“Underneath the Venice lagoon awaits a coral shelter, ready to reveal itself during the current climate and economic crises, making waves within one of the most hyper capitalist art fairs in the world ”
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BIENNALE/EUROPE
The European Union is primarily defined by its economic trades within its state members. First and foremost it benefits them, making one of strongest economies and safe heaven for democracy, completely disregarding its own privileged position and what it took from others in order to achieve it. Making it quite obvious, are some of the most current topics, such as the refugee, pandemic or climate crisis. We now see Europe closing off to is own shell and being crushed by tsunami of nationalistic waves.
Throughout history, Europe’s strengthening strategy, has been about expanding its borders and creating new routes; one of many examples is the “Middle Passage”, where European countries have created transatlantic highways for human trafficking. During this economic trades more than 12.5 million people have been ripped from their places, families and culture, only to be shipped, sold, tortured and killed for profit.
Water has been the medium where these interactions happened and from where African slaves would see for the last time they’re homeland hoping to survive the journey, not knowing what adversities were still to come and we ironically see now the Venice Lagoon drowning in it. Surviving this imperialistic routes, has not been the case for many and as an example, for pregnant women that were considered to be “sick” and thrown overboard, roughly a total of 1.8 million people have drown in this impossible journeys (according to https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/slave-ships-and-the-middle-passage/).
The formation of the Bienalle happens exactly on cusp moment where the enrichment through colonisation, allows European countries to still show off what is left from these economic (rapist) techniques, and what better place to present it, then in the most famous merchant’s city in Europe. Our neighbouring partners on the site are the perfect example of this nationalistic exacerbations of power; some of the first countries to build in the biennale grounds are, Hungary (1906) Belgium (1907), Germany (1909), France (1912), Great Britain (1912), Austria (1913), Netherlands (1916) and Spain (1922).
Centrally located, the Drexciyan pavilion, is not a memorial or an homage for the people who have been slaughtered at the same time the pavilions were built but a meeting point and delayed recognition of these problematic economic strategies between these agents, that still occur nowadays but only in more globalised realm. It is time to look forward and learn from the ones whose voices have been silenced.
The concept of the “Drexciyan” civilisation has been initially developed through music by the Detroit techno duo, James Stinson and Gerald Donald, (Drexciya), later visually represented by the comic novel of Abdul Qadim Haqq and Dai Sato’s (The Book of Drexciya) and follow up most recently through film by the artists collective, The Otolith Group (Hydra Decapita), all of them encompassing notions Afro-Futurism.
This pavilion is conceived by a technologically advanced civilisation and built by the unborn children of the pregnant women that have been thrown overboard. For this reason, the builders and designers of this project, are unaware of what happened to their ancestors; and have been able to reclaim unknowingly the trauma of slavery imposed by the European Imperialistic practices.
The pavilion hosts these ideas and notions and transforms them into what we could imagine being an architectural representation of it. Conceptually it tries to create a stage, a shell, or a shelter for all artists, that both geographical and emotional territories have been colonised throughout history. All these nations for reasons that are obvious, had not the chance to chip in and built national pavilions that could represent them at the inception of the biennale project. We can use now this opportunity to level the ground and place them not only neighbouring their colonisers (exactly in the centre of the Giardini) but more importantly to put in the forefront of what it is now an hyper capitalistic art context such as the Venice Biennale.
The pavilion is a contemplative aquatic space, completely different from the current aesthetic present in the Giardinis, where different artists, thinkers and curators, can come to express their own undercurrent voices.
DETAILS OF THE PAVILION
Water is not only the medium where these economic trades would take place but the only element used in the design. A solidified body of water, contains a geometry very removed from the hygienic notions of the white cube/gallery space and it’s a translucent quality brings in, its surroundings creating almost a kaleidoscopic mirroring effect.
In terms of circulation, it contains no main entrance or exit, but several equal entry points, this dilutes the scenographic notion of state propaganda; where for example, most the (first) pavilions contain a neoclassic colonnaded entry space, some of times even composed by a staircase, all to increase the idea of ascending to a higher “state” of mind. The pavilion is grounded at exact same level as the gardens, and its placement is cirurgically implemented, to make sure that no trees are damaged, taking advantage of its immediate surroundings.
Almost with non existing boundaries, it contains a space defined by 5 interconnect pools of different sizes and depths, symbolically representing the colours and textures of our oceans and seas. From each individual pool of water, emerges a coral reef shaped structure that suspends a leaf/boat like roof. This roof is designed to melt through one gigantic skylight, filling up the first pool and subsequently all of them. The duration the pavilion, is not defined by biennale’s art market calendar but through the current climate conditions. The same way the pavilion emerges from the lagoon it will disappear into the landscape creating zero waste, and nourishing the existing vegetation of the Giardini.
Its alienated architectural language not only evokes, the need to resolve the pressing, social, economic and climate issues, but more importantly is based on technological novelties that so urgently needs to be discovered.
1. Mandatory to always have more than one nation represented; mixed nationalities between participants (artists, curators, thinkers, ....)
2. No artists from neighbouring pavilions, or nation that have permanent pavilions in the bienalle.
3. Ideally from countries that had not chance, for economical reasons to compete and showcase in this “arena”.
We would like to thank Abdul Qadim Haqq, Anjali Sagar and Kodwo Eshun for their support in this project.
2021 Venice, IT
Exhibition Architecture by Diogo Passarinho Studio
Team: Diogo Passarinho, Dario di Turi
Dates: 18 November 2021 – Online Exhibition Launch
MEGA, Piazza Vetra, 21, 20123 Milan