Turkey’s Pavilion at The Venice Biennial Asks: How Will We Live Together?

Turkey is taking part in La Biennale di Venezia’s architecture exhibition with a project titled ‘Architecture as Measure’.

Taking curator Neylan Turan’s book as a starting point, the Pavilion of Turkey will try to answer ‘How will we live together?’

The 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia (the Venice Biennial) finally opened its doors to the public on Saturday, May 22, 2021, having been twice postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Turkey is taking part, with a project titled Architecture as Measure, at the Arsenale venue.

Curator of Venice’s 17th International Architecture Exhibition Hashim Sarkis poses the question “How will we live together?” as the overarching theme of the Biennale Architettura 2021. In his statement, Sarkis refers to the coronavirus that has wreaked havoc on the world, and says: “The current global pandemic has no doubt made the question that this Biennale Architettura is asking all the more relevant and timely, even if somehow ironic, given the imposed isolation.

“It may indeed be a coincidence that the theme was proposed a few months before the pandemic. However, many of the reasons that initially led us to ask this question – the intensifying climate crisis, massive population displacements, political instabilities around the world, and growing racial, social, and economic inequalities, among others – have led us to this pandemic and have become all the more relevant.”

Coordinated by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV) and curated by Neylan Turan, the Pavilion of Turkey will be on view at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition until November 21, 2021. The pavilion is inspired by curator Turan’s recently published book, Architecture as Measure, and the exhibition “positions architecture as a measure that can help assess our place on Earth and our role in relation to those with whom we live together: as architects with the actors of other disciplines and domains of work, and as a species alongside more-than-human others.”

According to the news release, the exhibition Architecture as Measure “focuses on the politics and nuances of the seemingly mundane aspects and sites of architectural construction, juxtaposing them with their planetary counterparts through geographies of resource extraction, material supply chains, maintenance and care in Turkey and beyond.” The Turkish pavilion will be presented through an installation, an online publication, and storytelling.

Noting that the curatorial team was not aware of the long process ahead of it because of the pandemic, curator Neyran Turan says the extension of the project over “such a long period of time” allowed them to consider what would go into the pavilion deeply and thoroughly.

“Our project aims to rethink architecture’s relation to the world, in which it is more of an agent than a mere respondent,” Turan explains. “ In that sense, we hope that our project, which we see as a series of platforms that can provide different encounters, will lead to the kind of dialogues we aspire to and enable other discussions in the future.”

Pointing out the hard work that IKSV has been carrying out since March 2020 –– the time the coronavirus was detected in Turkey –– “to ensure the continuation of artistic production … and the sustainability of our contributions to culture and the arts,” IKSV Chairman Bulent Eczacibasi emphasises that culture and art “make us stronger in times of adversity” by nourishing our intellect and reminding us that “we are part of a universal whole.”

The installation at Venice is designed by NEMESTUDIO and is called Four Dioramas: there is the Diorama of a Quarry, showing a marble quarry “abandoned after centuries of resource extraction in the old land”. There is the Diorama of Logistics, displaying a large warehouse “enabling a massive transit during a multi-species migration to a new land.” The Diorama of Maintenance and Care is a location where “both the built structures and the endangered more-than-human beings are continually given maintenance and care.” Finally there is the Diorama of Formwork that is a “site of reconstruction” for future inhabitants of the Earth.

The exhibition also uses the IKSV website as a main publication platform beyond the installation at Venice. The website presents four different formats (Paperwork, Episodes, Conversations, and Essays) that are produced by the curatorial team and hand picked contributors that will present written content periodically over the course of the biennial. This material will also be available at Venice at the Pavilion of Turkey, showcased along with the dioramas.

“Our ministry has been supporting our county’s exhibitions at La Biennale di Venezia since 1991. Our exhibition at the International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia is a very good example of an achievement that has been realised by cooperation and collaboration among the public and private sectors and civil society,” Ozgul Ozkan Yavuz, Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, says. “We make an impression on one of the astonishing international platforms and we share our country’s past and contemporary experience on arts and architecture.”

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