Art and Culture  Exhibition 

Back to School with Rem

14th Venice Architecture Biennale

Richard Ingersoll 

Doors, ‘Elements of Architecture’

I doubt we will ever learn if the curious resonances found at the 14th Biennale of Architecture in Venice were accidental or intended. First, the uncanny continuity with Massimiliano Gioni’s ‘Palazzo Enciclopedia’, the theme of last year’s art Biennale. Driven by a similar mania for cramming the totality of knowledge in a physical space, Rem Koolhaas has directed a large team of young researchers to produce exhaustive, and often exhausting, documentation about fifteen ‘elements’ of architecture for the principal exhibition in the Giardini. Second, the spectacular arrest of Venice’s Mayor Giorgio Orsoni and thirty-three local politicians on the Biennale’s opening day, which coincided with much of the content of Koolhaas’s other exhibition, ‘Monditalia’, set in the Arsenale. Despite its promise to highlight the other arts in Italy, such as cinema, dance, and music, ‘Monditalia’ (a title reminiscent of the Italian film Mondo Cane) pursues significant denunciations of Italian corruption as a major factor limiting the country’s considerable cultural potential. To go with this, Cino Zucchi, curator of the Italian pavilion, chose the seemingly innocent title ‘Innesti’, the botanical term for attaching a new branch to an old tree, which translates into English as ‘graft’, another word for political kickbacks. A final coincidence involves the overall title of this year’s Biennale: ‘Fundamentals’, which comes very close to the local word for the island city’s embankments: fondamenta...

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