Overwhelmed by the empty spaces of the Arsenal after the aftermath of Freespace in 2018, The Venice Times in collaboration with Vardiya™ prepared this song in as an ode the events of this sad moment in the history of the Venice Architecture Biennale. During their intense work for over a month, journalists and researchers from The Venice Times felt the desperate need to contribute all they could towards the aim of seeing the Architectural Biennale of Venice open again. The team joined joined forces with an experienced group of musicians, composers and singers, to compose this song, an anthem, a prayer, a spiritual tool, in the hope of bringing some attention to this urgent matter. The song was based on the heartbreaking observations of the The Venice Times and Vardiya™ members, inside the empty spaces of the Venetian Arsenal, home of the Venice Biennale. Join their voices and let us pray for a miracle – let us pray for consensus!
Saturday was (is!) the final day of our work, so the Vardiya Space turned into to a restless workshop space where everyone individually and all of us together was working in full speed to finalize our work. Interchanging tasks, writing texts, editing videos and preparing our print material, we were all very busy but also enthusiastic to see the final result. Let’s hope we will have lunch soon!
Fragments of our process towards fictioning Venice!
Cüneyt Özdemir, journalist and youtuber based in New York, was our first Digital Critic during the last days of our Vardiya Workshop. He talked about his long-lasting love for architecture, his experience from covering the past Biennale organizations and his efforts to include the architectural discourse in the mainstream news of Turkey. We also discussed the opportunities and limitations of Journalism in Turkey, his diverse experiences from mainstream media and his recent social media engagement and how he feels that freedom of speech cannot be accomplished merely by a change of medium. “If you are talking in this new digital age, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter where you speak but mostly what you are saying” he describes. He also explained how freedom of speech is connected with and restrained by the private ownership of media and that the strict state of censorship in Turkey could be a dystopic future we will have to face globally.
We were very glad to have Paolo Patelli join us for the 4th Digital Lecture of our workshop. We had the chance to discuss with him on some of his recent and previous works. Paolo, an architect and a researcher, currently based in the Netherlands, explained how he uses fieldwork, archaeological methods, and fiction to produce his work. His video installation Shore Leaves, which is currently being exhibited in the Dutch Pavilion, is dealing with the invisibility of labor under automation through the daily life of seafarers. His work underlines that “while human presence and labor are still indispensable and of infrastructural importance, human bodies strive to adapt to remodeled times and spaces and descend further beneath a threshold of visibility.”
We started the day of with a collaborative critique and discussion about our former exercises and ideas. We had a digital lecture themed ‘Quiddit’ with Tamar Shafir. After the lecture, we split into groups to further discuss on how to use our collected data to convey a message and what that message should be. We each came up with proposals for a final project which also considered the effective use and design of the Pavillion of Turkey. We came up with a few sub-topics such as fictional mapping, exercise mapping for accessing Venice and fictional news. We started working more specifically under these titles for our work to later be combined into a final unit.
For the 3rd digital roundtable of Vardiya, we were delighted to meet Jorge Urias. In his presentation, he answered to the three questions posed by the curators of Vardiya, and then talked about his multidisciplinary practice based in New York and Mexico.
Jorge points out that technology plays a big role in how the biennale works, and that the biennale is mostly about dialogue, exchange of knowledge, a tool to experiment and to test. The biennale brings together different cultures and backgrounds constructing patterns of ideas and information.
Just as it happens in a biennale, Jorge describes his practice as an exploration of “the multiple converging variables that work together to create patterns of ınformation”. His work aims to make “visible the hidden patterns between the built and the unbuilt”. In other words, the process of design is based on contextual analyses that results in actual patterns inscribed in the façades of buildings.
We visited the Biennale in Giardini to initially observe the pavilions and the exhibitions. We met by the Spanish Pavilion around 1 pm and went for a picnic as a group to discuss ideas about our workshop.
We played a game of ninja as a group bonding exercise. Afterward, following our group coordinators instructions, we did three observation exercises inspired by Georges Perec. Initially, we documented our observations through writing. Once we were done with the exercise, we got together as a group and made a sound recording of us each reading a sentence of our observations for them to become one collaborative, fictional product. Our next exercise was to use multiple mediums (video, photo, sketch, sound recording etc.) to document our observations. Afterward, for our third exercise, we split into groups. Each group had a commander who would give instructions to the rest of the group members through WhatsApp.
The aim was to make observations according to someone’s instructions who was not present in the Biennale. Finally, we all got together to discuss how to merge our experiences and the data we collected into a final product while simultaneously questioning the interaction between reality and fiction.
The second day started with the Yelta and Sophie’s short introduction of the Pavillion of Turkey at the Arsenale. We’ve been acquainted with the soft cells of all Vardiya groups which will transform with productions during these 13 weeks. Later on, we continued with the informal meeting session. Question is: “How would you introduce yourself in a party to a stranger?” The challenge was to create fiction about ourselves and talk about it for 3 minutes. We have made use of our vardiya videos, Instagram accounts, texts, songs, photographs and images that we produced.
After these, we have gone on with Hasan Cenk Dereli’s talk “Speculations, Fictions Within Architecture Methodology”. General discussion topics of him were creativity, cultural effects, and inspiration sources. We talked about design never starts from zero points and it constantly takes references from past. Another important point was that for being creative we should encounter with the proper environment and to look for the unexpected.
As the final point we got our duties such as documenting the talks and events; thinking about our personal fiction stories/ myths and finally documenting Venice from broadcasted/published/shared digital/printed mediums.
We were very happy to have Emre Arolat as our first keynote speaker in the 1st Vardya roundtable. From his aspiration to become a car racer, to his collaboration with his parents and until his latest professional attempts to expand his architecture practice internationally, Arolat gave us an overview of his personal and professional development, with a focus on his understanding of context and specificity in architecture. Starting with a brief criticism on the capitalist context shaping the urban landscape of Turkey, he then juxtaposed his personal approach through two of his works: Sancaklar Mosque and Nora Mosque and Community Center Ajman. Pointing to his interest in atmospheric architecture, he presented these works as reinterpretations of the mosque structure. By understanding its fundamentals, he redefined the mosque in its contemporary form as a place of gathering and contemplation.
In the second roundtable of the 1st Vardiya, Pelin Tan attempted to answer some of the main questions posed by the Vardiya Project – “Why does the biennial exist? What does the biennial do? For whom does the biennial exist?” – based on her professional experiences on the realm of biennials.
Strolling along her varied participations in biennales all over the world, from Venice to Oslo, to Lisbon and even Shenzhen, Pelin explained that the important thing is to turn the exhibition space into a “place for thinking and experiencing collectively”. According to Pelin, biennials are places that give the opportunity to experience “crazy things” for both audiences and curators, something that wouldn’t be possıble in the real world.