I was also in Venice for the inauguration of the 11th Venice Architecture Biennale. Unlike the other members of Dysturb, this was the fourth time I have attended the opening of the biennale (in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008). So, for me, it was difficult not to compare Aaron Betsky’s work at the Arsenale to the work that had been done by the previous international curators (Burdett, Foster, or Sudjic) of the other biennales. On top of this, the Venice Biennale is the main case study for my PhD thesis: the 1st Venice Architecture Biennale.
I have to say that when I left the Arsenale after seeing the exhibition, my enthusiasm was lukewarm: on the one hand I thought, as Darrel did, that the theme chosen by Betsky was loaded with intellectual potential and openness of interpretation and that overall, the show was well curated due to the compactness of the manifesto format. (In the past years the Arsenale’s bombarded the visitors with an overload of images, information, texts, and so forth.) But at the same time, many of the installations and accompanying manifestos remained obscure and slightly too artistic for my own tastes, and likely for the taste of many architects.
But now I see the light…
It was partly because I was curious and all together critical about the idea, and partly because I thought that maybe I could found out something that I did not already know about the Architecture Biennale, that I decided to buy “The Making of the Biennale” with Aaron Betsky. It is a DVD on sale for 15 Euros at the Biennale wherein Betsky explains his ideas for the exhibition while walking through each of the 20 installations of the Arsenale’s exhibition.
I finally understand what the Coop Himmelb(l)au machine is for, or what the Zaha Hadid sculpture represents. I also realised that the Peneznic and Rogina installation is made of moving parts, or that the Philippe Rahm piece simulat a miniaturized gulf stream made of hot and cold poles. I even realised that I missed the last installation by the Gustafson Porter group, the Towards Paradise garden, a piece referring to Voltaire’s last phrase in Candide: Il faut cultiver notre jardin.
If there is still time, I recommend you have a look at this video before visiting the Biennale; because even if we don’t like to admit it, there are times when we need a bit of didactics.