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African Diaspora and Carbon Neutrality Headline Lesley Lokko’s 18th Architecture Biennial

African Diaspora and Carbon Neutrality Headline Lesley Lokko’s 18th Architecture Biennial

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Thandi Loewenson, Still from Whisper Network Intelsat 502, 2022, Thandi Loewenson © Copyright Thandi Loewenson. Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

As the 18th International Architecture Exhibition, titled The Laboratory of the Future, nears its opening on Saturday May 20 at the Giardini and the Arsenale, and at Forte Marghera in Venice, curator Lesley Lokko and the La Biennale di Venezia team announce several firsts: carbon neutrality and a central showcase dominated by projects from Africa and the African diaspora.

The central exhibition comprises six parts, featuring 89 participants, over half of whom are from Africa or the African Diaspora, referred to as “Guests from the Future,” whose work directly engages with the themes of decolonization and decarbonization. To break free from archetypes, Lokko has chosen to use the term “practitioners” in lieu of “architects” or other traditional designations to emphasize the need for a broader understanding of architecture in response to complex global conditions. With one foot in academia, and another in practice, Lokko who is a Ghanaian-Scottish architect, academic, and novelist is an excellent agent for change. From 2019 to 2020, she was a professor and served as Dean of the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture in New York and she has taught in London, Johannesburg, Accra, and Edinburgh. The Laboratory of the Future, she announced, prompts a crucial shift in the way architecture exhibitions are conceived and executed.

“An architecture exhibition is both a moment and a process. It borrows its structure and format from art exhibitions, but it differs from art in critical ways which often go unnoticed. Aside from the desire to tell a story, questions of production, resources and representation are central to the way an architecture exhibition comes into the world, yet are rarely acknowledged or discussed,” Lokko commented during the press event. “From the outset, it was clear that the essential gesture of The Laboratory of the Future would be ‘change’,” she continues.

La Biennale di Venezia has made significant strides towards fighting climate change by promoting a more sustainable model for the design, installation, and operation of all its events. The 18th International Architecture Exhibition will be the first major exhibition in its discipline to test the process of achieving carbon neutrality in the field.

In the art world, organizations such as Galleries Commit, a dynamic and open group of arts workers and artists looking to innovate their work processes to achieve less environmental impact, offer support on assuaging carbon footprints related to exhibitions and participation in art fairs. It will be interesting to see how La Bienniale de Venezia will continue to lead the way, especially if they have support from the architecture industry which due to its size and diversity in production has come further than the art world in investigating processes that respect the environment,.

Releasing soon, The Laboratory of the Future‘s official catalog, Volume I, that delves into the International Exhibition curated by Lokko, with sections on Carnival, Curator’s Special Projects, Force Majeure, Dangerous Liaisons thematic essays, and a detailed record of the works on display might give further indications.

Marking processes that are iportabt to begin, bettering environmental practices is trial and error while Lokko’s spotlight on Africa and the African Diaspora will bring fresh perspectives to audiences, both are expected to foster a global dialogue that encompasses diverse voices and ideas.

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