Introduction by Paolo Baratta
President of la Biennale di Venezia
With Rem Koolhaas our aim is to create an exceptional, research-centered Architecture Biennale.
It will be significantly innovative as Rem has conceived a project that involves the entire Biennale, which fully exploits its potential.
Let’s start with the pavilions, which are independently managed by the participating countries and whose presence is a unique prerogative of la Biennale di Venezia. In this edition, commissioners and curators were not simply informed of the theme assigned by our Director to “his own” Exhibition. Instead, a specific topic (Absorbing Modernity 1914–2014) has been offered to all of them. This suggestion has been largely accepted and therefore the national pavilions are contributing and preparing a large part of the overall investigation, which together is entitled Fundamentals.
And this is certainly one of the reasons why the number of participating countries has risen from 55 to 65, of which 11 are taking part for the first time: Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, New Zealand and Turkey.
But this is by no means all. I must remind everyone that la Biennale embraces various disciplines beyond Art and Architecture (Dance, Music, Theatre, and Cinema), and here too Koolhaas didn’t miss the opportunity. The Monditalia section of the Exhibition will also act as a container for activities pertaining to these different arts ensuring that they are not happenings alongside or overlapping with the Architecture Exhibition. Dance, Music, Theatre, and Cinema will be incorporated to epitomise the articulated and living contexts in which architecture may be conceived or imagined.
The Directors of the Biennale Danza, Musica, Teatro, and Cinema have taken this input on board and will be developing much of their programme (Festival and College) within the Corderie in the Arsenale and within the Architecture Exhibition itself, with programmes to be announced in an upcoming conference.
And there’s more. This time the role taken on by our director differs greatly from arranging a stage for the works and ideas of the invited architects. The Exhibition is the result of research carried out under the guidance of the director and exhibited in alignment with his project.
Some of the early Architecture editions offer precedents, but nothing on this level.
The spirit of research has always been our concern. For this edition, however, la Biennale turns itself into research. And we are convinced of the importance represented by this development and the extraordinary opportunity offered by Rem.
But why do we feel the need for in-depth research instead of aiming towards a merely updated representation of what architecture is? Why is the need for investigation insistent in the world of art and now in the world of architecture?
Last year, the Art Biennale was founded, to a more accentuated extent than usual, on its director’s commitment to research. We said that la Biennale needed to confront and dialogue with some of the developments which are affecting contemporary art. Contemporary art has become more and more customary or habitual, heavily market-dictated and drowned in that unstoppable, all-pervasive spreading of images all around us, running the risk of drifting towards a conformist dilution and trivialization of the relationship between the viewer and the works, which might end up as indifference. In this context the 55th International Art Exhibition curated by Massimiliano Gioni somehow strongly reiterated and documented the human need to create purpose-free images, backed by the urgency of personal obsessions and utopias.
And Architecture? For years we have criticised the divide that is growing between architecture and civil society, made up of individuals and institutions that should express a demand for architecture. We have observed the dualism between excess and indifference and, here also, we have seen a risk of conformism, fostered by economy and technology. For architecture and for art, development should be guided by a mindful ability and a wilful capacity to express needs and desires.
And here Koolhaas goes straight to the point. With great courage and ambition, after having traced the history of modernity over the past 100 years to the present, he identifies and presents the elements that should act as references for a regenerated relationship between us and architecture (Elements of Architecture).
The specific goal for the Monditalia section of the Exhibition, at the Corderie, is to gather and illustrate significant dimensions of Italy by means of ad-hoc studies. The result aims to remind us of the complex Italian reality, which is paradigm of not just local but global complexities that must not be denied or concealed. By revealing these realities we are able to access references that are also able to inspire architecture.
Debates, meetings and talks will enrich the Biennale Architettura for the whole duration of the Exhibition that, given the intensity and the scope of the project, we have extended to six months.
As at past exhibitions, the “Biennale Sessions” project will involve universities and, more specifically, faculties of architecture around the world, and a broad “educational” system will primarily target the new generations.
I would like to thank our partner Rolex, and all the other companies for their generous assistance and contribution. I would also like to thank all the international public institutions and many donors who have been so important in the creation of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition.
I warmly thank Rem along with all his collaborators, and the huge number of researchers working behind the scenes for this Exhibition.
My thanks also go to the directors of the Biennale Danza, Musica, Teatro and Cinema: Virgilio Sieni, Ivan Fedele, Àlex Rigola, and Alberto Barbera.
Finally I would like to thank la Biennale organisation for its wonderful work in setting up this Exhibition.