It has been curated by JA Projects founding director Jayden Ali; Joseph Henry, co-founder of Sound Advice; Meneesha Kellay, contemporary programme curator at the V&A; and Sumitra Upham, head of public programmes at the Crafts Council.

The exhibition examines the influence of social customs, everyday practices and traditions on public space. The exhibition features architectural-scale art installations by six artists and architect alongside a soundtrack and film.

The pavilion’s opening piece is an external installation by Ali, Thunder and ŞimşekThe hybridised cultures that grew from the occupation of Trinidad and Cyprus inspired this piece.

A film is the central element of this work. Dancing Before the Moon, which observes rituals performed by the global diaspora in Britain – exploring themes of land, community values and sharing space.

The film includes new footage shot around the UK, including a pub in Nottingham and a hair salon in Streatham, and some rarely-seen archive footage from the BFI, focusing on the power of everyone to invent and transform what’s around us.

The installation consists of four objects. Sãbao Azul e Água by Sandra Poulson; Runout – an exaggerated, futuristic domino-style object made using ebonised and polished ash timber by Mac Collins; and a series of ceramic vessels called A Healing is on the Way Shawanda corbett

Completing the pavilion are Madhav Kidao’s Bardo artwork, exploring the rituals surrounding death; and Yussef Agbo-Ola’s Muluku: 6 Bone Temple The sculpture is inspired by skin patterns of endangered and extinct species.

In a joint statement, Ali, Henry, Kellay and Upham said: ‘The British Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2023 celebrates what it means for people to create and occupy space.

‘Through the lens of South Asian, African and Caribbean diasporas in Britain, Dancing Before the Moon explores how rituals have the potential to uniquely adapt and challenge the built environment. Here social and temporal practices are upheld for enhancing attachment to land, transforming space and binding communities.’

British Council director of architecture design fashion Sevra Davis said: ‘The British Council is proud of and inspired by 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.

‘Through an exploration of ritual and community, the exhibition challenges the architectural industry to put people at its heart and think differently about the production of architecture in the future.

‘The artist commissions celebrate how people and communities occupy and use everyday spaces and places reflecting the architecture industry back on itself. We are also delighted that the exhibition has further reach through the UK poster campaign, alongside the global Biennale event.’

The pavilion is one of 63 national pavilions featuring in this year’s Biennale, titled The Laboratory of the Future and curated by the Ghanaian-Scottish architect Lesley Lokko.

This year’s main exhibitions will include 89 participants, including more than half from Africa or the African diaspora, while the gender balance will be 50:50 and average age 43, representing a ‘seismic change in the culture of architectural production’.

The four UK curators won the £25,000 curatorial commission to design the £200,000 installation a year ago. The installation is located in the British Pavilion, a landmark building at the heart of the Giardini.

The winning team beat out bids from ZCD Architects, Levitt-Bernstein, Yinka Ilori Studio, low-carbon construction designers Material Cultures along with architect Charlotte Malterre Barthes; as well as emerging Norwood practice A Small Studio and its art project Empathy Museum.

The exhibition

Source: Image by Cristiano Corte

Dancing Before the Moon movie

Dancing Before the Moon movie

The Pavilion’s main hall features a new work of film on a large-screen in an area dedicated to gathering and sharing ideas. The film shows rituals of the diaspora from around the world in Britain. It demonstrates an appreciation for land, communal values, and sharing space. Through dance, procession, games, growing and worship we are reminded that, irrespective of race, culture and socio-economic circumstances, we are all capable of inventing and transforming what’s around us. Film footage was shot in pubs in Nottingham, hair salons in Streatham, and archive footage from BFI. A new soundtrack is available to accompany the film. Oscar #worldpeace, Fredwave and other musicians have created a score that combines new and old music. The main hall, which will be used as a place of congregation, will host public events such as film screenings and discussions.

Jayden Ali - Thunder and Şimşek

Jayden Ali – Thunder and Şimşek

Jayden Ali: Thunder and Şimşek

Visitors will immediately notice an installation as they approach the British Pavilion. Thunder and Şimşek explores Ali’s ancestral ties to the islands of Trinidad and Cyprus. This large-scale, hybridised installation shows the cultures and rituals that have evolved from occupation. The overhead sculptures, made using steel hammered into shape, represent both the pastimes of Trinidadian steel-pan playing and Cypriot cooking – rituals that became critical to the descendants of these colonised islands claiming space in the UK. The sculptures occupy the traditional façade of the Pavilion’s portico – reimagining the portico as a transitory space for departure and arrival.

