Venice Architecture Biennale 2023: Everything you need to know
by Eleonora GhediniMay 02, 2023
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Sunena V MajuPublished on : May 20, 2023
At an award ceremony on May 20, 2023, in Venice, Italy, the international jury panel announced Brazil Pavilion as the winner of the Golden Lion for Best National Participation at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023. Titled The Laboratory of the Future, the 18th International Architecture Exhibition extends the crucial goal of fighting climate change, by promoting sustainable design, installations and operation of all its events. Lesley Lokko's curation perceives "an architecture exhibition as both a moment and a process which borrows its structure and format from art exhibitions, but it differs from art in critical ways which often go unnoticed." Along with the desire to tell a story, the 2023 Biennale puts forth the rarely discussed questions on production, resources and representation as central to how an architecture exhibition comes into the world. The International Jury of Golden Lion inspected the various National Pavilion, exhibitions and events at the Biennale and acknowledged the voices responding to the issues of their time.
The International Jury of this year's Venice Architecture Biennale included Italian architect and curator Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli as the president, accompanied by the Palestinian architect and curator, Nora Akawi; the American director and curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, Thelma Golden; the Zimbabwean founder and co-editor of Cityscapes Magazine, Tau Tavengwa; the Polish Izabela Wieczorek, architect in Spain and a researcher and educator based in London. The composition of the Jury has been deliberated by the Board of Directors of La Biennale di Venezia upon recommendation by Lokko.
The Brazil Pavilion titled Terra (meaning Earth) is commissioned by the José Olympio da Veiga Pereira, president of the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo and curated by Gabriela de Matos and Paulo Tavares. The Pavilion in Giardini won for a research exhibition and architectural intervention that centre the philosophies and imaginaries of indigenous and black populations towards modes of reparation. The exhibitors included Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto, Ayrson Heráclito, Day Rodrigues with the collaboration of Vilma Patrícia Santana Silva, Fissura collective, Ilê Axé Iyá Nassô Oká (Casa Branca do Engenho Velho), Juliana Vicente, Mbya-Guarani IndigenousPeople, Tukano, Arawak and Maku Indigenous Peoples, Tecelãs do Alaká (Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá), Thierry Oussoua and Vídeo nas Aldeias.
The Special Mention to National Participations was awarded to Great Britain. Titled Dancing Before The Moon, the Pavilion was commissioned by Sevra Davis, curated by Jayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kellay, and Sumitra Upham, and features Yussef Agbo-Ola, Jayden Ali, Mac Collins, Shawanda Corbett, Madhav Kidao and Sandra Poulson. The Britain Pavilion was awarded special mention for the curatorial strategy and design propositions celebrating the potency of everyday rituals as forms of resistance and spatial practices in diasporic communities.
The Golden Lion for the Best Participant in the International Exhibition The Laboratory of the Future was awarded to DAAR - Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal for the installation Ente di Decolonizzazione—Borgo Rizza, which extends a long-standing commitment to deep political engagement with architectural and learning practices of decolonisation in Palestine and Europe. The installation aims to explore the possibilities for the critical reappropriation, reuse, and subversion of fascist colonial architecture and its modernist legacy. "Through Decolonial Assemblies, a direct dialogue is initiated with groups, individuals, and associations that critically address the colonial past of the various contexts in which the work is installed," mentions DAAR.
The special mentions to the participants in the International Exhibition The Laboratory of the Future included Thandi Loewenson for The Uhuru Catalogues, Wolff Architects for Tectonic Shifts and Twenty Nine Studio and Sammy Baloji for Aequare: the Future that Never Was. Loewenson was awarded for a militant research practice that materialises spatial histories of land struggles, extraction, and liberation through the medium of graphite and speculative writing as design tools. Wolff Architects' installation reflected a collaborative and multimodal design practice as well as a nuanced and imaginative approach to resources, research, and representation. Twenty Nine Studio was bestowed the special mention for a three parts installation that interrogates the past, present, and future of the Democratic Republic of Congo, through an excavation of colonial architectural archives.
The Silver Lion for a promising young participant in the International Exhibition The Laboratory of the Future was awarded to Olaleykan Jeyifous for ACE/AAP for a multimedia installation that explores a world building practice that expands public perspectives, offering visions of a decolonised, decarbonised future. "ACE/AAP, explores the local, transnational, and diasporic harmonies and tensions of a retrofuturist African eco-fiction set in the alternate timeline of the year, 1X72. In the wake of the Pan-African movement and African decolonisation, imperialist infrastructures devoted to economic exploitation and resource extraction were rapidly dismantled, while local environmental groups throughout the continent consolidated into what is currently known as the African Conservation Effort (ACE). ACE utilised indigenous knowledge to repair colonial-era damage to Africa's ecoregions and create advanced networks combining green technologies with renewable energy. The "All-Africa Protoport" (AAP) emerged as a flagship development, encompassing a comprehensive system for renewable energy production and facilitating rapid intra- and intercontinental travel across air, land, and sea. AAP held significant implications for continent-wide socio-economic and environmental cooperation, as well as diasporic solidarity," shares Jeyifous.
At the ceremony, Nigerian architect Demas Nwoko was also awarded the prestigious Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement by Venice Architecture Biennale 2023. Talking about Nwoko after the ceremony, Lokko stated, "He is everything all at once: an architect, sculptor, designer, writer, set designer, critic, historian. When pushed, he refers to himself as an 'artist-designer." For the first time ever at Venice Architecture Biennale, the spotlight has fallen on Africa and the African Diaspora, that fluid and enmeshed culture of people of African descent that now straddles the globe. Therefore, Lokko's curatorial concept envisioned The Laboratory of the Future as an exhibition in six parts including 89 participants, over half of whom are from Africa or the African Diaspora.Venice Architecture Biennale 2023 is open from May 20 to November 26, 2023.
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