British Council announce initial plans for the UK at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia
May 20 – November 23, 2023
The British Council and the commissioned curators – Jayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kellay and Sumitra Upham – announced their preliminary plans for the British Pavilion at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2023. Their exhibition, “Dancing Before the Moon“, will present a series of installations featuring new work by six artists and designers and a new film and soundscape. The exhibition promotes the idea that everyday rituals (from growing food and cooking to playing games and dancing) are tools for diasporic communities to establish spaces and present new ways of thinking about architecture and the built environment. Through a series of installations, a group of UK-based artists and architects will transform the pavilion to represent a future for British architecture -one where social practices are celebrated for binding communities and transforming space.
As visitors approach the entrance of the British Pavilion, they will immediately encounter a new exterior installation designed by Jayden Ali. The main hall of the pavilion will consist of a large cinematic installation with a film developed by the curators and collaborators, highlighting the central role that rituals play in reflecting the traditions and community values of people living in the UK. Inside the pavilion, the galleries will focus on objects conceived and produced by five UK-based artists and architects, with an interest in materials and making: Yussef Agbo-Ola, Mac Collins, Shawanda Corbett, Madhav Kidao and Sandra Poulson. The objects will reflect global cultural practices that impact space.
Collectively, this exhibition champions an expanded notion of architecture. One that is intangible, that cross-pollinates with performance, craft and other creative disciplines, and that is shaped by people.
This installation responds to the wider themes of the Biennale Architettura 2023 – The Laboratory of the Future – giving audiences a chance to imagine different futures where collaboration, experimentation and equity are prioritised in the planning of space in the UK. Jayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kellay and Sumitra Upham said: “The British Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2023 is a space for rethinking the role that people play in shaping the built environment. It demonstrates the need for architecture to look beyond buildings and economic structures and towards everyday social practices, customs and traditions in order to meaningfully reflect how people use and occupy space.” Jayden Ali is the Founding Director of interdisciplinary practice JA Projects and a Senior Lecturer at Central Saint Martins; Joseph Henry is a designer and urbanist, co-founder of platform Sound Advice and is the Capital Development Manager in the Culture and Creative Industries Team at the Greater London Authority; Meneesha Kellay is a curator and commissioner, currently Senior Curator, Contemporary Programme at the V&A; and Sumitra Upham is a curator and writer, currently Head of Programmes at the Crafts Council.
Sevra Davis, Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council and Commissioner of the British Pavilion said: “We are delighted that the British Council Commission for the 18th International Architecture Exhibition will look at architecture and the built environment in a new way, advocating for rituals as a way of changing spaces. This newly commissioned installation presents a radically different vision for the UK – encouraging us to reconsider our customs and traditions and create more innovative, forward-thinking places.” The British Council has been responsible for the British Pavilion at the International Art and Architecture Exhibitions organized by La Biennale di Venezia since 1937, showcasing the best of the UK’s artists, architects, designers and curators. These exhibitions, and the British Council’s Venice Fellowships initiative introduced in 2016, help make the British Pavilion a major platform for discussion about contemporary art and architecture. They also continue the British Council’s work in supporting peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide.
From the first International Architecture Exhibition at the pavilion in 1991, the British Council has invited high profile names to curate and show. Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers and Norman Foster have all contributed alongside other emerging and established architects, designers, artists and engineers. The British Pavilion at the Biennale Architecture aims to create debate that both challenges and influences the future of British architecture. Since 2012 the British Council has commissioned the exhibition through an open call. Curators have been encouraged to use the pavilion as a space for research, alongside showcasing pioneering architecture and challenging ideas.