Diary of Vardiya 8 – Of Journeys

5th of September, Wednesday

After consuming every part of Arsenale yesterday we were still hungry for more! Today was the day we were going to conquer Giardini della Biennale and we sure did! Giardini consisted of various National Pavilions (the big name countries) and also a main exhibition. The group had to part ways because the excitement of us couldn’t keep us together anymore. But we came across each other from time to time and admired the work together.

After getting overwhelmed with the works in the dense ‘corridor’ of Arsenale, Giardini offered us a free space to breathe and concentrate in the works pavilion by pavilion. You also get a chance to admire the phenomenal architecture of the pavilions!

Back to Giardini, there were a lot of themes for each country which handled the ‘Free Space’ concept differently. We met at lunch break and discussed our favourite ones so far. Similar with the most of the world, we were moved by the pavilions of the Netherlands, Spain, Uruguay, and Nordic Countries. Our tutors were due to come tomorrow so some of us kept working on their journals to be prepared for the exciting things for tomorrow!

6th of September, Thursday

This day, the tutors of the 8th Shift have arrived. The group met in the pavilion at 11.30 and talked about the journeys of the last 20 days and their logs. Kaan has created a log of objects he chose in his temporary house, and found some relationships between them and his old memories of his permanent house at Antalya. Selin has investigated the notion of procastination as a behavior and its reflections on her and the others’ daily life. Sinem has a journey of her feet, and she has collected patterns she has passed by on various grounds. Eda has worked on the journey of a piece of fabric, and tried to push further its possibilities. Nuray had observed the behavior of her cat and his way of using the furniture in her house. Yağmur Y. experimented on a mobile studio format. Rishab has investigated the color of red in his daily life and in his memories. Arif has observed nature in different scenes in the built environment. Ayaz has observed moments that recall his memories. Yağmur S. produced a tile in ceramic, observed its journey and its adaptation.

Afterwards, the group discussed the concept of journey and how to bring the productions together. Then a digital roundtable session with the architect and academician Aslıhan Şenel was held, which was about critical mapmaking. After the closure of the venue, the group met with Serap, who was a visitor of the pavilion during the day, and had a walking tour of Venice.

7th of September, Friday

The fourth day of the 8th Shift began with the further discussions on the journey logs, to determine the organization of the individual works to produce the installation. The brainstorming had led to a decision to produce the individual works as 3-D representations of the journey logs. By noon, the group decided to apply the individual narratives on the exhibition blocks, and to organize them as an installation in a grid structure.

After lunch, two digital roundtable sessions were held: the first one was with Alkestie Skarlatou about light in architecture, and the second one was with Ferda Kolatan, which questions architecture and the Biennale. The session with Skarlatou highlighted how lighting could be perceived in a much more dynamic and structured way by studying the architectural aspects of the project. Kolatan had a provocative presentation on the concept of the Biennale, for whom does it exist, and why does it exist. He also questioned the disciplinary paradox of architecture, whether if architecture has to maintain its autonomy, or it should dissolve its boundaries to new directions and new needs. These questions stayed in minds for the rest of the day. Discussions continued until late night.

8th of September, Saturday

While the 8th Shift was coming to an end, the day started with a busy schedule in the early morning: after determining the 3-D representations of their journeys, everyone worked on their own piece until noon. Then a meeting was held, the group discussed each of the non-finished works, the workshop schedule, and the exhibition design.

In the afternoon, there had been two digital roundtable sessions: the first guest speaker was the architect and lecturer Bengi Güldoğan. Güldoğan presented her ongoing research project ‘Witness to a Disappearance’, which aims to track the stories about migration and displacement, through objects that belong to her family. The second guest speaker was the artist and filmmaker Köken Ergun. Ergun presented several works of him, which deal with communities that are not known to a greater public and the importance of ritual in such groups.

From the late afternoon until the closure of the venue, everyone continued to work on and discuss the 3-D representations, while a group of four went out to begin documenting the notebooks as journey logs in the city. Some of the group continued to work in their residence until late night.

9th of September, Sunday

Today was the last day of our shift. We were both feeling emotional and hardworking at the same time. After the group discussions in the previous days, the journals were completed to their final state. We were also finalizing our three dimensional elements which would tie the whole ‘journey’ experience together between our journals, Venice, the pavilion and the ‘biennialers’ to experience them! Each of us had their foam rectangular prisms to make it our own to create a collaborative and critical topography where these different narratives would come together as one and create a whole new narrative.

The installation finally began! After our narratives were complete in both 2D and 3D, we split into different groups to finalize different tasks. Installation Group, Journal-Scanning Group, Text Group and Video Editing Group were simultaneously working to complete our To-Do-List!

We placed different narratives according to different parameters as we’ve discussed earlier to start building our topography. Being in the corner space of the pavilion gave us even more ‘Free Space’ for our topography to spread, sprawl and expand! Each of us found their place in the grid matrix layout to create a wholistic journey together.

