Finding Common Ground at the Venice Biennale: Practice What You Preach, Mr. Prix

International
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
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Wolf Prix. (Elfie Semotan)

Wolf Prix. (Elfie Semotan)

“Venice Architecture Biennale ‘cannot get any worse’ says Wolf D. Prix,” read the headline on Dezeen’s August 30 wire post. In a press release titled “The Banal,” Prix declared that that architects participating in the biennale are “playing” while the profession is “sinking into powerlessness and irrelevance” at the hands of politicians, bureaucrats, and investors.

The broadside caused a stir in Venice during he opening and in the blogosphere but now it appears that Prix was never in Venice for the biennale in the first place and thus had not seen the exhibition he denounced. His office claims that Prix has been misunderstood and “the critique addressed the theme of the exhibition, not the show or its execution,” according to a spokesperson for the firm.

Astro Balloon 1969 Revisited—Feedback Space. (Courtesy Coop Himmelb(l)au)

Astro Balloon 1969 Revisited—Feedback Space. (Courtesy Coop Himmelb(l)au)

Mr. Prix has a right to critique David Chipperfield’s chose theme, “Common Ground.” He makes some valid points comparing the biennale to a Venetian Carnival where “one can imagine all the architects in Pierrot costumes surrounded by masked critics and dancing the Dance Banale.” The bi-annual fair does have its “hollow, arduous, exhausting, bleak and boring moments,” as Prix argued but also displays of pure elation, beauty, critique, and poetry. It’s a trade show like no other and one really does have to attend to feel its “hollow” and beautiful moments and insights.

In the 2008 biennale Mr. Prix displayed his iconic 1969 “Feedback Space” plastic bubble that one had to see and enter to really understand. Perhaps Mr. Prix should remember that his recreated plastic bubble argued for and required “physicalness.” It comes off like sour grapes that Mr. Prix, who was not exhibiting at this biennale, lambasted it without seeing it himself. I wonder if he would be pleased if journalists critiqued his BMW “Welt” building without actually visiting it in Munich?

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