Venice Biennale Reconfirms May Opening
13. April 2021
Image: La Biennale di Venezia
During a virtual press conference on Monday, April 12, Biennale president Roberto Cicutto announced this year's exhibition will indeed open on May 22. Curator Hashim Sarkis also outlined the expanded program that will take place over its six months.
This iteration of the Venice Architecture Biennale — titled How will we live together? by architect and educator Hashim Sarkis, the curator of the exhibition — was originally set to open in May 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic bumped it first to August 2020 and then to May 2021. Even as other international events have moved their postponed openings to the fall of 2021, the Biennale has stood firm with a delay of no more than a year. Yesterday's announcement reconfirmed next month's opening and provided details on additions to the exhibition that will cater, in part, to the many visitors unable to travel to the Biennale between May 22 and November 21.
Roberto Cicutto, successor to longtime president Paolo Baratta, who chose Sarkis as curator, said the organization learned a lot from the film, theater, music, and dance festivals that took place last year. People able to travel to Venice for the Biennale "will be regulated according to precise emergency and safety rules," Cicutto said; the same applies to the people setting up the exhibits and working during the exhibition.
Sarkis followed Cicutto by first addressing the theme he outlined well before the pandemic, a theme that has recently sparked questions: "Have you rethought the exhibition? Are we going to be able to live together again? Is architecture still possible after the pandemic?" Sarkis responded that the theme he developed in a form of a question, How will we live together?, is "all the more relevant, even if somehow ironic, given the isolation that the pandemic has imposed upon us." Furthermore, "the same reasons that led us to ask this question — climate crisis, massive population displacements, political polarizations, and growing racial, social, and ethnic and economic inequalities — have led us to this pandemic." The central theme of the exhibition is how architects respond to these issues, a stance that strengthens the commitment of architecture to society and echoes the 2016 Biennale, Reporting from the Front, curated by Alejandro Aravena.
After Sarkis touched upon the video "Sneak Peeks" the Biennale has been sharing since November as well as the two posthumous Golden Lions — one to Vittorio Gregotti and one to Lina Bo Bardi — he outlined the seven parts of the expanded program for the 17th International Architecture Exhibition:
- Broadcasting of Installation: The otherwise hidden act of setting up exhibits will be documented and broadcast, revealing the "act of building" an architecture exhibition.
- Publications and Other Media: In addition to the traditional catalog, this year's Biennale will feature two new publications: Expansions, consisting of essays by critics, historians, theorists, and others addressing the theme; and Co-Habitats, presenting the research work of students collaborating with people outside of their universities. Additionally, a film is being made that features interviews with intellectuals about the exhibition's theme.
- Collaboration with Dance Biennale: The director of the Dance Biennale will organize a number of dance groups exploring parts of the exhibition through performances that express the body in space.
- Meetings on Architecture: This traditional component of the Biennale will take place primarily in the fall. Educational symposia, all of them broadcast online, will feature themes drawn from the five scales of the exhibition: from the body to the planet.
- Collective Exhibitions and Events: "In the spirit of togetherness, there will be a special collective exhibition by all the participants in this Biennale," Sarkis said, "and there will also be collective events organized by the national pavilions."
- Satellite Shows: A series of spin-off exhibitions around the world will follow the Biennale after it closed in November, though no details were given.
- Special Event: A special event will take place that "highlights the need to change our conception of space: from a 'space of seeing' to a 'space of listening.'"
Details of most of the above will be announced soon by the Biennale. We'll add any relevant events to our Events section once we know more.