Since we didn’t want our journey to end after ‘biennialers’ left the pavilion, we added one last touch of postcards which people could take with them to continue the journey of their own. With that our job was complete! Well, we took bunch of photos and videos jumping around in happiness and excitement also, but still, our job was finished! Our shift had its own journey other than us the contributors’ documented journeys. And we could easily say that it was the best journey we’ve had so far. 10 different the most fun people with 3 amazing tutors coming from different places in life had 1 week to create something amazing which felt like a group of people knowing each other the whole time. To many more journeys that we’re pretty much sure we’re going to have together. Venice was just the starting point of that!

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Diary of Vardiya 7 – Obituary Island

28th of August, Tuesday

On the long awaited first day of the 7th Vardiya, we arrived at the Turkish Pavilion for the first time after going through a long promenade in the main exhibition hall located in the Arsenale. Following the first attempts of grasping the technical directions to connect Vardiya #7 to the outer world, we had our first meeting with the fellow tutors who further illustrated the process and the program we will be following for the coming days of our shift. After meeting with them, the team moved back to discovering Arsenale, getting around visiting inspiring pavilions.

At 5 pm, we then had a roundtable meeting with Isaac Michan. He started off the conversation with his responses to functioning of a biennale and its framing. After that he presented three projects of his practice, concerning the current developments in digital tools, his practice develops under the theoretical background of contingency and autonomy and additionally the debate between the two affects his understanding of architecture. Among the several questions of ours, the discussion circled mainly around the topics of importance of representation, teaching of architecture and sustainability.

29th of August, Wednesday

The day started off with our visit to Vatican Chapels located at the San Giorgio Maggiore island, housing the first-ever pavilion of glorious Vatican that left many of us speechless and inevitably astonished. Following our small trip, we found ourselves lost in excitement and simultaneous rush while going through the pavilions of Giardini della Biennale. Following our time in Giardini, we digitally connected with the tutors to exchange ideas on the topic of shift #7 and our impressions on Venice Biennale. After the digital roundtable discussion, as the participants of the current shift, we debated on the possible ways of extending the theme to its very extent and how we could make contributions to it in imaginative ways. Having done with our discussion on the theme, we then started to reflect on the debated ideas through the most effective tool of our time, social media.

30th of August, Thursday

Today, according to our program; we visited The San Michele Island where the cemetery of Venice is located. Because our subject is related to death, as we can understand from our workshop name, ”Obituary Island”, we were looking forward to have inspiration from this beautiful island. Within a very silent atmosphere, we walked around, took photographs and made some sketches. While some of us described this island of cemetery as depressive, overplanned, and highly classificated area according to social rank, others defined the place as unexpected and unconventional.

After our experience in the island, we returned to our pavillion in Arsenale and discussed some ideas about our work. During the following hours, we had a discussion with Bernard Khoury who has various projects in Lebanon. After his speech on several of his works that arose from the political background of Lebanon, we asked him some questions about the role of academy in architecture that he answered with negative ideas.

At the end of the day, we left the pavillion in order to have dinner together.

31st of August, Friday

The fourth day of our Vardiya have started intensively. Because we had the first meeting with our tutors at lunch, we continued to discuss our work and tried to decide some main ideas and sub-ideas that will form our process of work. With our experiences on the island and Venice and with several materials that we have collected from these areas, we decided to focus on a series of deaths and their processes in time with different kind of representations. Some of our ideas were like these:
‘’Ways of dying in Venice?’’
‘’Death Islands’’
‘’Venice is dying/decaying continuously’’
‘’Life is made of various strata of death’’
‘’Dance with masks’’
‘’Visual life and death’’
At noon, we met with the tutors and made another discussion session with them. After we shared our initial ideas, we quickly started to improve on the subject.
At the end, we went to a dinner all together and finalized the day.

1st of September, Saturday

We began the day with a discussion with the tutors to rigidify the main conceptual idea and framework. We structured the concept of “Death” in Venice in a durational sense: past, present, future. Each of us brings to the overall framework different aspects of understanding and exploring the definition of death in Venice. The discussion extended to the method of representation, of how the works should be presented in the exhibition space. We decided to use mixed media as a main strategy to inform a concept of “Cloud.” The media of expression are varied from hand drawings to physical models to writing and video.

In the afternoon, we began to separate to work in smaller groups or individually. The collaborative environment allows each of us to share thought; feedback from each other. In the end, we were able to work on an abstract concept of death, in order to enrich it with a spatial, cultural, and temporal quality. The final discussion and feedback from the tutors ended our productive day. Now we move on finalizing our works and setting up our exhibition.

2nd of September, Sunday

The last day of our Vardiya started early. We continued to study individually or with our groups in order to finalize our works in a cloud within our exhibition cell.

We stayed in our pavillion the whole day. While we were working on the projects, our tutors helped us in organizing the final exhibition. Because we had different aspects of death and different experiences of Venice; we created different and interesting works in the cloud. There were different subtopics about death in Venice, but important thing was to combine each of them together, so that the exhibition cloud can be followed like a storyboard.

At the end, we had an exhibition space that consists of stories about death in Venice, created with different media tools such as videos, collages, renders, models, postcards, which emphasize the freespace itself. Also, it was important to experience how a space can be designed with different tools and what kind of reactions it can create between product and visitors.

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