The Great Biennale
14th International architecture exhibition La Biennale di Venezia.
“It will be a Biennale of architecture and not architects”. Such a statement was released many times, as if to suggest that for this Biennale edition the architect’s ego will be left elsewhere.
The title, “Fundamentals”, is clearly telling us that we will be brought back to basics. Architecture lesson number 1, to re-learn (or simply to learn) what a lot of architects do not even look at, while studying. Anyways, Rem’s figure is unavoidable and undeniable due to his bulky presence. He radiates tension, he definitely has ego(ism), cynicism and a will for deliberate provocation. Therefore, the Biennale of fundamentals is Rem’s Biennale; during this edition, only one ego will be on stage.
During the last two years, a task force of architects, designers, researchers and students have been fully immersed, at first, in the development of the theoretical ground required for this edition, and later, to design the exhibition inside Corderie and Central Pavilion. Moreover, this edition will last six months instead of three; the curator has also given a prices guideline to national pavilions, a theme that should be developed according to each nation’s condition. So far, this edition introduces many innovations, rendering it different at all costs. To do so, undoubtedly, ambition and individual ego are the driving forces to say more, to do more, to be more. Perhaps, Rem’s grand finale.
Actually, the Central Pavilion is the locus that will unfold the theme of “Fundamentals”. The research condensed in a gigantic book about stairs, balconies, ceiling, floor and so on is a production of the Harvard GSD. For two terms, Harvard students have alternated in OMA’s Rotterdam office, so that Rem could closely follow the research development which later became the basis for this edition. Probably, Rem knew long before any official announcement, that this would have been his turn to curate the exhibition. Quite reasonable after the Golden Lion of 2010.
Paradoxically, the Corderie, which is the space assigned to the curator, is devoted to host a series of 360° events, changing over six months of exhibition and involving the other Biennales (dance, theater and so on). Other curators have been assigned to establish a program for each theme (cinema, theater, dance…). In this sense, Rem and his OMA team are realizing a structure that will absorb the programmatic streamline of coming months. The Corderie will be filled in with works and performances of many different actors, telling us Italian stories about the current state of the country.
Fundamentally, many individuals and teams are bringing their ideas and efforts to Venice upon Rem’s backdrop, we hope this multitude will work as such, in order to produce a knowledge that will not be simply serving as one’s ego heritage.
An excursus on Modernity vs. Identity:
“Absorbing Modernity” is the theme proposed to national pavilions. We are writing about it, since there is a great ambiguity laying in how this topic has been introduced to the major public. Sometimes, Rem’s provocations sound like as if he is trying to fool us around.
Rem presents architecture acting as part of the modern erasure, by displaying it in the guise of its global modern style (OMA’s De Rotterdam among the examples). However, how can he state that modern architecture has erased all national diversities, whereas, one minute after, he is re-assessing that nowadays, national identity is more robust and vigorous than ever? In addition, what is the role of his practice in the regards of modern erasure?! Rem does not demystify or banish modernity since he has supported it in many projects. As for Generic City, Bigness or Junk Space, he simply brings up current phenomenon and he does not clearly take a position upon them.
“The 20th century is a nostalgia-proof subject. Nobody has nostalgia of this century” (Rem’s quote from Press conference), well, he should try to tell that to a re-seller of 60s furniture, maybe that’s the reason of his laugh after such a statement.
In the end, this is all about Rem’s ambiguity.
Once more, “Biennale opening” means a mass of architects, all busy with the worldliness provided by a four days vernissage.
We, at multitude, are fairly excited by the upcoming grand opening of the Biennale of Venice. We can’t wait to have our timelines filled with field reports from each and every single Architecture blog describing all sections of the exhibition, the parties, the location, how the city is, itself, an exhibition space and how dare you to drink my prosecco. It is probably the most important event of this year’s Architecture agenda. It might very well be the most important event of this Architecture decade, as far as we are concerned, but we won’t consider it a victory being caught in a photograph behind Bjarke Ingels while barely standing, looking at Neri Oxman’s behind. If you managed to get in the trousers of the personal assistant of Sou Fujimoto, it doesn’t mean that this Biennale is the meeting point between cultures, you just got lucky. If Peter Eisenmann spilled a beer on your trousers doesn’t reduce the distance between you and him, it just makes you wet.
What we are trying to say, here, is that we have the feeling that Architecture is becoming a place to be. It is more important where you have been working, rather than what you have been working on. Or who you really are! Who cares, after all? These drinks are for free!
Amplifier and Multitude:
For a forthcoming issue of Amplifier, we invite whoever is interested, to critically address field reports (photos, tweets, texts, sketches…) concerning two issues:
1. Biennale’s backstage and the production of knowledge operated by the multitude (actors that all together have thought, designed, realized research and exhibition spaces of pavilions, events and so on);
2. Biennale as a place to be rather than a place of exhibition;
As we mentioned before, each architectural blog will show every single corner of the exhibitions before one can still step in. Avoiding mainstream articles is a key issue, while attempting to unveil two contrasting aspects: work vs. worldliness.