Venetian commons

My top six harmonious interventions at 13th Venice Biennale deal with noise, somewhere between the random and the unwanted, what we don’t want to hear and what we don’t want to see: the noise of those under power, the noise of those in power, the noise of the powerless; the noise of a building, the noise of the inhabitants of a building, the noise of the politically incorrect.


^ With Unmediated Democracy Demands Unmediated Space, Croatian National Participation [Igor Bezinović, Hrvoslava Brkušić, Boris Cvjetanović, Siniša Labrović and Pulska grupa] proposes a post-capitalist manifesto to really hear each other and create new ways of operating resources. By looking at civil struggles, student protests going on since 2009, the so-called “Forum for Space” and their concept of KOMUNAL, they proclaim:


We imagine city as a collective space which belongs to all those who live in it an who have the right to find there conditions for their political, social, economic and ecological fulfilment at the same time assuming duties and solidarity. This concept of the city is blocked by capitalist dialectic based on public and private ownership. From these two poles, State and Market emerge as the only two subjects. We want to escape this dialectic, not to focus on the “third subject”, but on a group of collective subjectivities and the common they produce. We understand common as non-material value produced through differences, communication and social interaction. Only if these common values manage to escape being captured by the capitalist public-private dialectic they keep their non-material value open and they have the potential to become productive, to become means of production.

We understand KOMUNAL as the land where common value, once it is transformed from non-material to use value cannot be exploited and turned into exchange value. Therefore, this common territory exists outside current forms of city exploitation based on property and land speculation. It bases its general values in the field of access, use, activity or care.

Word KOMUNAL was traditionally used for natural resources, which were managed by self-organized users. This kind of space managing is more and more frequent in the abandoned spaces in the city where different autonomous zones are emerging. Although these zones exist today on the social margins we consider them potential places for appearance of new utopias and collective imagination. Let us try then to imagine a different way of operating spatial resources, distributing surplus value and creating our own institutions.


^ Image of a City in late Capitalism. Red Plan Pula by Pulska grupa. Croatian Pavilion.



^ The Kingdom of Bahrain’s participation, as brilliant as in 2010, presents how the image of the country is broadcasted internationally for political and economic purposes, thus creating an imaginary vision of a territory. With In Your Living Room – On TV Landscapes And The Urban Imaginary, Bahrain’s contemporary history is revisited through relevant events for the international community, such as exposing the new Mina Salman Port to the world through the arrival of Queen Elizabeth in 1979 by ship. We are reminded how the spontaneous appearance of un-iconic landscapes in international media offer an intentionally biased portrait for economic powers.


^ Awarded the Golden Lion for the Best Project of the Common Ground Exhibition, Torre David / Gran Horizonte, is Urban-Think Tank’s proposal to present the informal community in an abandoned and unfinished office tower in Caracas, Venezuela. As they refer to it, this ruin-turned-home they encourage contemporary architects and planners to look at these examples for further collaboration with informal actors. For the Biennale, Torre David is presented as a [highly recommendable!] Venezuelan arepa restaurant surrounded by raw brick walls hanging photographs by Iwan Baan, creating a genuinely social space rather than a didactic exhibition space. This installation has become controversial in the Venezuelan architectural community. Many are dismayed that the nation’s architectural accomplishments are “represented” by a never-completed and “ruined” work; others argue that the exhibit condones the Venezuelan government’s tacit and explicit support of illegal seizure and occupation of property. It’s nonetheless remarkable how Western countries acknowledge and award the social potential of squatting in developing societies, while Occupy London-New York-Madrid were not even mentioned in the same Architecture show.


^ Making The Walls Quake As If They Were Dilating With The Secret Knowledge Of Great Powers. Katarzyna Krakowiak’s piece in the Polish Pavilion, curated by Michał Libera and awarded a Special Mention by the Jury, uses this beautiful title to state how Architecture is built of sound: It is what makes the diffusion of sound possible – absorbing, filtering, and transferring it, amplifying some of its components at the expense of others. Enclosed spaces are room tones, while niches are specific echoes. The ventilation and heating systems are a quiet yet constant noise, whereas windows and walls are the filtered sounds of street bustle, the buzzing of cicadas, or neighbor’s living rooms.

The pavilion is used as a resonator to amplify a sort of soundtrack of the cracks. The exhibition is grounded with an exquisite publication assembling texts on Sounds in/through/of Architecture: reverberation – eavesdropping – vibration.


^ In 100, a table fills the centre of the scene; we cannot but walk around it. But the main stage is not in the middle of the room. It is on the narrow aisle left between this gigantic table and the walls. Visitors to the Serbian Pavilion decisions to smash, bang, tap or clap against the table surface with certain force put each actor right on the spot. Speakers amplify these onomatopoeic gestures and turn them extremely audible for everyone in the room, catching attention from the rest. As Igor Marić describes it: Are we alone against everyone or alone with everyone? […] The interior becomes an exterior, we are not surrounded by empty walls but by architecture with either in between, emptiness and fullness, the definitiveness of the placed object becomes a diversity of perception. Movements make the space pulsate, sound fill the silence, we touch the surface, we look at each other and hear each other. Does it separate or join us?


^ Finally, the controversial Pigeon Safari project, orchestrated by Julian Charrière and Julius von Bismarck, consists of around 60 Venetian grey pigeons coloured with food dye in red, blue, purple and green tones and released again in the city. Colour is harmless and wears off after 6 weeks. The initiative has increased current discussions on the issue of pigeons damaging architectural heritage with their acidic droppings, especially in Venice, as well as the methods through which city councils are getting rid of hundreds of them.


[all images> deconcrete2012]


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