Iker Gil is the associate curator of Dimensions of Citizenship, the official US representation at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale taking place between May 26, 2018 and November 25, 2018. The US Pavilion is located at the Giardini della Biennale.
“In a time when the expansion of the United States–Mexico border wall looms over more nuanced discourses on national citizenship, it is urgent for architects and designers to envision what it means to be a citizen today.
Questions of belonging, of who should be included and how, are posed with every athlete taking a knee, every #metoo, every presidential tweet, and every protest sign or fist raised. Yet as transnational flows of capital, digital technologies, and geopolitical transformations expand, conventional notions of citizenship are undermined. We define the term as a tangle of rights, responsibilities, and attachments linked to the built environment. And so we ask: How might architecture respond to, shape, and express rhizomatic and paradoxical conditions of citizenship?
The US Pavilion explores seven spatial scales: Citizen, Civitas, Region, Nation, Globe, Network, and Cosmos. These scales, telescoping from body to city to heavens, broadly position citizenship as a critical global topic. Commissioned installations by architects, landscape architects, artists, and theorists investigate spaces of citizenship marked by histories of inequality and the violence imposed on people, non-human actors, and ecologies. These works aim to manifest the democratic ideals of inclusion against the grain of broader systems: new forms of sharing economy platforms, the legacies of the Underground Railroad, tenuous cross-national alliances at the border region, or the seemingly Sisyphean task of buttressing coastline topologies against rising tides.
The installations and the film and video works on view do not solve the complex relationships of governance, affinity, and circumstance that bind us, citizen to stranger, self to other. Instead, they use architecture’s disciplinary agency to render visible paradoxes and formulations of belonging. Only when spatial understandings of citizenship—legal, cultural, and ecological—are in sight might we struggle free from antiquated definitions, forms, or bureaucracies and activate potent spaces for design.”
The exhibition includes work by Amanda Williams + Andres L. Hernandez in collaboration with Shani Crowe; Studio Gang; SCAPE; Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman; Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Laura Kurgan, Robert Gerard Pietrusko, with the Columbia Center for Spatial Research; and Design Earth.
The Transit Screening Lounge Area includes video works by Frances Bodomo, Mandana Moghaddam, David Rueter and Marissa Lee Benedict, Mika Rottenberg, and Liam Young.
A complement to commissioned and invited works within the US Pavilion, the Citizen Lab and CitizenSHIP programming series are driven by the idea that “citizenship” can be defined by creative and political action and engagement, as well as a legal affiliation. The Citizen Lab is space for ongoing discussion and workshopping of what it means to be a citizen today and takes place in the courtyard of the US Pavilion while CitizenSHIP activates specific sites in and around Venice.
Dimensions of Citizenship curators and editorial partner e-flux Architecture (edited by Nick Axel, Nikolaus Hirsch, and Anton Vidokle) asked twelve authors—seven responding to the curatorial scales and five prompted as “rapid responders”—to reflect on contemporary and historical understandings of the concept of citizenship and how questions of inclusions and exclusion are spatially constructed. Together, these texts present scholarship that broadens and deepens the architectural, environmental, material, infrastructural, and political complicites that make (and unmake) acts and territories of belonging.
Finally, the images and short texts in the series Form N-X00: New Forms for Citizenship respond to contemporary understandings of citizenship. Revisiting the bureaucratic application for naturalization to the US, Form N-600, this series asks an international group of architects, designers, writers, artists, and thinkers to contribute their thoughts on how inclusion and exclusion are spatially constructed. By interrogating, speculating, and reflecting on different scales of belonging, this growing collection provokes and expands our current understanding of citizenship.
For more information about Dimensions of Citizenship, please visit the official website www.dimensionsofcitizenship.org
Photography by Tom Harris Photography.
Architectural Record, “U.S. Pavilion at 2018 Venice Biennale Grapples with Diverse Ideas of Citizenship”
Artdaily, “Exhibition challenges architects and designers to envision what it means to be a citizen today”
Chicago Tribune, “Chicago in Venice: A first look at the U.S. pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale”
CNN, “With the world watching, US architects rebuke Trumpism at the Venice Biennale”
Curbed, “At Venice Architecture Biennale, U.S. pavilion tackles borders and citizenship”
Los Angeles Times, “A new U.S.-Mexico border? At the Venice Biennale, imagining a binational region called MEXUS”
Metropolis Magazine, “At the Venice Biennale, Jeanne Gang Uses Memphis’s Cobblestones to Reflect on Monuments and Messy Civic Histories”
Monocle, “Dimensions of Citizenship: US pavilion”
New York Times, “Creators of Architectural Exhibits Reach To the Cosmos for Inspiration”
Location: Venice Architecture Biennale
Curators: Nial Atkinson, Ann Lui, and Mimi Zeiger
Associate Curator: Iker Gil
Commissioners: School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The University of Chicago
Representative Commissioners: Bill Brown, Bill Michel, Jonathan Solomon, and Paul Coffey
Exhibition Design: IN-FO.CO
Project Manager: Samantha Topol
Exhibition and Program Coordinator: Fabiola Tosi