TOWARDS AN URBAN BIENNALE 2016
An exercise in rethinking Venice Biennal starting from abandoned spaces.
A Stalker Walking School proposal for ETH Zürich Professur für Kunst- und Architekturgeschichte
Dr. Philip Ursprung Institut für Geschichte und Theorie der Architektur in the frame of the
Swiss Pavilion ‚the School of the Tomorrow‘ programm,
14th International Architecture Exhibition, Venezia 2014, 8-15 June 2014, in collaboration with
Osservatorio Nomade/Laguna, Comitato Teatro Marinoni Bene Comune, Associazione Poveglia
WALKING OUT OF CONTEMPORARY
Grand Tour. Learning from Italy.
This summer school wants to open up the discussion on the Biennale 2016, as a possible Urban Biennale, using the Lucius Burckhardt 1984 project for Documenta in Kassel.
An Urban Biennale that becomes part of the process of reuse and reinvention of the enormous patrimony of abandoned spaces in the lagoon of Venice. „Actual Territories“, as Stalker called in 1995 those places of forgotten memories, marginal presents and spontaneous possible futures. Simultaneous, decontextualized, instantaneous, exclusive events, seems to characterize the contemporary production of space, while in the Actual Territories, often forgotten, forbidden, refused and exploited spaces, through contextual, relational and processual practices, new creative communities are spontaneously experimenting strategies of coexistence, in search of more sustainable forms of culture, economy and democracy. Those collaborative, social and artistic, practices are indicating possible strategies to re-enact those spaces, re-creating a possible „Common sphere“ aside of the decline of the public sphere and the blind privatization, or better explotation, of any resource, practice and space on earth on going today.
The Biennale, the most important Contemporary institution in Venice and the „Actual Territories“ could mirror one in the other, become reciprocal resources, text and context of a process of going back to imagine a future for Venice, beyond its contemporary cliché.
The summer school will start with two Stalker’s exploration of the sites of interest:
The Biennale, on sunday, and, on monday, the abandoned spaces of the Lido and the little abandoned island of Poveglia, just put on sale by the state. The Lido, „leisureland“ of the venetian archipelago, site of the Cinema Festival, is today disseminated by abandoned buildings and sites that have to be re-imagined. Five one-day seminars, will follow the Lido and the biennale explorations. Those seminars will focus the possibility to rethink the Biennale institution and its possible role in the re enacti by discussing the following problematic:
1. Its organization in national pavilions.
2. Its organization in disciplinary art fields (visual arts, architecture, dance, theatre, cinema).
3. Its relationship with national and international educational paths that take place in Venice.
4. Its relationship with citizens organizations and innovative social practices and the practicability of living in Venice.
5. Its relationship with the urban space and the reuse of the enormous amount of abandoned spaces in the lagoon of Venice.
THE SUMMER SCHOOL
Charged by the amazing walks through the abandoned spaces of the Lido/Poveglia and motivated by the many inputs of activist, artists, philosophers and alike, the question remained: How is a Summer School from Switzerland supposed to contribute to the complexity of Venice in less than a week? What to do with all this information which is invested in us? And how can this lead into a Biennale Urbana? And last, but not least we ask in the spirit of Lucius Burkhardt: Does a Biennale Urbana even make things better or is it best to keep the subversive hidden?
It became clear that our main advantage was our perspective as outsiders. To be able to see and make visible the net of correlations and premonition of scenarios that are – or could become. And what better way to convey this message than through the touristic medium of the postcard! And so more than 100 different postcards were produced, some depicting present stories, some referencing the past and some introducing future scenarios. The postcards are then presented in the Swiss Pavilion and various Social Media platforms and will hopefully spread new ideas and insights throughout the community of Venice.
Thank you ON/Laguna, Guido Iannuzzi, Martin Josephy, Peter T. Lang, Lieven de Cauter, Anna Detheridge, Marco Favaro, Michael Obrist, Christian Costa, Suad Amiry and Pelin Tan for the beautiful inputs that guided us though out the week!
POLAND AFTER NATURE
The concept of „nature“ is inseparably linked to the process of industrialization. Industry tends to tranform the very ressources it exploits into sublime images, such as „nature“, „memory“, and „subjectivity“. The search for „nature“ is there- fore a journey both into the past and into the future. What will we discover in Białowieża forest in Eastern Poland — the so called „last primary forest“ in Europe? Will it be the key to under- stand the complexity of Poland‘s history, the wars, the holocaust, the division of Europe? Will we discover an untouched site, a paradisiac place? Will we see our own mirror images? Starting from the darkness of the forests, our expedition will take us to Łódź, the former center of Poland‘s industry and then to the lights of Warsaw, site of the „future of Europe“ (according to an EU meeting in 2012).
