Australian installation at Venice Biennale becomes topical with masks
Two university architects from UTS present their installation at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Guillermo Fernández-Abascal and Urtzi Grau are the only Australian representation in the main exhibition this year. Their installation “Folk costumes, Indo-Pacific air” traces the history of the present masked state of the region.
In the months leading up to the global pandemic, a series of aerial events transformed the atmosphere in the Indo-Pacific region: these included smoke from bushfires on Australia’s east coast, tear gas from protesters in Santiago de Chile and Hong Kong, Indian Supreme Court ruling on Delhi pollution. chess and activists covering iconic statues with respirators in Johannesburg and Pretoria. All of these events represented political struggles unfolding in the air in the region and triggering a proliferation of masked faces.
In their installation, Fernández-Abascal and Grau present five hybrid creatures breathing the air of late 2019. In the room, five well-dressed friends welcome visitors to the Biennale and illustrate how we could breathe and live together. Nonetheless, before the pandemic, masks and respirators – the folk costumes of a region in the making – defined Indo-Pacific imagery.
“Like those invented in the 19th century, these folk costumes are also socio-technological constructions. They combine responses to environmental conditions, cultural and political concerns, and available techniques and technologies. Yet they do not illustrate an essential link between national identity and the land, nor do they imply symbolic, structural or semiotic explanations to validate existing colonial empires or social orders, ”Grau explained.
Folk costumes, Indo-Pacific Air will be presented at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition “How Are We Going to Live Together?” – the Venice Biennale from May 22 to November 21, 2021.
Images by Hamish McInotsh and Matteo Dal Vera