The Curators Collective (CC), a coalition of national pavilion curators at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, has put together a bouquet of public events that will run in Venice from August 27 through 29. Occurring in advance of the awards ceremony, the Transnational Midissage program will bring together national pavilions in the Giardini, Arsenale, and throughout Venice to bolster La Biennale, which has seen considerably less attendance than past years due to the global pandemic.
The program includes panel discussions, exhibition presentations, book launches, walking tours, and more. It will offer reflections on how participating curators of the national pavilions have responded to the Biennale’s theme, set by Hashim Sarkis before the pandemic began: “How will we live together?” While most events will be held in person, some will be livestreamed for audiences around the globe.
CC was founded on May 23, 2020, after the original opening date of the Biennale was postponed until May 2021. At that time, curators from 33 participating countries gathered to express their solidarity and look for ways to turn the pandemic roadblock into an opportunity. In August of 2020, CC released a joint statement, which began: “The 17th Biennale Architettura’s central question of ‘How will we live together?’ takes on new significance as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks unforeseen and unimaginable disruption across the globe. With lives and livelihoods at stake, we must re-evaluate how we think about our profession, our modes of collaboration, and our built environment. The months ahead until the Biennale’s new 2021 opening present a unique opportunity for participating nations to form a community, share information, and pursue possible joint efforts.”
CC’s ranks have since swelled to curators from 49 participating countries, out of a total of 61 national pavilions in this year’s Biennale, and they are working in collaboration with Sarkis. The group also has the support of the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts of La Biennale di Venezia, through which it hopes to set up an enduring platform for the exhibitions of the 17th Biennale as well as those to come.
Among CC’s other initiatives, is The Manifesto Group, a collection of curators who are authoring a collective and open-ended manifesto on La Biennale’s theme. In a series of ten meetings, the group developed a list of 200 questions related to the theme that continues to grow and morph. The ultimate idea is to create a multifarious manifesto that will appear differently in different national pavilions, or according to CC’s statement: “The resulting manifesto will not be one static document but something to be interpreted and then implemented.”
“More than anything,” the statement continues, “the process is the product of this manifesto.”
CC also organized a student competition to design a bench, appropriately titled “A Bench in Venice.” The three winners of the competition—which include students from Universidad Tecnológica Metropolitana in Chile; the University of Waterloo in Canada and USI Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio in Italy, and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México—will be awarded in a ceremony at the United Arab Emirates pavilion on the first day of the Midissage events (student award winners will appear via Zoom). Also on the first day, there will be an “Evolving Manifesto Launch,” a hybrid in-person/virtual event, “where drafts of the CC manifesto will be presented, and visitors/viewers will be encouraged to respond, question and engage with these evolving claims.”
A full list of Midissage events will be listed on the CC website in the days before it opens: curatorscollective.org.