In spite of everything, biennials maintain their influence on themes tackled by artists and architects. At the least, they reflect certain preoccupations, and in the best of cases they contribute to giving form to ‘agendas,’ albeit only while the spotlights of media attention are turned on.
The spotlights are already directed at the recently inaugurated 18th Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by the Ghanaian architect, writer, and activist Lesley Lokko. It is the first time that an African holds the reins of the exhibition, and also the first time that the latter is themed around Africa, taking pride, moreover, in that half of the 89 participants come from there, that a parity between genders has been reached, and that the average age has lowered to 37. The title, ‘The Laboratory of the Future,’ refers to the need to rethink Africa and use our imagination critically if we are to face the continent’s future with the ethical urgency of paying attention to its powerful and complex cultures and societies.
It is impossible not to regard Lokko’s well intentioned and necessary theses with benevolence. But only time will tell if her institutional endeavors have borne some fruits, or if – as Focho suggests in the cartoon on the opposite page – her aspirations are bound to remain on the damp paper of the many narratives that have already been staged in the unreal Venice of biennials.