DAY 1 BIALOWIEZA
On our way to Bialowieza, stopping at an orthodox church
Streching legs at a bonfire after a hearty dinner at Hotel Wejmtka.
DAY 2 BIALOWIEZA
Experiment of the week: One watercolour a day!
Having our second breakfast at the Tsars Restaurant (http://www.restauracjacarska.pl/index_en.html), where our guide Eunice Blavascunas sends us off on to explorationtours of the village in small groups.
There are many quirky details to discover in the village. The inhabitants have rediscovered the Polish folklore style, which was frowned upon during communism. Now even ready-made houses can be bought in this style. Many houses are for rented out to tourists, who increasingly experience the Bialowieza forest as an attraction.
Visting the sawmill-owners Ela and Marek Poleszuk. Now that the wood from the commercial part of the Bialowieza forest has become too expensive for their clients such as IKEA, they now import their wood (mostly oak) from the Ukraine.
Later we meet up with the villagers to talk about their relationship to the forest. Apart from the forest’s many roles such as an economic source or a historical stage, we were interested to hear, that the inhabitants maintain a quite romantic understanding of the forest as nature in which one can relax.
DAY 3 LODZ
We meet up our new guides Kaja Pawelek, Lukasz Biskupsi and Aleksandra Jach in front of the gigantic revitalized textile factory complex „Manufaktura“ and cross the street to an old jewish ghetto, which is part of the municipality renovation project „Lodz – City of 100 Apartment Houses“.
Lodz still suffers from a shrinking population in the city center and the abandonement of many industrial sites. On the other hand new housing projects are realised at the periphery of Lodz for the new middle class. We visit one of these projects which also includes the renaturalization of a river landscape.
Wonderful ruin on the way, we stop and make our aquarelles.
Scavenging for materials in where a party might have taken place…
Beautiful encounter with an old bookbinder vis-a-vis the worn down factory:
There are some atttempts to tap on the great ressource of the abandoned spaces in Lodz. Projects such as the Art_Inkubators at Fabryka Sztuki try reactivation through cultural events. The municipal strategy is to give fincancial incentives to areas called Lodz Special Economic Zones for the developement of industrial ruins.
Later that evening we visit the Museum of Modern Art Lodz which includes a neo-plastisism Gesamtkunstwerk.
DAY 4 WARSAWA
Driving through the night and arriving in Warsaw where we meet up with Simone de Iacobis and Malgorzata Kuciewicz from CENTRALA who call themselves a „designers task force“. Together we reach the rooftop floor of the Palace of Culture and Science, which is still in use and dominates the center of Warsaw.
Moving ahead to visit two of the few completed newer projects: The Kerethouse by Jakub Szczęsny (http://kerethouse.com/) imbedded in (or between) a socialhousing district and the Jewish Museum by the Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmari Lahdelma, which was build on the site of a former jewish ghetto.
We then are intrigued and puzzled by a visit to Stare Miasto which is the reconstructed Old Town of Warsaw which was destroyed in World War 2. There we join the curator Tomasz Fudala to see the „under construction“ festival exhibition and talk about the current role of the architect in Poland. http://artmuseum.pl/en/wystawy/zawod-architekt
After dinner we are invited to a performance in the temporary exhibition called „Learning from Warsaw“ which takes place in both Warsaw and Zurich and was curated by Nele Dechmann, Nicola Ruffo & Agnieszka Sosnowska. http://www.learningfromwarsaw.com/
DAY 5 WARSAWA
Last day in Poland and we make for another former industrial district named Ursus, where we discover factory ruins taken over by nature and others taken over by investors. There is then just enough time to visit an informal market and see a diverse array of projects on social housing.
Thursday, 2. May 2013, Friday, 3. May 2013
HIL H Plaza 40.4, ETH Zurich Hönggerberg, Wolfgang-Pauli-Str. 15, 8003 Zurich
Concept: Mechtild Widrich
This public workshop was the first meeting of the international network Art and Architecture History Assembly, which was founded by scholars at ETH Zurich, MIT, and the University of Western Australia. The AAHA approaches the porous boundaries between art and architecture and the less steady academic dialogue between these disciplines from a global perspective, concentrating on themes of interchange between countries, regions, and cultures. Members from Chile, Australia, the US, England, Switzerland and Austria joined us at ETH for two days to discuss utopia’s potential, the intersections of the disciplines and of theory and practice.
Limits occupied us both in the form of borders (real or imagined) between the disciplines of art and architecture as well as theory and practice and as literal political demarcations of great urgency within contemporary art and architecture. The three sections of the conference were organized around the themes of geographic boundaries (Tensions), utopian worldmaking (Visions), and production of social effects (Agency). The participants came from theory as well as from artistic and curatorial practice. A lively mix of input lectures and respondents made for an interesting encounter of different approaches and points of view.
We will get back together next year, possibly at MIT or at Western Australia University, Perth. (MW)