Drawing by Roberta Semeraro based on Raffaello Sanzio’s The School of Athens, 1509-1511, Vatican Rooms, Rome
Depicted are as Platone: Hashim Sarkis, as Aristotele : Roberto Cicutto, with Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli (Russia), Wael Al Awar (United Arab Emirates), Andrzej Gwizdala (Spain), Lidia León (Dominican Republic), Roberta Semeraro (Dominican Republic), Clemens Kusch (Dominican Republic), Christian Schweitzer (Korea), Annie Pedret (Korea), Jesus D’Alessandro (Dominican Republic), Alessandro Melis (Italia), Carlos Alberto Maciel (Brazil), Maurizio Carta (Italia), Ryul Song (Korea), Julia Vicioso (Dominican Republic), Felipe Ferrer (Peru), Orisell Medina Lagrange (Dominican Republic)
When we came up with the idea of proposing to CC, The Manifesto as a project to be carried out together with other pavilions, we thought that in a moment of epochal crisis like the one we are experiencing, it is necessary to take "courageous actions" that can pursue our will to build a sustainable future for us and for the generations to come.
Since the beginning, The Manifesto was envisioned as a document containing public statements of motives, intentions and points of views. A concise format that aims to question a contemporary paradigm in order to respond to it in affirmations and fundamental points. In its clarity, it could not only be an important gesture taken in such uncertain historical moment, but is meant to respond directly to Sarkis' brief by collecting point of view shared among all of us.
We started by defining a field of action that could include the participation of as many pavilions as possible, enabling The Manifesto to provoke a shared response to current topics and aspects which affect all of us during the actual pandemic, and that today represent many future challenges that the field of architecture will inevitably have to engage with and overcome.
In this sense, The Manifesto is an experiment of how in this particular moment, when distances between the pavilion's teams are brought closer than ever through technology, the Biennale acts as a space for intellectual debate that might enable a convergence of global ideas of architecture into a New Spatial Contract.
Initially The Manifesto Group was composed with Dominican Republic, Republic of Korea, Italy and United Arab Emirates.
In the first meeting, The Manifesto Group discussed the first questions proposed by the Dominican Republic regarding architecture and the pandemic moment we are experiencing.
Since this first meeting, Republic of Korea has expressed its hesitation in proceeding according to this methodology "too limited to the current experience" and proposing instead "a more open and organic method".
The organic method adopted in subsequent meetings introduced a proliferation of questions from each participant in the group, which approached more general and universal topics.
Although Italy invited the participants to select questions in a more concrete way, in order to not get lost and to reach the initial prefixed goal, it was never agreed on the questions to be proposed to other countries.
With the entry of Brazil, Perù and Singapore into The Manifesto Group, other questions were intoduced and it became increasingly clear that the questions would be more important than answers in the Manifesto.
There is no example of a known Manifestos composed of questions, as by its nature, the manifesto is a format in which ideas and point of view are made public. Taking a cue, however, from the suggestive setting of philosophical School of Athens, that Sarkis Hasmin proposed, we found Socrates, the teacher of Plato and Aristotle.
Socrates invented maieutics which was precisely a methodology of dialogue, through which the interlocutors set out towards knowledge process, by questioning themselves with continuous questions. The dialogue took place through questions. Socrates was even sentenced to death because his method endangered those certainties on which the political and social system of the time was based. Socrates was also the only philosopher in history who did not leave any writing or treatise, as according to his thought, the supreme wisdom is in understanding that knowledge is an infinite process that is independent from the limitation of experience.
For Socrates it is more important to learn the method of knowing oneself and others, than the content of knowledge. Knowing not to know, this is the teaching that Socrates left us and this is the truth on which his thought is based.
The Manifesto Group, in the last meeting, recognizing that questions, if asked with irony, can be answers and that, to live together it is important to keep the dialogue alive with the questions rather than to conclude with answers.
The Manifesto Group had decided therefore on being an experimental project open to other countries to work on a Manifesto composed by shared questions.
Publishing a “Manifesto of Questions” within the Biennale, intends to be a revolutionary action, as the public expects to find answers to collective living in these international events. But immediately after the initial disappointment of not having found answers, the public will feel involved in having to answer the questions of The Manifesto, perhaps by asking other questions and finally heading towards a path of knowledge. In a democratic space, freedom is participation.
- Maybe architecture today doesn't need answers but questions to rediscover its self and its paths of knowledge?
- Hasn't the world today lost the ancient wisdom of knowing not to know. Is this the reason how we have fallen into ignorance of which this global crisis is s an example of the consequences?
- Maybe the New Spatial Contract shouldn't create free and open spaces (real and virtual), where people are invited to participate not as users but as architects?
- Perhaps humanity no longer needs to ask questions to understand why we reached this dramatic moment of our existence?
Roberta Semeraro, Dominican Republic December 30, 2020