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Eleven things we loved at the Venice Architecture Biennale

Something for Everyone

Eleven things we loved at the Venice Architecture Biennale

Aequare: the Future that Never Was (Andrea Avezzù)

Arguably the epicenter of the global champagne socialist movement, the latest version of the Venice Architecture Biennale has something for everyone.

After recovering from our visit, AN has compiled some of our favorite moments from the main exhibition in the Arsenale and Giardini’s central pavilion, some highlights from the national pavilions in the Giardini, and even one art highlight we found as we wandered around the city during the opening week.

Stay tuned for a more thorough review from AN.

Dangerous Liaisons (Arsenale)

Aequare: the Future that Never Was (Andrea Avezzù)

Aequare: the Future that Never Was | Twenty Nine Studio/Sammy Baloji 

Installed toward the front of the Arsenale’s Corderie, this three-part work investigates the displacement of precolonial society during Belgium’s colonial possession of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The piece includes a film made from archival imagery and Baloji’s field research, archival documents from agronomists and architects of the Belgian government, and, most powerfully, research on the Belgian architect Henry Lacoste and his design for the Belgian Pavilion at the 1935 World Fair. Never built, it is materialized here in a model made of copper and brass.

Investigating Xinjiang’s Network of Detention Camps | Killing Architects

Rotterdam-based architect and spatial analyst Alison Killing, along with a team of researchers and journalists, used satellite images, public info, and interviews with former detainees to map out the Chinese detention centers where Uyghurs have been held and “re-educated.” The film, consisting of eight chapters, was a documentary of the process as well as the findings. 

Mnemonic | Looty

The anonymous collective Looty presented their ongoing work to 3D-scan stolen artworks at major Western museums and mint them as NFTs. By selling the digital artworks, they raise money for emerging African artists, as 20 percent of the profits are donated. 

National Pavilions (Arsenale)

 

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Utopian Infrastructure: The peasant basketball court (Mexico Pavilion)

Curated by Mexico City’s APRDELESP, the Mexican Pavilion was a colorful basketball court based on an indigenous campesino, a civic space where visitors could play a game or watch others.

TCL (Latvia Pavilion)

Latvia has participated in the Venice Architecture Biennale since 2002. This pavilion collects the 506 “unique products” from the last ten versions and collects them in a cartoonish supermarket set. It’s a reminder that even cultural endeavors do not escape commodification. If you can’t make it in person, you can shop the pavilion’s offerings online. As the curators ask: “Confronting [a] large number of ideas can be tiring, but what if making decisions could be fun?”

 

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Force Majeure (Giardini)

ACE/AAP | Olalekan Jeyifous

The large upper room of the Giardini’s main pavilion is given over to Nigeria-born, Brooklyn-based artist Olalekan Jeyifous. It does not disappoint. In an imagined scenario, 12 All-Africa Protoports (AAPs) link cities of the African diaspora together. One is located in the Barotse Floodplain in Zambia’s Western Province, and its waiting lounge is installed here. Supergraphics, maps, and tabletop sculptures abound in support of a retro video projection which mixes the stylish flash of early air travel with pan-African imagery.

National Pavilions (Giardini)

EN OPERA. Future Scenarios of a Young Forestry Law (MAPA/INST)

EN OPERA. Future Scenarios of a Young Forestry Law (Uruguay Pavilion)

The Uruguay Pavilion is a dark screening room displaying an opera by INST/MAPA + Carlos Casacuberta, which shows the complexities of forest law, from colonial scarring to the technologies behind the logging industry. 

 

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Girjegumpi (Nordic Pavilion)

The Sverre Fehn–designed Nordic Pavilion hosted Girjegumpi, an installation by Indigenous Sámi architect Joar Nango, that reimagined Indigenous architecture hybridized with contemporary construction techniques. The work is an ongoing project that creates a library of reading about Sami and indigenous architecture. The pavilion is curated by Carlos Minguez-Carrasco and James Taylor-Foster of ArkDes in Stockholm.

Lauren Yeager, Longevity, 2023, Salvaged plastic objects. Everlasting Plastics, United States Pavilion, Biennale Architettura 2023. Exhibition Design: Faysal Altunbozar, Chloe Munkenbeck. (ReportArch/Andrea Ferro Photography)

Everlasting Plastics (U.S. Pavilion)

The U.S. Pavilion, commissioned by Cleveland’s SPACES and curated by Cleveland’s Tizziana Baldenebro and Lauren Levin, showcased works by artists, designers, and architects working with plastics. In a spare and evocative inhabitation of the existing pavilion building, Everlasting Plastics features works ranging from a video and sculptural installation by Xavi L. Aguirre to totems made from found plastic objects by Lauren Yeager, which are staged outside.

Open for Maintenance (German Pavilion)

Reusing materials from the 2022 art biennale’s national pavilions, the German Pavilion is full of sculptures made from these reclaimed substances. It was a cheeky but clear interpretation of “reuse.” In addition, a small workshop was running as a performance, and in front of the pavilion, disabled performers danced. 

Offsite

Everybody Talks About the Weather at Fondazione Prada

While not technically part of the Biennale, Fondazione Prada opened a large exhibition curated by Dieter Roelstraete of artworks that deal with the weather. Artists range from Hans Haacke to Plinio Nomellini, Raqs Media Collective, Tiffany Sia, and Himali Singh Soin. Alongside the artworks, research presentations about the weather at the depicted locations give context and connect the work to the ongoing climate crisis. 

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