In Autumn 2017 Het Nieuwe Instituut and Creative Industries Fund NL jointly organized an Open Call to support designers and advance knowledge in the field of architecture before, during and after the Venice Architecture Biennial. Applicants were asked to submit a project proposal reflecting upon and responding to WORK, BODY, LEISURE, the theme of the Dutch pavilion, as part of its extended program.
The advisory committee recognised and awarded five projects. The selected proposals are The Institute of Patent Infringement by Matthew Stewart and Jane Chew, The Port and the Fall of Icarus by the Northscapes Collective (Hamed Khosravi, Taneha K. Bacchin and Filippo laFleur), Songs for Hard Working People by a multidisciplinary team lead by Noam Toran, Shore Leaves by Giuditta Vendrame and Renderland: Installation by Liam Young.
Between the announcement of the open call on 21 September 2017 and the deadline of 8 November 2017, Creative Industries Fund NL and Het Nieuwe Instituut received 52 eligible entries in response to the call, from 12 countries: Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States. The proposals were reviewed by an advisory committee comprised of Willem Schinkel (Professor in Social Theory, Erasmus University), Lara Schrijver (Professor in Architecture, University of Antwerp) and Aslı Çiçek (Interior Architect, KU Leuven Faculty of Architecture, Oase). The meeting was chaired by Marina Otero Verzier (Curator of the Dutch Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennial, Head of Research & Development, Het Nieuwe Instituut) and overseen by Maarten Tas (Grant Officer Architecture, Creative Industries Fund NL).
Proposals were evaluated on the basis of their engagement with the theme of the Dutch pavilion, their relevance for the contemporary architecture field and their capacity to advance relevant disciplinary and societal questions and activate multiple channels for their dissemination. Preference was given to projects that involve collaborations with individuals and organisations in the Netherlands and abroad.
Overall, the members of the advisory committee were impressed by the quality, relevance and creativity of the projects, as well as the expertise and ambition of the applicants. The set of applications showed a variety of working methodologies and media, ranging from mobile installations, performances, and product designs, to physical models, workshops, and films. Most projects articulated a collective ambition and proposed collaborations with networks of institutions and practitioners.
The selected projects each provide a unique focus on one or more of the embodied, ethical, and spatial dimensions of labor, by deploying diverse but complementary strategies and tools for public engagement. In conversation with the curatorial team of WORK, BODY, LEISURE, led by Marina Otero Verzier, the five projects will be presented as part of the public program, in Venice and other locations.
Comments on Individual Proposals
The Port and the Fall of Icarus by Northscapes Collective (Hamed Koshravi, Taneha K. Bacchin, Filippo laFleur)
“The Northscapes' proposal would take the discovered manuscript titled 'The Port and the Fall of Icarus' as the point of departure to search for possible scenarios for the future of Rotterdam Harbour. An installation would set the ground for series of events and discussions around the topic of a smart and intelligent port and its relation to the vision of Rotterdam Harbour, the city and its inhabitants. Such events will be organized throughout the period of the biennale in collaboration with academic institutions.”
The Port and the Fall of Icarus proposes a thematically and stylistically provocative narrative on automation, that builds on the collective’s long-term research on the architectural, social, and political implications of logistics. Through a series of events, discussions, architectural devices, and publications, the project aims to question possible scenarios for the future of Port of Rotterdam. The advisory committee acknowledges the sophistication of this proposal, and its subtlety in mobilizing references to historical and contemporary voices and discourses. While the research takes a speculative approach, it is theoretically and historically grounded. In addition, the committee values the strong collaborative approach of the proposal, including long-term collective research with architects, artists, writers, institutions as well as the TU Delft and University of Venice.
The Institute of Patent Infringement by Matthew Stewart and Jane Chew
“The satirical Institute of Patent Infringement (IoPI) aims to dissect the dubious world of intellectual property rights that allows 'Big Tech' a monopoly on ideas concerning automation. Taking Amazon as a leading example, IoPI will detail and organise the thousands of patents they've filed since 2010, ranging in scale from the body to the 1km2 fulfilment centre. IoPI will initiate an open call to subvert these patents exhibiting the results as part of the Dutch Pavilion's theme of WORK, BODY, LEISURE.”
