanca
Monday–Friday, 10am–1pm, 2–6pm
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Public Programme

Through a dynamic Public Programme, Leviathan brings together specialists from the fields of marine welfare, migration and mental health that the artist has been in dialogue with to inform the project. These curated events and conversations anchor the project in the present challenges that we face as a global community.

Recordings of all conversations can be found here.

    10 May–25 August 2017

  • 10 May 2017

  • from 4pm
    Underwater Noise Sonic Performance*
    Seth Ayyaz in collaboration
    with Aleksandra Kruss (CNR-ISMAR)

    *As part of the opening event. By invitation only.

  • 11 May 2017

  • 12pm
    Alien Species
    Tiziano Scovacricchi (CNR – ISMAR)

    Leviathan: A Beginning
    Shezad Dawood in conversation
    with Alfredo Cramerotti

    Lost Identities
    Cristina Cattaneo (Labanof) with
    Prefetto Vittorio Piscitelli
    (Commissario Straordinario per le Persone Scomparse)

    Waves and Patterns in a Climate Change Perspective
    Angela Pomaro (CNR – ISMAR)

  • 12 May 2017

  • 12 noon
    Human Impacts in Total Lack of Awareness:
    Our Pervasive Modification of Submarine ‘Seascapes’

    Fabio Trincardi (CNR – ISMAR)

    Mental Health and Trauma:
    MSF Experience with Asylum Seekers in Sicily

    Silvia Mancini (MSF Medici Senza Frontiere)

    The Law of the Land vs the Law of the Sea at the Border of Maritime Ethics
    Giacomo Orsini (Institut d’Etudes Européennes, Université Libre de Bruxelles)

    No Way Out. Notes on the Philosophical Implications of the Concept of Anthropocene
    Franco “Bifo” Berardi in conversation with Sandro Carniel

  • 13 May 2017

  • 12 noon
    The Extraordinary Power of Marine Microbes
    Gian Marco Luna (CNR – ISMAR)

    A History of Algae and Autarchy
    Simona Armeli and Alessandro Ceregato (CNR – ISMAR)

    Emotionally on the Move:
    Three Lifetimes, Three Homes, Three Emotions in Migrants’ Everyday Lives

    Paolo Boccagni (University of Trento)

    Who Rules the Waves:
    Sinking Islands that Oil Loves

    Margot Gibbs (Freelance Investigative Journalist and Researcher)

  • 14 May 2017

  • 12 noon
    Nothing New, Everything New Under The Sun
    Davide Tagliapietra (CNR – ISMAR)

    Orange Stigmata and Traumatising Discourses
    Renos Papadopoulos (Centre for Trauma, Asylum and Refugees, University of Essex)

    The Footprints You Don’t See
    Francesco Falcieri (CNR – ISMAR)

  • 19 May–25 August 2017

  • The Canonica host a programme of free film screenings every Friday evening at 7pm.
    (In partnership with MUBI)

    19 May
    The Sacrifice
    Andrei Tarkovsky, 1986*

    26 May
    Fire at Sea
    Gianfranco Rosi, 2016

    2 June
    Lars von Trier, 2011*

    9 June
    Brillante Mendoza, 2015

    16 June
    La Jetée + Junkopia
    Chris Marker 1962 and 1981

    23 June
    Les Hommes de la Baleine
    Mario Ruspoli, 1956

    30 June
    Lost Persons Area
    Caroline Strubbe, 2009

    7 July
    Motus Maeva
    Maureen Fazendeiro, 2014

    14 July
    Logical Revolts
    Louis Henderson, 2012

    21 July
    Motus Maeva
    Maureen Fazendeiro, 2014

    28 July
    Lars von Trier, 2011*

    4 August
    Mémoires d’un Juif Tropical
    Joseph Morder, 1986

    11 August
    Brillante Mendoza, 2015

    18 August
    La Jetée + Junkopia
    Chris Marker 1962 and 1981

    25 August
    Lost Persons Area
    Caroline Strubbe, 2009

    *screening starts at 6.30pm


  • institute of marine sciences (cnr-ismar)

    The Institute of Marine Sciences (ISMAR) is a research institution that is part of the Italian National Research Council (CNR). The Institute of Marine Sciences was founded in 2002, with the aim of carrying out research activity encompassing all fields of the marine sciences. ISMAR conducts research in polar, oceanic and Mediterranean regions, focusing on the influence of climate change on oceanic circulation, acidification, bio-geochemical cycles and marine productivity; the evolution of oceans and their continental margins, studying submarine volcanoes, faults and slides and their potential impacts onshore; submarine habitats and ecology, and the increasing pollution of coastal and deep sea environments; the evolution of fish stocks with a view to keeping commercial fishing within sustainable limits and improving aquaculture practices as well as natural and anthropogenic factors economically and socially impacting on coastal systems.


  • fondazione querini stampalia

    The Institution was established in 1869 by Count Giovanni Querini, the last descendant of the Querini Stampalia family, and is one of the oldest cultural foundations in Italy. The Palazzo Querini Stampalia near San Marco is a dynamic cultural centre and houses a library with over 370,000 volumes for public use, a museum with eighteenth century and neoclassical furniture and the family’s important collection of fine and decorative arts from the 14th to the 19th century as well as an area for temporary exhibitions. Situated on the ground floor of the 16th century residence is the area restored in 1963 by the famous Venetian master Carlo Scarpa and the work of his pupil Mario Botta, who designed the site’s new facilities including a modern auditorium equipped with sophisticated technologies.

