Dancing Before the Moon The British Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura The 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 20 May – 26 November 2023
The British Council’s Director of Architecture Design and Fashion, Sevra Davis, and a selection panel of leading architecture professionals, commissioned the curators Jayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kellay and Sumitra Upham in 2021 through an open call which called for radically new ideas for the British Pavilion at the Architettura Biennale 2023.
Dancing Before the Moonfeatures architectural-scale artworks by artists Yussef Agbo-Ola, Mac Collins, Shawanda Corbett, Madhav Kidao and Sandra Poulson, and a new film, with soundtrack devised by Oscar #Worldpeace and Fredwave. It explores how diaspora community rituals and cultural practices impact built space and how they can shape the future of UK architecture.
The British Pavilion received a Special Mention from the jury ‘for the curatorial strategy and design propositions celebrating the potency of everyday rituals as forms of resistance and spatial practices in diasporic communities’.
Through the lens of South Asian, African and Caribbean diasporas in Britain, the exhibition demonstrates the need for architecture to look beyond buildings and economic structures and towards everyday social practices, customs and traditions to meaningfully reflect how people use and establish space.
Curators Jayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kellay and Sumitra Upham said: “We are grateful that such an esteemed jury has recognised our exhibition ‘Dancing Before the Moon’. As curators, we want to use this time to acknowledge the collective effort of this exhibition. Many hands and minds made this pavilion – we would like to thank Yussef Agbo-Ola, Madhav Kidao, Sandra Poulson, Mac Collins, Shawanda Corbett, Sakky Barnor, Guldem Massa, Oscar #worldpeace, Fredwave, denike Oke, Makkan Singh, Hark1karan (Harkaran Singh), Gundeep Singh, Jason Wallis and Issi Nanabeyin.
“Our ambition was to make the British Pavilion a generous and uplifting place that reflects how a sentiment of care for people, materials and spaces can hold clues for how to build a better world – we hope in some way to have achieved that.”
The British Pavilion was most recently presented with a Special Mention in 2018 for ISLAND, developed by Caruso St John and artist Marcus Taylor. The last major award for Great Britain at the Biennale Architettura was in 2006, when late architect Richard Rogers received a lifetime achievement award.
Sevra Davis, Director of Architecture Design and Fashion at the British Council and Commissioner of the British Pavilion said: “The British Council, curators and artists are overjoyed at the positive response we have received for Dancing Before the Moon, which has been praised by visitors as being at once thought-provoking, confident and uplifting. I am proud of and inspired by the work of this year’s exhibition, which encourages us to reflect on contemporary architecture and to think about how a diversity of voices can help us to create more inclusive and vibrant places.
“This Special Mention for Dancing Before the Moon acknowledges the unique vision and immense energy which the artists and curators brought to the Biennale Architettura this year. To win this prestigious award is a huge honour for the British Council and we are incredibly grateful to receive this accolade for the 18th International Architecture Exhibition.”
Also receiving a Special Mention was Zimbabwe-born designer Thandi Loewenson, who presented The Uhuru Catalogues in the Central Pavilion, supported through a British Council Architecture Design Fashion grant.
The British Council has been responsible for the British Pavilion at the International Art and Architecture Exhibitions of La Biennale di Venezia since 1937, showcasing the best of the UK’s artists, architects, designers and curators. These exhibitions, and the British Council’s Venice Fellowships initiative introduced in 2016, help make the British Pavilion a major platform for discussion about contemporary art and architecture. A panel of leading architecture professionals, from across the UK selected the curators for the Architettura Biennale 2023.
Dancing Before the Moon, A British Council Commission for the British Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura, Venice runs from 20 May to 26 November 2023:
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