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Swiss Pavilion at the 2021 Venice Biennale Explores the Political and Social Implications of the Country's Border

Swiss Pavilion at the 2021 Venice Biennale Explores the Political and Social Implications of the Country's Border

Titled Oræ -Experiences on the Border, (oræ, Latin for “borders”) the Swiss contribution to the 17th Venice Biennale explores the spatial and political dimension of the country’s border, investigating the social implications of this inhabited territory. Created by a Geneva-based team of architects and artists comprising Mounir Ayoub and Vanessa Lacaille from Laboratoire d’architecture, as well as filmmaker Fabrice Aragno and artist sculptor Pierre Szczepanski, the exhibition details a series of participative processes performed along the Swiss border that investigate the frontier and its inhabitants, revealing the poetic character of the space.

Blackboard — Blackboard in the Geneva’s studio. Image © Swiss Pavilion's team of the Venice Architecture Biennale Mobile forum — Mobile forum in Pratteln, 2021. Image © Swiss Pavilion's team of the Venice Architecture Biennale Chiasso — Work with inhabitants in the mobile forum in Chiasso, 2021. Image © Swiss Pavilion's team of the Venice Architecture Biennale© Swiss Pavilion's team of the Venice Architecture Biennale+ 9

The project debuted at the end of 2019, when the team entrusted with the exhibition travelled along the Swiss border, meeting its inhabitants and inviting them to imagine a place of their choice at the frontier. “Little by little, relations replace measures, and references change. Certainties blur, and furtive memories creep in. Another map appears. Feelings and places, often ordinary, begin to resonate together, a new territory becomes possible”, says the project team.

 Mobile forum — Mobile forum in Pratteln, 2021. Image © Swiss Pavilion's team of the Venice Architecture Biennale
Mobile forum — Mobile forum in Pratteln, 2021. Image © Swiss Pavilion's team of the Venice Architecture Biennale

As the pandemic unfolded, the general perception and the relationship with national borders changed dramatically, so the collective experience gave the project new meaning. The team re-visited the border regions, exploring the new perceptions of the territory through writing workshops. The latter were unfolded in a mobile forum designed and built by the Bern University of Applied Sciences and architecture students. The mobile forum offered a space for dialogue and a means of exploring the new experiences of the border. It created a framework for building common knowledge around the individual relationship with this territory.


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Being a participatory process, Oræ – Experiences on the Border draws our attention to a territory and its complex social and cultural structure – it offers a voice to people who are otherwise less heard. This way, the project puts the periphery at the centre and challenges common ways of thinking about borders, limits and permeability. - Madeleine Schuppli, Head of the Visual Arts division at Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia

 Le laboratoire d’architecture (Vanessa Lacaille, Mounir Ayoub), Fabrice Aragno and Pierre Szczepski - Project for the Swiss Pavilion 2021 . Image © Le laboratoire d’architecture
Le laboratoire d’architecture (Vanessa Lacaille, Mounir Ayoub), Fabrice Aragno and Pierre Szczepski - Project for the Swiss Pavilion 2021 . Image © Le laboratoire d’architecture

The material collected on-site will be presented within Swizreland’s exhibition at the Venice Biennale. In addition, a book will be produced illustrating the creation of the project, featuring a series of narratives and testimonies from the border’s inhabitants, as well as dialogues with personalities from the world of the humanities and social sciences.

 Mounir Ayoub, Vanessa Lacaille, Fabrice Aragno and Pierre Szczepski (from left to right), team responsible for the Pavilion of Switzerland at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2020.. Image © Pro Helvetia / KEYST
Mounir Ayoub, Vanessa Lacaille, Fabrice Aragno and Pierre Szczepski (from left to right), team responsible for the Pavilion of Switzerland at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2020.. Image © Pro Helvetia / KEYST

  • Project team: Fabrice Aragno, Mounir Ayoub, Vanessa Lacaille, Pierre Szczepski.
  • Collaborators: Noémie Allenbach, Benoît Beurret, Jürg Bührer, Annabelle Voisin
  • Commissioners: Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia Madeleine Schuppli, Head of Visual Arts; Sandi Paucic, Project Leader; Rachele Giudici Legittimo, Project Manager

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Cite: Andreea Cutieru. "Swiss Pavilion at the 2021 Venice Biennale Explores the Political and Social Implications of the Country's Border" 03 May 2021. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/960994/swiss-pavilion-at-the-2021-venice-biennale-explores-the-political-and-social-implications-of-the-countrys-border> ISSN 0719-8884

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