Monditalia, a scan of an emblematic country;
Fundamentals, the present edition of the Venice Biennale of Architecture is curated by Rem Koolhaas and differs from all the previous ones; its focus is “architecture and not architects”; it presents not final works, defined images of architectures, but a work in progress to construct an image of architecture that is uncertain and not yet defined. It is about defining challenges and searching for possible answers in a learning process that started two years ago and the will carry on for the next 6 months and possibly more. Thus Fundamentals is a research on the change and possible condition of architecture.
A study conducted by research agents was coordinated by the curator in three directions reflected in the sections called Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014, Elements of Architecture and Monditalia. Absorbing Modernity studies the travel and translation of the idea of modernity in different countries; Elements studies the changes in time and space of the constitutive physical elements of architecture. Monditalia studies Italy as paradigmatic case of a country in the contemporary condition “between chaos and potentials”.
Monditalia, explores “Italy” as a complex artifact, a unique stratification of “wealth, creativity, skills and political turbulence”, a condition that is both local and global and that may lead to chaos or order as illustrated in the frescos of Ambrogio Lorenzetti`s “effetti del buon e del cattivo governo” (the effects of good and bad government) two scenarios that the Rotterdam based photographer Bas Princen reproduced at the entrance hall of Corderie (Arsenale) where Monditalia is displayed.
The ambition of the curator is conducting a systematic documentation; a “scan”, across the deep physical and cultural stratification of the country, according to geographical and historical coordinates; from south (North Africa) to north (Alps) and from the ancient Romans to ’70’s. The exhibition displays result from the first scan, the first-phase of the learning process that started two years ago and involves several organizations and individuals, many are Italian architects under 40 years old.
The display stretches along the open interior space of the Corderie – a building of the Arsenale complex that is long and narrow like Italy. The original open hall, 316 m long, is divided longitudinally in two distinct corridors by a light curtain. Together they host permanently, 123 works: 41 installations on one side and 82 films on the other. A set of 4 stages are juxtaposed along the open space for “live” temporary events that takes place in different formats such as dance, theatre and music. In addition meetings, seminars and workshops are scheduled as weekend specials to stage the continued learning process.
Each installation/case study is an original narrative of an uncanny, conflictual and paradoxical situation; used as points of departure for a reflection about the limits and potentials of the architect and architecture; spaces, actors and dynamics are unfolded looking back into the past, searching for circumstantial evidences that help name the new condition in which architecture operates. Across the cases the multiple aspects of the interaction between architecture and society – being politics, religion, technology etc. – can be combined by the visitor according with open sequences that may help to produce new narratives of difficulty and possibility.
The permeability of the overall space, with its multiplicity of relational connections, makes Monditalia a narrative device that is open, non-dogmatic and pluralist. As such the exhibition became a paradigm of the complexity of the contemporary Italian and global condition “in between chaos and potentials”.