Friday, November 22, 2019

Biennials/Triennials

Biennials/Triennials: Conversations on the Geography of Itinerant Display
Léa-Catherine Szacka
Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, August 2019



Paperback | 5-1/2 x 8 inches | 176 pages | 62 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1941332559 | $18.00

Publisher's Description:
In the forty years since the first iteration of Venice Architecture Biennale, the field of architecture has seen a remarkable change in the role played by exhibition-making. While architecture and display have long been intertwined practices, a rapid proliferation of large-scale perennial exhibitions—particularly in the twenty-first century—has resulted in the biennial / triennial becoming an integral part of our discipline, a new geography of itinerant display that has profoundly altered the contours of architectural thought. Between format, space, and content, what are the various agencies and effects of these events? Biennials / Triennials asks these questions and others of a range of curatorial agents—including After Belonging Agency, Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley, Sarah Herda, Adrian Lahoud, Ippolito Pestellini, and Andre Tavares—and visits crucial sites of recent exhibitions that reveal what is at stake in the newfound ubiquity of the architectural –ennial.
dDAB Commentary:
If  there is "a rapid proliferation of large-scale perennial exhibitions" in architecture, per the description above, then 2019 is the year when the biennials and triennials broke, when they all seemed to converge at once. By my best count, of the roughly 20 biennials and triennials devoted to architecture, 15 are taking place this year, with 12 of them overlapping in the fall. That leaves only a handful in 2020 for those interested in visiting them. But how can anyone visit all of them in any given year, much less a few, given their chronological convergences and, more generally, an overlapping of their themes and participants? Throw into the mix the fact that flying to Chicago, Oslo, São Paulo, Sharjah and other far-flung cities is polluting and exhibitions are wasteful omnivores of materials (just two of numerous concerns in our Age of Climate Change), and it seems like the rapid proliferation will be short-lived: 2019 could very well be the beginning of the end for perennial architecture exhibitions.

Léa-Catherine Szacka, who wrote the excellent book Exhibiting the Postmodern on the 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale, has interviewed the curators of roughly a half-dozen recent architecture biennials and triennials for Biennials/Triennials, including Sarah Herda, co-director of the first Chicago Architecture Biennial, in 2015; Adrian Lahoud, curator of this year's inaugural Sharjah Architecture Triennial; OMA/AMO's Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, curator of the Monditalia component of the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale and co-curator of Manifesta 12, which took place last year in Palermo, Sicily. Although the last was not an architecture exhibition, OMA/AMO was hired to create a research-heavy Palermo Atlas for the art biennial. Manifesta 12 comes up repeatedly in Szacka's interviews, many of which explore the issue of local vs. global considerations in terms of their respective exhibitions. While, for instance, Chicago's biennial is geared to bringing tourists to Chicago and catering to locals primarily through free admission, Manifesta uniquely moves around Europe every two years. Manifesta's presence can translate into benefits for a locale, and in the case of Palermo, OMA's urban study became "an alternative model for pre-biennial exploration." This isn't to say that Manifesta dominates the discussions or that local/global is the only theme these events have in common. There's much to learn in the conversations about the current state of perennial architecture exhibitions, plenty of fodder for speculating on their influence and their future.
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Author Bio:
Léa-Catherine Szacka is a Lecturer in Architectural Studies at Manchester Architecture Research Group (MARg), the University of Manchester. Her work focuses on the history of architecture exhibitions, the history and theory of postmodern architecture, and, more broadly, the relationship between media and architecture since the 1970s.
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