Joint Statement by the National Curators of 33 Participating Countries of the 17th Venice Biennale Architettura
The 17th Biennale Architettura’s central question of “How will we live together?” takes on new significance as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks unforeseen and unimaginable disruption across the globe. With lives and livelihoods at stake, we must re-evaluate how we think about our profession, our modes of collaboration and our built environment. The months ahead until the Biennale’s new 2021 opening present a unique opportunity for participating nations to form a community, share information, and pursue possible joint efforts.
We, a growing group of national curators, have come together for the first time to initiate open dialogue. Moving forward, we commit to establishing a platform to share our exhibition content and investigate valuable correlations. We intend for this exchange to result in concrete collaborations and joint projects between nations that underline the collective goals and concerns of our profession. Our ultimate objective is the consolidation of this independent platform, securing a long-term open channel for continued exchange between curators and commissioners, not just for the 2021 Biennale but for all future Venice Biennales.
We see this initiative as a step toward building a better Venice Architecture Biennale, emphasising the role of discovery, understanding, and mutual exchange within the existing structure of an international contest that awards excellence. We seek to ignite this global event’s potential to become an active assembly, where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
As we publish this statement on August 29th 2020, the Biennale’s first postponed opening date, we do not yet know exactly how these efforts will materialise. However, we have no doubt that this is a necessary step forward for our profession in this new age.
Manifesto Group—The Manifesto Group is a group of curators interested in drafting a collectively authored manifesto relating to the theme ‘How can we live together?’. Over ten meetings, beginning in May 2020, the group collected almost 200 questions from the members of the CC. These questions increased in number, expanded in scope, and deepened in focus over the months. Eventually, they became the starting point for a methodology. The resulting manifesto will not be one static document but something to be interpreted and then implemented. This manifesto will be exhibited and presented in different forms in the participating Venice Biennale pavilions. More than anything, the process is the product of this manifesto.
Thematic Workshop—The Thematic Workshop was a three-part workshop series held in January 2021 with members of the CC. It consisted of a two-hour group session with breakout rooms in between. Each breakout room created a series of proposals, putting forward ideas that could be achieved collectively. The sessions resulted in pre-proposals for each of the groups involved.
Group A discussed the use of common grounds and goods. They proposed installing common benches around the Biennale locations in collaboration with National Pavilions and curators, either for the opening or during the entire Biennale. They also volunteered to host the March CC meetings.
Group C continued exploring the idea of ‘mapping the commons’. They proposed a kick-off element focussing on common themes shared by the pavilions. They also began to think about how we could embrace and strengthen physical presences over digital during the Biennale.
Group D worked on the idea of appointing local Student Ambassadors to build relationships between the national pavilions and young residents of Venice.
Common Space Group— This group focussed on exploring how we can responsibly design the common spaces between the different pavilions, anticipating that anti-Covid protocols would necessitate common outdoor areas that would allow us to socialise responsibly while providing exhibit waiting areas.
Project Common Space calls on curators to imagine spaces in which we can live together generously.
The common areas of the Giardini and the Arsenale are fertile territories for the design exploration of coming together in ways that promote human connection and inspire environmental awareness. Can a simple unit of public space, such as a bench, become a tool to explore this connection? How can the activation of these common areas support a careful investigation of the relationship between social interaction and ecological health?
One theme that arose from discussion around this idea looks at upcycling materials discarded from pavilion construction into benches. This notion was developed to work with local craftsmen, carpenters, architects, artists and university students to bring these benches to life, reinforcing the relationship between environmental and social sustainability. Each bench might have its own story, imagining ways to bring us together again and addressing health at multiple scales, from the individual to the societal to the ecological. (written by Wael Al Awar, UAE)
Ponte Project—The Ponte Project proposes the creation of a series of Student Ambassadors, acting as a bridge between the spaces of the Biennale and the academic institutions of Venice. This is a new concept of networking and socialising, designed to enable more liberties and alternative programmes. It functions as a ‘pilot model’ for a long-term initiative that connects the spaces of the Biennale with academic institutions. It promotes a trans-institutional and broader collaboration with the city and its people.
The Student Ambassador is part of an educational programme that attempts to fill the voids by bringing in students that can bridge the gap between national curators and the socio-political atmosphere of Venice. Through an open call, architecture students are invited to collaborate with the curators within the Curators Collective by engaging with specific questions and acquiring knowledge. The exchange is reciprocal and supports a more intimate relationship between the people residing in the city and the Biennale. The result will identify common realities between different countries, the city, and the Biennale institution in order to share possible solutions. (written by the Dominican Republic Pavilion)
CC Identity—A shared identity will be displayed in participating pavilions. Chris Ro (Korea) is working towards this goal as our Graphic Designer.
CC Website—www.curatorscollective.orgThe CC Website is an online platform that archives and exhibits the processes and progress of the Curators Collective. The website will serve as a portal, connecting the participating national pavilion websites and the official Venice Biennale website as a platform of solidarity and virtual connectivity. The realities of Covid-19 mean that visits to the Biennale site are likely to be restricted for at least some portion of the exhibition period. As a result, a virtual space that supports the objectives of the CC and showcases the work of the curators is a crucial outcome.
CC Supported by ASAC—On the 25th March Curators Collective together with The Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts of La Biennale di Venezia (ASAC) held a meeting aiming for the official recognition of the initiative. Privileged by the presence of Debora Rossi the Head of ASAC and the President Roberto Cicutto the Collective presented its progress and development starting from May 2020. Regarding the rich and complex programmatic schedule of La Biennale throughout the year we looked for the possibilities to incorporate CC within the agenda marking at the same time our common goals. As one of the long-lasting aims of ASAC is building up the “archive of our future” and opening a space for permanent research activities and collaborations between various departments, the CC initiative was welcomed to present in collaboration with The Archives. Honoured by this recognition we are hoping to make this platform a long lasting element supported by La Biennale di Venezia for future Curators to come. (written by Rafal Sliwa of the Polish Pavilion)