Antarctica: First Continent To Be Represented At Venice Biennale of Architecture

The Antarctic Pavilion, commissioned by Alexander Ponomarev and curated by Nadim Samman, brings together leading international architects and artists to explore present and future models of living in Antarctica. Those involved include: Yuri Avvakumov, Alexander Brodsky, Marcel Dinahet, Yury Grigoryan, Zaha Hadid/Studio Hadid Vienna, Hugh Broughton Architects, Juergen Mayer H., Alexey Kozyr, Totan Kuzembaev, Mariele Neudecker, Alex Schweder, Sergei Skuratov Architects, Veech Media Architecture (VMA) Elizaveta Vintova and Alexander Zelikin.

More than a century after man first set foot on the world’s most inaccessible terrestrial region, Antarctica sustains a population of 1,162 throughout the sunless winter and 4,000 in the summer months (as well as 26,000 tourists). Yet, almost without exception, Antarctic stations are designed by engineers with minimal aesthetic regard for living conditions. How does their pseudo-architecture circumscribe man’s relationship with the continent? More importantly, what are the alternatives? The projects featured in this pavilion are directed towards pasts, presents and futures whose relevance and power transcend South Polar geography and propose an expanded Antarctic imaginary.

The overall scenography of the exhibition has been designed by Alexey Kozyr’s architectural studio and invokes the provisional nature of architecture in Antarctica – as well as the logistical reality of having to transport all building materials into the continent. A series of flight-cases, of the same kind used to transport scientific equipment will act as plinths for maquettes by contributing architects.

The Antarctic Pavilion is a long-term project, initially focused on alerting the architectural profession to its disregard for what is built in the South Polar region. In time, this programme will impact upon the design of real stations.

The Pavilion’s status as a ‘[trans]National Pavilion’ constitutes a polemical engagement with the Biennale’s nationally over-determined structure: a quasi-institutional claim to represent a transnational sphere, out of line with the festival’s politics of territorial representation. More importantly, it points to Antarctica as a Giardini of sorts, in which the sovereignty-obsessed cultural ambitions relevant two centuries ago still seem to hold sway.

Despite all the kilometres of ground untrodden by human foot, mountains unnamed and creatures unknown, Antarctica is a cultural space. The projects featured in this pavilion are testaments to the Antarctic community that would yet know itself – and the continent – in ways transcending national-scientific missions. Among enthusiasts and unbuilt schemes dwells the promise of a new Antarctic man.

The Antarctic Pavilion is initiated by the artist Alexander Ponomarev. Drawing upon his background in nautical engineering and early career as a submariner, Ponomarev’s work chiefly invokes journeys at sea and remote terrain – contexts in which to explore the relationship between illusion and reality, the utility of art, and the shifting tides of personal and cultural history. Ponomarev is a regular visitor to Antarctica, and has realised numerous projects on the continent. The Antarctic Pavilion draws upon his longstanding interest in Antarctica’s potential as a cultural field.

The Antarctic Pavilion is a European interface platform for a biennale to be held in Antarctica, devised and implemented by artist Alexander Ponomarev and curated by Nadim Samman. The Antarctic Biennale will be take place in 2015-16 aboard international research vessels. The Antarctic Biennale is conceived as a cultural exchange between artists and the continent’s scientists and support staff.

Saturday 7th June – Sunday 23rd November 2014  Continent to be represented for the first time at Venice Biennale of Architecture

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