Engaging with Architecture as a Wider Cultural Practice: In Conversation with the Co-Curators of the British Pavilion in Venice
While exploring the 18th International Architecture Exhibition onsite in Venice, ArchDaily had the chance to speak with Jayden Ali and Joseph Henry, two of the co-curators of the British National Pavilion. The exhibition titled “Dancing Before the Moon” was created together with Meneesha Kellay and Sumitra Upham, and features creations from six designers and artists. As the curators explain, the aim of the installations is to expand the general understanding of what architecture is and to integrate it into a wider conversation with fashion, music, art, dance, and performance, rather than separating it as its own class of creativity.
The exhibition is also envisioned as an exploration of what it means to be British today through the lens of contemporary British architectural practice and culture. By challenging set ideas of the role of professions, the curators also had to address and challenge the building of the British Pavilion, as the assigned space of the exhibition. In doing so, works of at have also been placed across the Giardini, announcing the presence of the pavilion and changing the scale of the intervention.
The artwork exhibited was commissioned specifically for the Biennale. The curators created briefs for the artists, exploring ways in which their work aligns with the framework of the exhibition and the curatorial narrative. The curators also explained how they worked with the artists to encourage them to work at scale and to think architecturally, if they hadn’t done that before. One of the recurring themes emerging from the work of the artists was the idea of rituals as a way of engaging with the space, and the focus on everyday aspects of life.
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That the framework of ritual practice or rituals wasn’t necessarily there at the beginning when we were selecting the artists, but there was a commonality between them dealing with material-making practices, dealing with the heritage, dealing with culture, dealing with the landscape from which they come. – Jayden Ali
When discussing the reaction and feedback received from the visitors of the pavilion, the curators mentioned that a lot of people felt uplifted by the exhibition, as it gave them a sense of optimism and openness. As many of the artworks addressed facts of everyday life, the pavilion speaks to architects and non-architects alike, creating space for everyone to join in the conversation about the ever-evolving role of architecture as a wider field.
Architecture touches people’s lives. Everyone has an attachment to a home, an attachment to places that they’re familiar with, and that those entry points to those places are everyday rituals and customs. And that’s how you kind of enter that conversation. – Jayden Ali
The exploration of architecture as a wider cultural practice represents one of the main emerging themes engaged with during the biennale, as also expressed by the curator of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition, Lesley Lokko, during her video interview with ArchDaily. Here, she also discussed the desire to create a space for voices not typically heard in global exhibitions. In a previous interview recorded before the opening of the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale, Lesley Lokko shared insights about the theme while also declaring her aspiration for the Biennale to encourage people to “think differently and perhaps more empathetically about those parts of the world that appear, at first glance, to have little to do with them.”
We invite you to check out ArchDaily’s comprehensive coverage of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023.