With respect to its original curatorial intention of positing questions rather than proposing answers, the 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale achieves the goals, and makes the case for an ecology of ideological difference, one that exceeds the limits of the event itself.
Unless your –ienniale takes place on a small urbanized island in the northest corner of Italy, it is likely for the relation between the event and where it takes place to act as a primary catalyst for reflection and production.
With this complex topography distributed throughout its exhibitions and events, the 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale is focused from the outset more on the effect an event of this magnitude can have on the city over time. As such, most of the exhibitions are designed to unfold over the course of the next three months, which makes it futile to make any sort of value judgments regarding its success or failure (because, really, who would it be a success or failure for?). Instead, we can orient a critical gaze towards the individual curatorial projects themselves and how they respond to the ambitions, conditions and constraints they have placed upon themselves.
The event is multifaceted: comprised of four main exhibitions and a vast program of affiliated projects that all exist different mediums, locations, and temporalities, it is perhaps more common for one to come across a single manifestation of the overarching curatorial project rather than entering into a heterotopia of discourse. Yet the wide range of interpretations given to the constraints of the Triennale all find common ground amongst each other in their sincerity and clarity of projecting a highly contingent vision forward. In this sense, the experience of each exhibition is highly particular and responds directly to its specific context. Under the title “Close, Closer”, curated by Beatrice Galilee, the community of architectural discourse is approached more by casting a wide net to reveal what is actually there and foster its potential rather than investing in specific technologies to harvest one type that everyone purportedly likes.
Located in the former electricity power station-cum-museum, Liam Young’s “Future Perfect” sets out to materialize at a 1:1 scale what elements of the future city may be like. Taking shape in construction robots, surveillance drones, interactive light installations, wax clothing, and a series of videos all situated within an artificial forest, the exhibition ultimately demands much of the museum-goer, that they are not only highly informed but that they submit the momentary potentials of their individual consciousness to this hyper-particular and somewhat over-aestheticized vision of the future.
Mariana Pestana’s “Reality and Other Fictions” takes place in a grand palace that was originally home to the first Marquis de Pombal. Set within a decadently ornamental context, the work within largely reflects on the building’s extravagant beauty and the contingent and particular nature of all things beautiful. With exquisitely detailed installations, topics such as the personal and architectural embodiment of power, the declaration of rights and its formalization as law, the inscription of discourse and the perceptions of comfort are rhetorically materialized in such a way that a latent process of self-reflection is effectively induced in the experience of the space.
Considered more a program than an exhibition, if one were to go look for Jose Esparza’s “New Publics”, there would honestly be very little to see. Sitting in Praça da Figueira, one of Lisbon’s central and most prominent squares, Frida Escobedo’s delicately figured and finely detailed “Civic Stage” acted as the platform for a series of speeches, performances and plays that occurred during the Triennale’s inauguration. While the stage will only be intermittently populated by informal events, this very gesture of absence and potential is profoundly akin to John Cage’s concert of 4’33” or Marcel Duchamp’s museum of Fountain, treating the architecture of public space as the arbitrary yet necessary and incessant medium for the performance of society.
In a contemporary ruin of a former bank resides Dani Admiss’ “The Institute Effect”, in which architectural institutions from around the globe iteratively occupy a single space and manifest what it means and takes to have and make an institution. Tasked with a highly reflective process of inhabiting a tabula rasa, workshops, public programs, and other initiatives subconsciously present each institution’s singular identity in the very way the space is occupied.
With respect to its original curatorial intention of positing questions rather than proposing answers, it could be declared already that “Close, Closer” does in fact achieve the goals it set out for itself, but the particular significance of asking these questions should perhaps be raised. The 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale is an event that is saturated with the presence ideology yet haunted by the absence of hegemony.
The lack of Portugal’s two Pritzker laureates in a Portuguese architectural event is radical. Although purportedly due to the architect’s refusal to participate, their presence is so prominent within contemporary Portuguese architecture that the way in which discourse evolves wants more thorough interrogation.
Instead of trying to convince those who attend the event one way or the other about its projected form of architectural ideology, the 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale perhaps most strongly makes the case for an ecology of ideological difference, one that exceeds the limits of the event itself.
Until 15 December 2013
Lisbon Architecture Triennale
Palácio Sinel de Cordes
Campo de Santa Clara 142-145, Lisbon