    In conjunction with the International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, the Foundation invites important artists to create site-specific projects starting from Fondazione Querini Stampalia’s research areas, its history and works, as part of a project titled  “Conserving the future” curated by Chiara Bertola. Artists they have collaborated with include: Joseph Kosuth, Lothar Baumgarten, Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, Kiki Smith, Mona Hatoum, Marisa Merz, Jimmie Durham.


  • fortuny venezia

    More than a century old, Fortuny remains the highly esteemed Venetian textile company founded by noted artist, inventor, textile and fashion designer, Mariano Fortuny. Under management of the Riad family for nearly 30 years, Fortuny is infused with the spirit of its founder. Every Fortuny fabric is still produced in the same factory, on the same machines, using the same secret process and techniques handed down from generation to generation for a century. Just as Mariano Fortuny used his love for the past and respect for tradition to inspire his creativity, today Fortuny continues to be a pioneer in the world of design and technology.


  • ambiente e arte

    Ambiente e Arte have prepared exhibitions in the Biennale since 2009. Ambiente aim to develop projects that create interactions between the city of Venice and the international art world. Wherever possible this involves an element of restoration. Recent restorations include the statue of San Giorgio at the Basilica of San Giorgio in 2013; the restoration of nine 11th century manuscripts in 2015; and the restoration of the Garden of the Marinaressa, also in 2015.


  • the labanof, university of milan (research partner)

    From its foundation in 1995, LABANOF (Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology and Odontology) of the Department of Legal Medicine of the Università degli Studi di Milano, deals with the recovery and study of human remains, the identification of living persons as well as the issue of maltreatment and torture. Since 2013 the forensic experts at Labanof have been working for the Commissioner of Missing Persons of the Italian Government to identify the bodies of migrants who drown during attempted sea crossings.


Supporting Partners

  • timothy taylor

    Over the past 20 years Timothy Taylor has developed a multigenerational roster of artists, united by a lineage that stems from an interest in Post-War Abstraction. Through this programme, Sean Scully, Kiki Smith, Josephine Meckseper, Richard Patterson, Alex Katz, Gabriel de la Mora, Eduardo Terrazas, Ding Yi and Shezad Dawood among others are posited as contemporary peers to the estates of Antoni Tàpies, Hans Hartung, Simon Hantaï and Serge Poliakoff.


  • outset

    Outset Contemporary Art Fund is an international and independent philanthropic organisation delivering imaginative and effective ways to support new art, with artists, patrons and partners equally at the heart of the process. Led by Candida Gertler OBE, Outset amplifies the power of collective philanthropic funding to meet the needs of a diverse ecosystem of the arts. Outset support spans capital campaigns, productions, art projects and education schemes to benefit public institutions and their arena from the grassroots to the world’s most renowned museums. Since 2003, Outset has made a £7.5m+ investment in the visual arts across its eight chapters, setting a new standard for best practice in the sector.

    Outset leverages on defining international biennials as centres of excellence and works in consultation with their Artistic Directors to realize new productions for subsequent donation to public collections around the world. Since 2012, Outset has supported challenging new art at momentous international exhibitions including Documenta 13, 31st São Paulo Biennial, 55th and 56th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, and the 20th Biennale of Sydney.


  • mubi

    MUBI is a subscription video on demand service that took film curation to the next level by offering just 30 hand-picked gems online. Every day one is added to the list, and one drops off the bottom. The quality of the choices means its members can watch a masterpiece or take a confident chance on a film they may not have heard of. MUBI is centred around a philosophy of curated quality, rather than excessive choice. It believes everyone should be watching great cinema and not just be searching for it.

    MUBI is a global service, streaming everyday cult, classic and award winning films to members in over 200 territories. MUBI has offices in London, San Francisco and New York.


Touring Partners

Plymouth Arts Centre,
A Tale of A Tub,
Bluecoat Liverpool,


artist & director

Shezad Dawood

curator (exhibition)

Alfredo Cramerotti

curators (public programme)

Camilla Palestra
Angela Pomaro
Shezad Dawood

editors (content)

Laura McFarlane
Camilla Palestra

art direction & design

OK-RM, London

project director

Tania Doropoulos

event coordinator

Lada Sorokopud

communications director

Maria Marques

project managers

Kat Sapera
Laura McFarlane

production managers

Laurie Storey
Matt Hunt

producer (exhibition)


special thanks

patrons circle

CREAM, University of Westminster
The Ekard Collection
Theodore & Maria Fatsis
Sejal Firodia, The White Canvas, Pune, India
The Roden Foundation
University of Salford Art Collection

with support from

The Contemporary Art Society
Pippa Hornby
Donors who wish to remain anonymous


press (international)

Maria Marques
+49 (0) 152 09 00 51 22

press (uk)

Benjamin Ward
+44 (0) 7837 134 193

Art Direction & Design: OK-RM, London

Web Development: No Plans