Venice Biennale 2016
Interim is a liminal situation, temporary, often improvised, set among different necessities turned accute, the consciousness of certain wishes and their fulfilment. It is the preliminary step of an interpretation, of becoming permanent. By assuming the limitations of the post-financial crisis situation, awaiting permanent solutions, we will display intermediary uses, (il)legal occupations, artistic invasions and cultural guerrilla. This period of transition is under fire by the temporary and the transient: to make a splash, to put into discussion, to stir the spirits, to make visible and accessible, to cause an inconvenience and to alienate, to pop-up! These are the mechanisms of reaction against old habits and lack of interest. So, interim becomes a more or less voluntary strategy/ideology to address the urgent problems associated with urban lifestyle, education, community, the right for public space, ecology, the decay of historical buildings etc.
Interim brings into discussion relatively small gestures, started from bottom-up, not institutionalized yet, but with very significant impact and stakes: projects of, or involving architecture, organized by independent actors that propose by their temporary interventions, alternative solutions to these problems. In recent years we have noticed an increasing number of private initiatives as the voice of civil societies’ interest. Many of the projects selected by us have already received different prizes and nominations at national and international architectural exhibitions, European Prize for Urban Spaces and other similar events, and they are constantly being published in the architectural press. Significantly, temporary projects and cultural initiatives have their dedicated categories and prizes.
The contributions will be presented as pop-ups. Pop-up is at the same time a way to activate a space, a form of temporary organization (with low budget and maximum visibility) and a typographic 2D-3D device as well. We see the exhibition as a pop-up in itself, a temporary presence in the space of the pavilion. It operates with the methods specific to an event like this. By using the architectural qualities of the pavilion, we will bring there simple, prefab objects that will create a dialogue between the permanent and the transitory. This way, the Romanian pavilion will turn into an interim situation in itself. The graphical language is inspired from the pop-up recipe as well: loud colours, contrast, graphics that come out of the paper. On the exterior an installation made of scaffolding and printing mesh will occupy the platform in front of the pavilion, a strong visual sign and a full size exhibit at the same time: a temporary intervention in a public space. Functionally, it will offer some shade, which is a rare commodity at la Biennale.
The pop-up boxes of exhibited projects are grouped into 4 thematic areas. Visitors will explore the contents with physical gestures. At the exit, the pavilion operator will invite them “to invest” in one of the presented projects by symbolically acquiring a pop-up card. This way we will conduct an empirical survey about the visibility of the projects, the empathy, memory and patience of the visitors.
While the pavilion at Giardini will be visited by specialists, the ICR gallery enjoys a major flow of tourists, that turn in to see the exhibition more likely by chance, largely unaware of the Architecture Biennale. So for them we propose a slimmed down version of the project, a mini studio of Pop-up Selfie! On one side of the gallery there will be a large volume containing the photo area where visitors will create their own pop-up with an online app. It will transform the photo taken in the gallery into a virtual pop-up card that contains the name of the pavilion and la Biennale logo.
The general theme of the 15th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia asks the participants to bring concrete examples of architectural success stories that you can learn from and where the collective cause comes before the individual one. Romania is on the level of small scale gestures for now, of limited experiments that sometimes work, sometimes don’t, but that you can always learn from.
In the past 20 years the city has become less a product of the state, but more a product of the sum of individual initiatives. Grass-roots are becoming more and more visible and start to gain political consistency. The bottom-up manifestation is more natural and spontaneous than the traditional model of decision making. These actions sense Romanian societies’ need for change. Recently a process of transformation of urban spaces has started, that brings about new ways to use them, new ways of human interaction and ultimately new ways of life. The diversification and polarization of societies worldwide is already an understatement, while in Romania, simultaneously with the overall development of quality of life, the exact same tendencies of stratification manifest themselves over different criteria (economical, educational, social inclusion etc). Genius loci is not expressed by out-dated nostalgia (that are also increasingly under fire by the products and culture of globalization), but by generating reactions that offer solutions or alternatives to apparently small problems, with local significance, but that show towards something much larger: the capacity to roll over the traps of generic models and (re)establishing an identity adapted to the realities that we live in.
VISUAL CONCEPT OF THE EXHIBITION
We propose as the subject for our national exhibition an intermediary and temporary form of intervention, built with simple, yet surprising means. We will use pop-up boxes to actively involve visitors, who will be engaged into unveiling the exhibition with the ability to choose how much becomes visible and how much remains hidden. In general terms, we aim for a temporary space, neutral and easy to reconfigure, where the contents are more important. All exhibited items will be physical, tangible, we intend to minimize the use of technology, just like the selected projects are made with simple and sometimes improvised methods. By the transition from 2D to 3D the pop-up boxes produce this effect of surprise aimed at keeping the visitors busy and interested (already suffering from Biennale-fatigue). Pop-up involves interaction, manipulation, a hands-on experience and surprise.
The pop-up concept fits into a trend of marketing strategy for certain objects (pop-up book, pop-up card), it is an alternative and ephemeral way that connects directly to the exhibition contents. Most selected projects deal with initiatives that took a temporary shape, but with a long-term impact. The exhibition is not just a review of these interventions, but aims to define temporary interventions as a way of urban action.
The exhibition space is divided into 4 sections that represent the following categories of projects: education, public space, social-community and abandoned buildings. Each area is configured to visually connect to its specific content. Thus, the area for educational projects is arranged as a classroom and the exhibition is in the form of books. The community space is determined by a central table made up of individual units that can be arranged in a square or C-shape. Public space is an amphitheatre of urban scale or a stepped piazza with a screen to occasionally project live footage of events going on in Romania during the Biennale. Projects of abandoned buildings will be displayed in an area adjacent to the amphitheatre, a secondary transit space. Abandoned spaces are easy to pass by. When descending the overview ramp, visitors will see a graphical reminder to look for them.
There are two itineraries: one sequential through the 4 areas, the other over the perimeter, a raised pathway built on scaffolding to take visitors closer to the recently restored pavilion structures, that also offers different points of perception and an overview of the whole exhibition. The promenade offers theoretical leverage, relatively separate gestures become unified: a slightly distant overview gives you a different understanding of interim type of phenomenons.
For our proposed set-up we will use materials specific for temporary interventions: a modular scaffolding system, veneer panels, paints, visible wiring for the lamps, furniture made of wooden pallets and hammocks for the exterior terrace. The exhibition aims to grow beyond the boundaries of la Biennale and generate an impact after it is over. All materials will be brought back and donated to organizations that are involved in grass-root initiatives and other temporary interventions.
The catalogue contains the exhibited projects, some of them in a pop-up form and a case-study survey of temporary interventions as well, that will set a grid of values / processes / problems raised and solutions achieved, with the intention to spark new initiatives of the same type and to offer a model to them. The pavilion will have a desk at the entrance where visitors will be able to buy the catalogue and pop-up cards of exhibited projects. The money gathered from the sales will go to a fund for a new initiative.