“Hundreds of thousands get made,
blood, sweat and editorial tears go into them, yet barely a whimper is told about their relative merits.”
As curator of the Dutch pavilion in Venice last year, Marina Otero had to confront the complexities of a biennial, the Venice one in particular. General theme, individual content, format, design, audiences, logistics, time-span, attention-span, it was all in the equation. Add to that the ambition to be relevant (more than an ad), and the puzzle is complete. How to survive the Biennale and still have fun?
The measure of an architecture biennial’s success is how gloriously it failed. This holds a fortiori for the Venice one; too big to ‘swallow’ as visitor, too complex to manage as curator. The biennial as format and phenomenon was declared dead or obsolete time and again, it was discarded as commercial, promotional, touristic, capitalistic, wasteful, white supremacist and what not. In the end, that is not the issue. The issue is the tension between expectations and pretension, between agency and result. Any art or architecture exhibition can be just that: the presentation of good and interesting work. For an architecture biennial, that position is hardly available. Something more should be expected. The format may be malleable, it should add to our understanding of where we are at present, what is of prime importance, where we may be going or could want to go. Even if a biennial isn’t able to provide conclusive answers, the minimum should be to pose relevant questions.
In Volume 54 we look at what biennials promise and what we actually get; we look at who is pulling the strings and for whom they are made. But first and foremost we check what a biennial can do.
As a sneak peak into our next issue Volume #54: On Biennials, we are glad to feature In Statu Quo: Structures of Negotiation; this article is based on the eponymous book of the curators Ifat Finkelman, Deborah Pinto Fdeda, Oren Sagiv, and Tania Coen-Uzzielli, whose topic Status quo was the theme of the Israeli Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia.
Shortly after the release of Volume 53: Civic Space, we realized that we left out a crucial group of stakeholders, animals. Starting from the ecosystem designed for the ‘Chickenville’ project, we discussed our shortcoming with SKROZ Architecture. Our conversation, informally carried out via messaging apps, shone a light on yet another sensitive term of mediation often forgotten in architecture: humour.
It’s been seven years since Daan Roggeveen and Michiel Hulshof published How the City Moved to Mr. Sun, the story of mass urbanization in China. It looked specifically at the mechanisms behind this phenomenon and the challenge to host the next 300 million people during the coming twenty years (starting from 2010). After Ole Bouman’s reflection on the Venice Architecture Biennale two weeks ago, this is the second prelude to Volume #54: On Biennials with a special on the UABB\Shenzhen.
While the feeding robot slowly passes by, cow 9273 bumps with her nose against a big round brush. It looks like the ones in the carwash that clean the rims of your car, but then bigger. Food is not what she’s after right now, her itching back is demanding all her attention. Cow 9273 has to push several times before the brush starts slowly spinning, but when it does, she treats herself to a firm back massage. Welcome to dairy farm ‘The Promised Land’ where 1.5 fte and nine robotized computer systems manage a herd of 280 cows plus 180 ‘youngsters’.
When dealing with public space, time is rarely considered a variable in the equation. Quick to go to the square as the place where collective political action takes place, we often forget to think when such actions happen and what strategy might support them.
Jason Adams, Seattle-based media and political theorist, argues for political action on, in and through time – what might be called kairopolitics.
While the 16th edition of the Architecture Biennale in Venice is coming to an end, Ole Bouman reflects on its success, addressing particularly the overwhelming beauty and charm of the city’s architecture.