Chile is occupying five exhibition spaces at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, the most important international cultural event in its discipline. Last year’s event was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year’s has just opened its doors to the general public.
“Testimonial Spaces” is the name of the exhibition that has been breathing life into the Chilean pavilion in the Biennale’s Arsenale since Saturday, May 22. Chile will be represented by the 525 paintings on show there until November 21. The paintings have been created using the testimonies of residents from the José María Caro community in Santiago, who have drawn on past and present experience to respond to the theme of the Venice Biennale 2021: How will we live together?
Spearheaded by the Chilean Ministry of Cultures, Arts and Heritage, “Testimonial Spaces” has been curated by two architects from the Universidad de Chile, Emilio Marín and Rodrigo Sepúlveda. The exhibition addresses this year’s big question from the local perspective, in order to provide a global response. Its objective is to reflect on how inequalities, conflicts and tensions occur all over the world and, as its creators suggested during the inauguration, to consider how “we can learn from past experiences to understand how to live in the future.”
Why the José María Caro community?
José María Caro is a community located in the south of Santiago. Its residents have worked alongside public employees and the Armed Forces to transform their neighborhood, adopting rules and practices, such as “helping to build each other’s houses, other than one’s own, so as not to put individual interests above those of everyone else,” explained Emilio Marín during the unveiling of the pavilion.
The objective of the Chilean exhibition is to demonstrate that societies can overcome “the crises and the complex moments that present themselves, even in the absence of the State in some cases, if they address these challenges as a community,” the curating architects stated.
In the Biennale’s second scale, where the works and exhibitions of architects invited individually by the organizers of the event are presented, the Biennale’s curator, Hashim Sarkis, selected the prizewinning Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena (Pritzker Prize 2016), together with his Elemental studio. Their architectural exhibition proposes the construction of spaces that rescues the old tradition of indigenous Mapuche assemblies, meeting places in which to converse and resolve differences. The Igneous Tectonics team led by Sergio Araya, dean of Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez’s DesignLab; Estudio Base, represented by Bárbara Barreda and Felipe Sepúlveda; and Arturo Lyon, part of an international team that will address the question of the Antarctic, were also chosen to participate.
Chile has a long history of participation in the Venice Biennale and has exhibited pavilions since 2002, winning two Silver Lion awards with distinction, one for Alejandro Aravena’s work on social housing in 2008 and the other for the Chilean pavilion’s “Monolith Controversies” exhibition in 2014.
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