Friday, April 12, 2024
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Venice Architecture Biennale 2023: The Laboratory of the Future

The 18th International Venice Architecture Biennale Exhibition, titled The Laboratory of the Future, will be open to the public from Saturday, May 20 to Sunday, November 26, 2023, at the Giardini and the Arsenale, and at Forte Marghera; it will be curated by Lesley Lokko and organized by La Biennale di Venezia. The pre-opening will take place on May 18 and 19, and the awards ceremony and inauguration will be held on Saturday 20 May 2023.

The Laboratory of the Future

“What does it mean to be ‘an agent of change’? (…) Over the past nine months, in hundreds of conversations, text messages, Zoom calls and meetings – stated Lesley Lokko – the question of whether exhibitions of this scale — both in terms of carbon and cost — are justified, has surfaced time and again. In May last year, I referred to the exhibition several times as ‘a story’, a narrative unfolding in space. Today, my understanding has changed. An architecture exhibition is both a moment and a process. It borrows its structure and format from art exhibitions, but it differs from art in critical ways which often go unnoticed. Aside from the desire to tell a story, questions of production, resources and representation are central to the way an architecture exhibition comes into the world, yet are rarely acknowledged or discussed. From the outset, it was clear that the essential gesture of The Laboratory of the Future would be ‘change’”.

Venice Architecture Biennale 2023: The Laboratory of the Future

“(…) For the first time ever, the spotlight has fallen on Africa and the African Diaspora, that fluid and enmeshed culture of people of African descent that now straddles the globe. What do we wish to say? How will what we say to change anything? And, perhaps most importantly of all, how will what we say interact with and infuse what ‘others’ say, so that the exhibition is not a single story, but multiple stories that reflect the vexing, gorgeous kaleidoscope of ideas, contexts, aspirations, and meanings that is every voice responding to the issues of its time?”

“It is often said that culture is the sum total of the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves. Whilst it is true, what is missing in the statement is any acknowledgement of who the ‘we’ in question is. In architecture particularly, the dominant voice has historically been a singular, exclusive voice, whose reach and power ignore huge swathes of humanity — financially, creatively, conceptually — as though we have been listening and speaking in one tongue only. The ‘story’ of architecture is therefore incomplete. Not wrong, but incomplete. It is in this context particularly that exhibitions matter”.

Exhibition structure

The Laboratory of the Future is an exhibition in six parts. It includes 89 Participants, over half of whom are from Africa or the African Diaspora. The gender balance is 50/50, and the average age of all Participants is 43, dropping to 37 in the Curator’s Special Projects, where the youngest is 24. 46% of participants count education as a form of practice, and, for the first time ever, nearly half of the Participants are from sole or individual practices of five people or less. Across all the parts of The Laboratory of the Future, over 70% of exhibits are practices run by an individual or a very small team. (…)”

“Central to all the projects is the primacy and potency of one tool: the imaginationLokko said. It is impossible to build a better world if one cannot first imagine it.