U.S. Show at Venice Architecture Biennale Explores Peace With Plastic

Two years ago, the US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale presented a retrospective examination of the softwood framing techniques that transformed 19th-century architecture.

In this year’s program, 18th Architecture Biennalea pavilion exhibit explores (in multiple ways) the futuristic material proposed for Dustin Hoffman’s character in Poolside Conversation in the 1967 film The Graduate.

That’s right, it’s plastic.

consignment from spaceEverlasting Plastics, a non-profit arts group in Cleveland, is on display through November 26. The work eases many’s concerns about the environmental impact of the material, initially announced as a miracle. Film references continue to be embedded in our culture with no signs of disappearing.

The hands-on ingenuity of the five artists and designers featured in the exhibition offer hope, or at least some coping mechanisms, for coexisting with plastic.

“There is an urgency to this material,” said Tiziana Valdenebro, executive director of Space, who curated the show with Space curator Lauren Leving. Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art.

“That’s the duality we’re looking at,” Valdenebro said. “Hate to love, hate to love. Not only does it save lives, it slowly kills us.”

She added, “‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’ doesn’t get us anywhere.”

It’s no coincidence that the curator is Midwestern.

“Waste streams are related to Cleveland,” Leving says. “We’re in the Rust Belt. And plastics and petrochemical polymers have been perfected in the Midwest. This is a major source of job creation in Ohio.”

Among the works placed in the pavilion courtyard and the sculpture garden surrounding the building, visitors will first encounter the work of Cleveland artist Lauren Yeager, who uses salvaged materials as a medium.

Ms. Yeager combined items such as beverage coolers and children’s toys into large geometric shapes, some of which referenced the pavilion’s classical architecture and gave new context to everyday plastics. “It’s a very American landscape of waste,” says Valdenebro. (This pavilion, located in the Castello Gardens section of the Biennale venue, fronted by Doric columns, was designed by the famous Beaux Arts firm Delano & Aldrich in 1930.)

Inside, architect and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Xavi Leida Aguirre plans to create an immersive environment made of plastic-based products, but the modular system will allow it to be dismantled and repurposed. It suggests a way to reuse it – a riff on ‘metaphor’, a mass of plastic thinking,” said Ms. Valdenebro. (Some rooms combine video, soundscapes, and augmented reality.)

Detroit-based multidisciplinary artist and designer Simon Anton gets a chance to prove himself at the show.

Anton is the founder of Thing Thing, a design collective transforming hand-recycled polyethylene plastic sourced from surrounding Michigan communities and manufacturing industries.

His sculptural work Eternal Plastic, made by grafting plastic onto metal, references objects from banks and other financial institutions, such as clocks and crowd control fences, and comments on the role of capitalism in the spread of plastic. doing.

Norman Teague, businessman designer Educators at the University of Illinois at Chicago created colorful baskets made from recycled plastic for the pavilion’s rotunda.

“They are an exploration of engineered plastics turned into a vision of traditional crafts on the African continent,” Teague said of the 40 objects in his presentation.

“What we call waste is becoming more functional,” he added.

Bright shades are not accidental.

“You can associate these colors with things in your life, like Clorox bottles or Tide bottles,” says Teague.

The echoes of the round baskets in the curved walls of the pavilion’s rotunda also raise architectural questions about how and with what we live. According to Teague, “the house is also a vessel.”

A more realistic point is to demonstrate the convenient secondary use of used plastics. “How can we make plastic and waste cool?” Teague said. “And we want to brand it so that people say, ‘Give me that landfill.'”

The process of transforming plastic comes with employment opportunities, so it fits the curator’s larger social vision.

“Norman’s practice is about sustainability in terms of employment,” Valdenebro said.

Ang Lee, an architect and assistant professor at Boston’s Northeastern University, constructed site-specific walls of expanded polystyrene foam, also known as EPS, as the pavilion’s main work.

“It’s not the pink stuff in the attic, it’s the white stuff on the wall,” she said.

The silent presence of this substance in our lives caught the attention of Lee, who studies waste streams. (Another part of her presentation is a series of photographs of recycling centers.)

“It’s a material you don’t hear a lot about. The building industry doesn’t think much about plastic,” she said of foam. “It’s everywhere, but we can never see it.”

“It’s 98 percent air and fills the space,” Lee added. “But the same quality makes it difficult to dismantle and recycle.

Her 33-foot-long installation uses compressed, high-density foam. “They look like stone, but they weigh the same,” she said of the component. “It looks like an old stone wall.”

Her decision to work around the gallery rather than filling the center of the room was a choice that returned to the architectural focus of the Biennale, looking not only at materials but also in the use of space.

“Instead of putting sculptures on the walls, we lined the walls with sculptures,” Lee said. “It allows people to see the white walls of the gallery differently.”

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