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June 13 2024

18th International Venice Architecture Exhibition

The 18th International Architecture Exhibition, titled The Laboratory of the Future, will be open to the public from Saturday May 20 to Sunday November 26, 2023 at the Giardini and the Arsenale, and at Forte Marghera; it will be curated by Lesley Lokko and organised by La Biennale di Venezia.

“What does it mean to be ‘an agent of change’? Over the past nine months, in hundreds of conversations, text messages, Zoom calls and meetings - stated Lesley Lokko - the question of whether exhibitions of this scale — both in terms of carbon and cost — are justified, has surfaced time and again. In May last year, I referred to the exhibition several times as ‘a story’, a narrative unfolding in space. Today, my understanding has changed. An architecture exhibition is both a moment and a process. It borrows its structure and format from art exhibitions, but it differs from art in critical ways which often go unnoticed. Aside from the desire to tell a story, questions of production, resources and representation are central to the way an architecture exhibition comes into the world, yet are rarely acknowledged or discussed. From the outset, it was clear that the essential gesture of The Laboratory of the Future would be ‘change’”.

For the first time ever, the spotlight has fallen on Africa and the African Diaspora, that fluid and enmeshed culture of people of African descent that now straddles the globe. What do we wish to say? How will what we say change anything? And, perhaps most importantly of all, how will what we say interact with and infuse what ‘others’ say, so that the exhibition is not a single story, but multiple stories that reflect the vexing, gorgeous kaleidoscope of ideas, contexts, aspirations, and meanings that is every voice responding to the issues of its time?”

“It is often said that culture is the sum total of the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves. Whilst it is true, what is missing in the statement is any acknowledgement of who the ‘we’ in question is. In architecture particularly, the dominant voice has historically been a singular, exclusive voice, whose reach and power ignores huge swathes of humanity — financially, creatively, conceptually — as though we have been listening and speaking in one tongue only. The ‘story’ of architecture is therefore incomplete. Not wrong, but incomplete. It is in this context particularly that exhibitions matter”.

The Laboratory of the Future programme is enriched by Carnival, a six-month-long cycle of events, lectures, panel discussions, films, and performances, that explore the themes of the Biennale Architettura 2023. “Conceived as a space of liberation rather than a spectacle or entertainment, Carnival offers a space for communication in which words, views, perspectives, and opinions are traded, heard, analysed, and remembered – Lokko said. Politicians, policymakers, poets, filmmakers, documentary makers, writers, activists, community organisers and public intellectuals will share the stage with architects, academics, and students. This public event programme is increasingly a form of architectural practice that attempts to bridge the gulf between architects and the public.”

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