A menagerie of imaginings to discover at the Venice Biennale

by | Jun 16, 2023 | News & blogs

 Rosie Holt, a student on the MA Arts at Place at Dartington Arts School, reflects back on a dizzying few weeks at the prestigious event in Italy.

Rosie Jones in St Mark’s Square while at the 2023 Venice Biennale  

Rosie writes: From compost loos to queer utopias the 2023 Venice architectural biennale is a menagerie of imaginings into what architecture can and should be. The theme “The Laboratory of the Future”, set by this year’s curator Lesley Lokko, has provoked a wide range of responses from exhibitors.

For me some of the most engaging exhibitions are those looking at land rights and indigenous knowledge; including the Nordic Pavilion with their Sámi Architecture Library, the Canada’s activist exhibition, which houses the “heart-quarters” for: Architects Against Housing Alienation, and Brazil’s golden lion winning exhibition Terra.

The British Pavilion has also sought to highlight less conventional narratives in their exhibition: Dancing Before the Moon, which centres on diaspora community rituals as a form of spatial practice. It takes the focus away from bricks and mortar, and instead places how space is used – and by whom – at the forefront of the conversation.

Working in the British Pavilion I have had the opportunity to engage with the curators and artists evolved, as well as interacting with visitors in the exhibition. Awarded Special Mention by the judges, the response to the exhibition has been overwhelmingly positive, although there is always the occasional unconvinced visitor questioning whether it represents either architecture or Britain. It is with these more difficult conversations I am most keen to engage, because the battle to make our built environments more inclusive and dynamic cannot be won solely by preaching to the converted.

Rosie is a student on the MA Arts and Place at Dartington Arts School.  The next programme begins April 24, with first application deadline on October 23rd.