The Institute of Patent Infringement unveils the automated future imagined and designed by Amazon through their patent drawings. The project focuses on a political dimension of labor, and proposes hacking the frameworks under which multinationals monopolize technological innovation. The advisory committee recognises the public aspect of the project and its aim of making online patents accessible. By inviting practitioners to merge, reimagine and subvert them, the project also reveals a possible radical and emancipatory potential inherent in these technological regimes, as well as a space where architecture can play a role in this. The committee advises Matthew Stewart and Jane Chew to enter in a conversation with the curatorial team of the Dutch pavilion regarding the definitive locations and forms of display of the research.
Songs for Hard Working People by Noam Toran
“Songs for Hard Working People proposes a program of musical concerts and performances taking place in and around the Dutch Pavilion during the biennale period. The program provides a historical mooring to the pavilion's theme and to the nature of labor in the 21st century, by underscoring the troubling, enduring relationship between capitalism and the conditions of industrial labor. The program will consider the worker's voice and body as embodiments of the physical and political conditions, which remain consistent despite the temporal distance.”
The advisory committee recognizes the strength of Songs for Hard Working People in using the human voice and body through performance to connect contemporary debates with enduring historical struggles around the effects of industrialization and automation on the working body. The project proposes to produce contemporary adaptations of work songs from the early 20th century that once responded to developments in industrialization and the automation of labor. Fragments from lyrics of these songs demonstrate the – sometimes uncanny – similarity to contemporary socio-political conditions and responses to such automation, stressing the relevance of Noam Toran’s approach. The committee particularly sees potential in actualizing the worker’s songs from the 1910s to 1950s by creating a cover album and a soundtrack for the Dutch pavilion.
Shore Leaves by Giuditta Vendrame and Paolo Pattelli
“Shore Leaves addresses the theme of seafarers' shore leaves in the ports of Rotterdam and Venice. It consists of video documentation produced during fieldwork at the seafarers organizations in the two harbors, with particular attention for the spaces and gestures of their spatially waiting time.”
The advisory committee finds Shore Leaves a relevant project through which to address the invisibility of labor under automation. The documentary offers an entry point to unpack the otherwise impenetrable logistical worlds of seafarers, who transport the goods on which so many people are highly dependent. The project confronts manual labor that is still prevalent, although generally invisible, and that is of infrastructural importance. It also establishes collaborations with a number of Seafarers’ Centers and activist groups that aim to provide social assistance to seafarers of all nationalities. The committee encourages the team to further develop strategies for the public display and communication of the project.
Renderlands: Installation by Liam Young
“Renderlands: Installation is a documentary and installation that chronicles the outsourced animation studios and render farms of India. What we think of as western visions of the future are actually produced by workers dispersed across the planet and connected through a global infrastructure of digital labor. For its presentation as part of the program of the Dutch Pavilion, a massive collaborative physical model will visualize the future and aspirational architectures that the render farm workers themselves dream of, the imaginary worlds that they wish they would be asked to visualize.”
Renderlands: Installation illuminates the hidden reality of outsourced labour. Behind the scenes of architectural renderings and film production is the work of people whose stories are often ignored within dominant discourses. Next to conditions of labor, the project shows the imaginary futures and dream lands of the workers through the language of architecture. Ultimately the project results in a dense miniature landscape of 3D models of buildings from an imaginary city envisioned by the render farm workers. The advisory committee values the engagement with the theme WORK, BODY, LEISURE, looking at the human labor involved in architectural production. The project also contributes to a wider discourse of infrastructure studies, by offering a relevant entry point to distributed spaces of production. While the documentary has been screened in a series of venues in 2017, the installation will be specifically produced for the context of the Dutch contribution to the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018.
Het Nieuwe Instituut, the Creative Industries Fund NL, the advisory committee and the curatorial team of the Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennial 2018 would like to thank all the applicants for their deeply and critically engaged responses to the Open Call, and extend our utmost congratulations to the selected teams.
Together with the commissioned exhibitors, associated institutions and teams in the Netherlands and abroad, the teams selected for the extended program will conduct research, disseminate architectural knowledge, and develop projects that will manifest beyond the physical space of the Rietveld Pavilion in the Biennale’s Giardini, thus expanding the geographies, audience, and legacy of the official Dutch contribution to the biennale.
On April 26, 2018, Het Nieuwe Instituut and Creative Industries Fund NL will organize an evening with the teams selected through the Open Call, as part of the Thursday Night Live programme at Het Nieuwe Instituut.