Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 review – a pick’n’mix of conceptual posturing

Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 review – a pick’n’mix of conceptual posturingMay 22, 2021

Refugee camps, ad-hoc mosques and Wetherspoon’s carpets are among the muddle of answers to the well-intentioned curatorial question: ‘How will we live together?’

A robotic arm twitches above a lumpy landscape of compacted earth, pock-marked with little hollows from which pink tufts of fungus emerge. This is an “ecosystem of empathy and coexistence”, a caption tells us, the fungal flora and mechanical limb living together in perfect harmony. Nearby, bubbling tanks of lurid green algae are apparently busy cultivating an “urban microbiome”, while a cloud of feathery acrylic creatures hover above a mysterious constellation of columns emitting an eerie hum.

Welcome to the Venice Architecture Biennale, pandemic edition, an exhibition as confusing as it is confused. All along the 300-metre length of the main exhibition in the city’s former rope-making factory, and filling every room of the labyrinthine central pavilion in the Giardini nearby, are installations attempting to answer the momentous curatorial question: “How will we live together?” In the current context of the climate emergency, changing family structures, the refugee crisis, political polarisation, the Black Lives Matter movement, and, now, Covid-19, the theme could not be more urgent. Yet very few participants seem willing to even attempt an answer.

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