Sandra Poulson - Sãbao Azul e Água

Source:Image by Taran Wilkhu

Sandra Poulson – Sãbao Azul e Água

Sandra Poulson: Sãbao Azul e Água

Artist Sandra Poulson’s practice draws from her personal experience and observations growing up in Luanda, Angola. Dust sweeps Luanda, settling on people’s bodies and garments. Poulson uses this residue to identify socioeconomic status and examines cleansing rituals for their role in social mobility and the occupation of space. This installation includes four objects which reference the architectural vernacular, social traditions, and cultural heritage of Luanda. These include a cement tank that was used to wash laundry, an old colonial balustrade, an Angolan women’s dress, and footprints. Made from fabric, each one is pattern cut, sewn, stuffed with textile landfill waste and rendered with sabão azul, a blue soap that is ubiquitous in Angola. Soap is used to conceal the objects’ form, and unearth hidden narratives. Sabão Azul e Água captures Poulson’s ongoing interest in cleansing rituals and their connection to space, heritage preservation, and labour.

Mac Collins – Runout

Source:Image by Taran Wilkhu

Mac Collins – Runout

Mac Collins: Runout

Dominoes is played widely by the British-Caribbean community inside pubs and community centres across the UK and has informed Nottingham-born designer and artist Mac Collins’ Runout. Collins examines the way in which dominoes as well as other cultural rituals are used to create tangible links with the Caribbean by the Jamaican diaspora living in Britain. The futuristic, exaggerated object is made from ebonised ash wood. The ambiguous shape of the object is somewhere between an abstracted form of domino and a form unknown. The deliberate size and stature of the sculpture represents the pride and integrity that British-Jamaicans have built up around their culture. Collins: Runout It is a reminder that Caribbean communities have been creating myths and stories for generations, reflecting their place in contemporary British society. The exhibition also examines the ways in which diasporic rituals occupy and build space, as well as how they create social relationships.

Shawanda Corbett – A healing is coming

Source:Image by Taran Wilkhu

Shawanda Corbett – A healing is coming

Shawanda corbett: Healing is coming

Shawanda Korbett, an interdisciplinarian artist, is inspired by African and Indigenous American ceramics as well as cyborg theories and the fluidity that jazz brings to her work. The community of ceramic vessels cast their shadows on the wall to ‘occupy’ the pavilion. Healing is on its way represents the perceived purity that women are expected to uphold in American southern culture, a masculine’s view of women in US Christian culture, the women’s necessary detachment from this projection in order to live, but their struggle to heal. The work is about a group women who practice healing through different spiritual paths. Voodoo/Vodou is an African diaspora faith (originally Vodun, in West Africa), as well as Hoodoo, a spiritual practice. These women sought relief from physical and mental ailments by using these spiritual practices.

Madhav Kidao – Bardo

Source:Image by Taran Wilkhu

Madhav Kidao – Bardo

Madhav Kidao: Bardo

Bardo has been made by melting down and recasting ‘Between Forests and Skies’ – a pavilion designed for the V&A in 2021 by Kidao’s practice Nebbia Works. The large aluminium ‘wall’ explores the rituals surrounding death. Bardo It is a Tibetan term that refers to a state of Buddhism between death and rebirth. It embodies the concept of ‘punarmṛtyu’ (Sanskrit for ‘re-death’) through the destruction of one form and the creation of another. Influenced by emergent cultures in London, and Hindu and Buddhist philosophies, Kidao’s work champions circular thinking and considers architecture’s temporality.The textures on the work’s surface have been manipulated by the sand in which it was cast, and as an acoustic panel, Bardo The surface of the sphere reflects and modulates sounds, dispersing them through its holes.

Yussef Agbo-Ola - Muluku: 6 Bone Temple

Source:Image by Taran Wilkhu

Yussef Agbo-Ola – Muluku: 6 Bone Temple

Yussef Agbo-Ola: Muluku: 6 Bone Temple

Muluku: 6 Bone Temple The Yoruba, Cherokee and other communities honor rituals in architecture, performance art and art that are based on respecting the natural world. They also place an emphasis on environmental consecration. The sacred structure is created by weaving organic cotton on a pineapple fibre frame to mimic the skin patterns of endangered and extinct species. Bones – once used to build with – are presented are presented within consecrated architectural artefacts on top of volcanic stones, heavy with the smell of mint and lavender. Celebrating the earth’s unique ability to create life through decay and reincarnation, this living architectural entity is designed to become a habitat for non-human species before degrading and becoming food for the soil.

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