PROJECT: Australian Pavilion Exhibition (Proposal)
LOCATION: Venice, Italy.
CREATIVE DIRECTORS: John de Manincor, Sandra Kaji-O’Grady and Misho Baranovic.
COLLABORATORS: Tony Gooley, Tony Gooley Design (Graphics),Andrew Gibbs, Artist (Soundscape), Ben Matthews, UQ (Interaction), Mirjam Roos, Steensen Varming (Lighting).
The exhibition design creates a unique experiential installation and a memorable architectural space POST is informed by contemporary art practices of display and installation and deploys a sensorial and sonic approach to convey ideas and stories with emotional resonance. It departs from the museological approach common at the Biennale wherein didactic text and documentation dominates. Instead, it responds accurately to the demanding viewing conditions of the Biennale. Like a good wine, the first sip is immediately rewarding, while there are deeper layers rewarding those who linger.
“POST” celebrates Australia’s participation at, and through, sites of cultural exchange across the globe—it inverts the Tower of Babel. In that legend, a grandiose vision of architecture leads to the babble of languages and the scattering of people to the ends of the earth. Today, ambitious architectural projects bring people together from around the world. Transnational systems and institutions—the world wide web, telecommunications, the postal service, the stock exchange are the necessary conditions and forces underpinning international building projects. “POST” reveals the creation of communities, the forging of relationships and the generation of new knowledge that comes with working on and using buildings designed by Australian practices. By extension it documents the personal impact of international labour markets and globalisation on the profession. “POST” encompasses ‘postphotography’, ‘postcolonialism’, ‘post occupancy’, Facebook ‘posts’, ‘outposts’, the experience of being posted to a new location, posters and postcards. Photographs by architects, clients, builders, construction workers and users sourced through social media will be printed and aggregated in a unifying immersive installation that is itself architectural. An evocative soundscape composed from site recordings will conjure the presence of so many nationalities. An interactive dimension will see visitors “POST”ing cards in the space and to their home nations from Australia”.
POST demonstrates the maturity of Australian architectural culture by confidently inviting international audiences to reflect on the process of conceiving, constructing and occupying architecture in a globalized post-national age. We are a country of immigrants and travellers. Almost a quarter of Australia’s population was born overseas and 43.1 percent of people have at least one overseas-born parent. One in two Australians holds a passport, well ahead of the United States where passport ownership is 25%. Less than 5% of Americans travel abroad each year, compared with 31% of Australians. Since 2008 the number of residents departing for international travel has exceeded incoming visitors to Australia. Our architectural profession reflects this multiculturalism and worldliness. In the twenty-five years before the GFC of 2008, trade flows grew at twice the pace of the global economy and Australian architects have been ready participants in the opportunities this condition presented, leveraging proximity to Asia, political stability and the reputation of our work ethic and education. We now count amongst our profession leading global practices whose offices can be found in fast developing nations in Asia and the Middle East, but also in the USA and Europe. POST celebrates this aspect of Australian practice, but it does not argue that our architects share a single design ethos. Architecture is a practice of exchange, borrowing and adaptation, both unconscious and deliberate. It has been so since humans began to travel beyond the confines of the village to trade, explore or conquer. International exchange has now reached an accelerated condition of immediate dissemination as images of newly imagined or built projects are posted to popular websites. Classifying architecture along national boundaries in these conditions is nigh impossible. It is far more productive to question the role nationality now plays in a globalized industry. What are the consequences of identifying as an Australian architectural practice when one works outside of Australia, interacting with clients, users, consultants and tradespeople from other nations? As this exhibition will demonstrate, Australian practices forge ongoing relationships with their clients and building users. These relationships are built on an understanding and respect for cultural diversity that—in contrast to the protectionism exhibited by conservative governments and commentators—is arguably at the heart of Australian self-identity and our history of immigration. POST will not carry out a quantitative survey of national architectural exports as seen at Export: Spanish Architecture Abroad (Madrid, February, 2015). Instead, POST reveals the personal stories that give meaning to working as an architect abroad. These are Australian architects’ stories—tales of friendships forged and problems solved, of jet lag and bewilderment, relief and pride, of pro bono work and commercial success, of entertaining clients and opening ceremonies. More critically, POST reveals stories about us told through photographs by those who encounter Australian architects in the world. In the construction of Australian architecture identity, POST opens a two-way exchange.