Curated by Kerem Piker and coordinated by Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), the Pavilion of Turkey will present "Vardiya" (The Shift) at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennial, taking place from May 26 to Nov. 25 this year.
The Pavilion of Turkey is located at Sale d'Armi, Arsenale, one of the exhibition venues of the biennial. Conceived in response to the theme of "freespace," the title of the Architecture Biennial 2018, "Vardiya" offers a program of public events with the Pavilion of Turkey, providing an open space for encounters, exhibitions and production.
Envisioned as a spatial and temporal staging base, the Pavilion of Turkey will provide a participatory platform for workshops, digital roundtable discussions and meetings. Piker's curatorial program will welcome 122 international architecture students, as well as academics, professionals, keynote speakers and visitors. Placing the study of architecture at the center of the program, "Vardiya" launched an open call for video responses to the questions: "Why does the biennial exist?," "What does the biennial do?" and "For whom does the biennial exist?"
Some 452 students from 29 different countries and 70 cities from the United States to China, India to Costa Rica applied for the project. A full 80 percent of the applicants were undergraduate students and 20 percent were graduate students, while 70 percent of the applicants were female and 30 percent were male. Out of these applicants, 122 international architecture students will be invited to visit the pavilion of Turkey in weekly "shifts" as active producers of the evolving exhibition content.
The program will kick off with video installations, through which participating students question the purpose and role of the biennial; 12 workshops run by invited professionals and student groups, focusing on a variety of topics; around 50 digital meetings, with participants from a range of disciplines; and six lectures by keynote speakers, including an international roster of leading architects.
The Pavilion of Turkey opened for the first time at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennial in 2014, upon a 20-year allotment of the Arsenale with İKSV's initiation and the contribution of 21 supporters.
"Vardiya" is curated by Kerem Piker. The associate curators are Cansu Cürgen, Yelta Köm, Nizam Onur Sönmez, Yağız Söylev and Erdem Tüzün. Daily Sabah conducted an interview with curator Kerem Piker on the aims of the pavilion as well as the participation process and expectancies from the "Vardiya."
On the motivation of "Vardiya," Piker pointed the remarks of Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, the curators of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition: "We believe that everyone has the right to benefit from architecture. The role of architecture is to give shelter to our bodies and to lift our spirits."
The program will welcome 122 international architecture students, as well as academics, professionals, keynote speakers and visitors.
This was a good starting point. However, even though the Venice Architecture Biennale is considered the most important and well-known architecture event, in recent times it has been criticized by some for having transformed into a sort of public relations program, focusing just on the opening.
Our concerns about the biennial included its structure, which is limited to the field of architecture with exhibitions often organized with an elitist approach, and the fact that it is not financially accessible to many people studying and working in this field. Therefore, we decided to look beyond the idea of an exhibition which only aims to look good on camera during the opening. We interpreted "freespace" as a description of the space itself.
'VARDİYA' - A PUBLIC SPACE
This year's Turkish pavilion is meant to be an open space for gatherings of especially young students and future architects. "Our biggest and most important motivation is to make the Pavilion of Turkey and the Biennale in general more accessible, especially for young architects and architecture students. In order to achieve this we decided to transform the pavilion into a public space, offering a platform to meet, co-produce and become part of the production process together, "Piker noted.
Curator Piker gave information about the pattern of open-space gatherings, "These architecture students will come to Venice in weekly 'shifts' to meet and co-produce with other students, professionals and academics from a range of different backgrounds. We are looking forward to seeing how the exhibition unravels and evolves."
On what the participants should expect from the general organization and workshops, Piker noted that during the preview days, the visitors will see clues about the subject, method and research behind each forthcoming workshop. "Short films and multimedia installations about a variety of different topics will be presented in the individual niches prepared for each workshop. When the first group of students arrives on May 27, the Pavilion will become a hub for exchange and production. Over the course of the biennial, participating students will engage in round-table gatherings and meetings with guest scholars and experts and take part in workshops, of which there will be 13 in total. They will converse, contemplate, create and, at the end of their shift, their completed works will be added to their respective exhibition spaces inside Vardiya. Therefore, visitors will experience something new and fresh on each visit," Piker informed.
FLEXIBLE SPACE DESIGN
"In terms of architectural design, we left the space as flexible as possible. There will be an area for production, gathering, resting, chatting, etc. And the pavilion will be equipped with all sorts of architectural production tools, such as computers, plotters, 3D printers, robots, and so on," Piker said about how the open space was designed.
This huge event awaited by many has been curated by a large and dynamic team. Led by Kerem Piker, there are other contributing curators as well. "I am the lead curator of the Pavilion of Turkey, but 'Vardiya' was curated by a young and dynamic team. There are five associate curators working with me, all of whom have contributed to every step of the project: Cansu Cürgen and Nizam Onur Sönmez from Istanbul, Erdem Tüzün from New York, Yağız Söylev from Rotterdam and Yelta Köm from Berlin. We started working together following the open call announcement for curators of the pavilion of Turkey and hope to continue working together in the future," he continued.
For those interested, participation is also possible through digital meetings. "Besides the workshops, there will be over 50 digital meetings, with participants from a range of disciplines and six lectures by keynote speakers, including an international roster of leading architects. All of these events will be open to visitors and broadcasted on social media in order to widen the discussion and broaden the audience," Piker concluded.
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