The Disquieted Muses

John Hill
16. July 2020
The Central Pavilion during the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)

La Biennale di Venezia has revealed details on The Disquieted Muses, an exhibition that will take place in the Central Pavilion from August to November this year, bringing together directors from the Biennale's six departments (art, architecture, cinema, dance, music, and theater) to tell the 125-year history of the Biennale.

As revealed in a press conference on Wednesday, The Disquieted Muses. When the Biennale Meets History is an exhibition by the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts – ASAC that will held in the Central Pavilion of the Giardini della Biennale from Saturday, August 29, to Tuesday, December 8, 2020. The exhibition responds to the one-year delay of the Architecture Biennale and availability of the Central Pavilion. Curated by Hashim Sarkis and titled How will we live together?, the Venice Architecture Biennale 2020 was originally scheduled to open in May this year but is now scheduled to open on May 22, 2021.

As explained by Roberto Cicutto, the recently appointed president of La Biennale di Venezia and successor to longtime president Paolo Baratta, The Disquieted Muses "forges a dialogue between the six arts of La Biennale in the form of a resource center set up under the auspices" of ASAC, while also drawing on the records of other Italian and international archives. It is the first time in its 125-year history that the Biennale uses audiovisual materials, photographs, installations, and documents to tell its own sweeping story.

The six artistic directors, including Sarkis, are working under the guidance of Cecilia Alemani. Each of them, per Cicutto, "has traced the historical arc they thought would best illustrate the key points of La Biennale throughout its history." For Sarkis, that history is relatively short, considering that the first Architecture Biennale was held in 1980. But as he reveals in his video comments (queued up in the video below), architecture has had a presence in the Biennale since its inception in 1895, as container for art and identities for the participating countries, and then eventually as content.

Statement by Hashim Sarkis, artistic director of the Architecture Biennale, on The Disqueted Muses:

Architecture may not have officially started in the Biennale until 1980 but it has been present from the beginning as the container of the arts and as the expressive surface of the pavilions. Through their external expression, the pavilions competed as representations of empires and nations with styles and scales that demarcated the grounds of the Giardini for decades ahead of the arrival of architecture as a subject. In that sense, and until the 1970s when Vittorio Gregotti brought architecture into different venues in Venice (Magazzini del Sale at the Zattere, Ca' Pesaro, San Lorenzo Church, Cini Foundation, Museo Correr, Shipyard at the Giudecca), architecture played its conventional role towards the other arts: as framework. Ironically, architecture gained its ability to disquiet the muse, when it lost its proper place and its bearings and “descended” to be with the other arts, when it became the content not just the container. The Biennale compelled architecture to play, to experiment, to be at once as framework, content, representation and experience, opening up a whole palette of possibilities for the field. La Biennale brought architecture to life by unsettling it. What is unique about this archival exhibition is the way it puts the media next to each other to compete in their viability as expressive forms of (one) art but also to be present and represented in a non-hierarchical or classified way on the open grounds of the Giardini. Here they finally exchange ideas, forms, and contours, unified in the same space that has in the past given each its exclusive claims to expressiveness. La Biennale has become an open space of exchange among its many media. It has finally become one Biennale.

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