The Venice Biennale of Arts is a great opportunity to think outside the box. From the collateral events that bring new uses for centenary buildings to the country pavilions in Giardini or Arsenale, an architect can learn a lot by visiting the world's oldest biennial. Here are 7 must-see pavilions if you are visiting Venice before the Biennale ends on the 24th of November.
Entitled after the song composed by E.T. Mensah on the eve of the independence of the new nation in 1957, this is the first Ghana Pavilion at the Biennale. It examines the legacies and trajectories of that freedom by six artists. Rooted both in Ghanaian culture and its diasporas, the pavilion is designed by Sir David Adjaye. Each artist's work is exhibited in elliptically-shaped interconnected spaces that are plastered with locally-sourced earth from classical structures in Ghana. It's an exhibition that differs from all other pavilions through its space and art, a place to immerse yourself in the incredible and exponent Ghanaian culture.
Sun & Sea (Marina)
Golden Lion of this Biennial, the Lithuanian Pavilion transforms the interior of a historic quayside building within the Marina Militare complex into an artificially lit beach scene replete with sand and all the paraphernalia associated with seaside holidays. The artists Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė, and Lina Lapelytė present a durational opera performance on this dystopian installation that makes the imagination of any architect go deeper and deeper on thinking the way we design and use spaces.
Neither nor: The challenge to the Labyrinth
Neither nor: is inspired by the Labyrinth that is Venice, which fascinated and inspired Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino. Emerging from this context, the Italian pavilion presents works by three important Italian artists - Enrico David, Chiara Fumai, and Liliana Moro - whose layout is neither linear nor can be reduced to a set of tidy and predictable trajectories. It is a show where you can enjoy a sense of dilated time and get lost in the space, a fascinating parallel to the host city of the biennial that allows for different discoveries on another scale, be it in art or the encounters that this exhibition generates.
The measurement of presence
This is a transnational presentation that explores traditions and the past, bringing them into contact with the present. Remy Jungerman and Iris Kensmil bring together influences from different backgrounds. In their work, they draw inspiration from twentieth-century modernism - particularly Mondrian, De Stijl, the Russian avant-garde, and artist Stanley Brouwn - with elements of other traditions and positions.
Reflecting upon the transformation of surveillance techniques since the panopticon to include the contemporary 3D facial recognition, AI, and the Internet, Shu Lea Cheang's 3x3x6 restages the rooms of the Palazzo delle Prigioni - a Venetian prison from the sixteenth century in operation until 1922 - as a high-tech surveillance space. Taking as its starting point the story of libertine writer Giacomo Casanova, imprisoned in the Prigioni in 1755, Cheang has conducted in-depth studies on ten historical and contemporary cases of subjects incarcerated because of gender or sexual dissent. Their fictionalized portraits become part of the exhibition's system: the tile of which refer to today's standardized architecture of industrial imprisonment: a 3x3 square-meter cell constantly monitored by 6 cameras.
Manora Field Notes
Pakistan's first pavilion at the Biennale presents an exhibition of new work by the artist Naiza Khan, whose visual practice is built on a process of critical research, documentation, and mapping-based exploration, focusing on public space and its entanglement with history. According to Zahra Khan, the curator of the pavilion, the presentation "encourages the vision of the artist as a lens through which the public can encounter a more nuanced view of the region, and consider places across the world undergoing similar transformations."
In Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir’s multisensory large-scale installation, she uses her personally developed textile techniques: a manipulation of her signature medium, synthetic hair. The installation is a labyrinthine journey through cavernous chambers, a fuzzy abstraction of nature whose surface entirely covers the inside of the space in a colorful tangle of synthetic hair. A glimpse that makes architects wonder about how the use of different materials and colors change our perception of space.