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Artwork Co-Created by VCUarts Qatar Displayed at Venice Architecture Biennale

January 30, 2022
Lahore By Amna Sana

Faculty and students’ collaboration crisscrosses continents and cultures

In a digital age where physical movement is restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what better way to celebrate differences and similarities than an artwork that bridges boundaries to unite designers from three continents and 13 countries?

Faculty, students and alumni from VCUarts Qatar created an exquisite corpse-style artwork along with their peers at Hongik University IDAS (International Design school for Advanced Studies), in Seoul, Korea. The artwork was on display at the Korean Pavilion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale.

Marco Bruno, Associate Professor, Graduate Studies, VCUarts Qatar, and Simone Carena, Associate Professor, Digital Media Design, Hongik University IDAS, developed the concept for the artwork to mirror the theme of the Korean Pavilion at the Biennale. They were supported by Reema Abu Hassan, alumna and Adjunct Faculty, Graduate Studies, VCUarts Qatar.

The theme of the Korean pavilion was Future School. Future School is a global coalition that ‘connects participants and programs across borders and distance while fostering diverse modes of engagement’ with ‘the ultimate aim to forge new and multiple solidarities in the face of current and future challenges, including migration and the growth of the diaspora, the impact of climate change, and the increasing speed of social and technological change’.

‘Exquisite corpse’ is a game in which each participant takes turns writing or drawing on a sheet of paper – in this case, digitally – conceals his or her contribution, and then passes it to the next ‘player’ for a further contribution. At times, a participant may create based on a glimpse of the ‘end’ part of the artwork created by the previous contributor. The end result is one single artwork that captures multiple styles and perspectives. The game gained popularity in creative circles during the 1920s when it was adopted as a technique by artists of the Surrealist movement to generate collaborative compositions.

In this case, students and faculty of three continents, two universities and 13 nationalities designed an artwork that transcended landscapes, languages and cultures. The participants were Simone Carena (Italy), Yvonne Shih, and Li Zheng (China), from Hongik University.

Marco Bruno, Giovanni Innella, and Stella Colaleo (Italy) Yeon Geong Hwang (South Korea), Faheem Khan (Bangladesh), Anurag Wallace (India), Nia Campbell (US), Amna Sana (Pakistan), Amna Yandarbin (Chechnya), Abdulrahman Al Muftah (Qatar), Ahmed Nour, and

Nada Al-Kharashi (Egypt), Reema Abu Hassan (Palestine), Alaa Albarazy, and Nada Abbarah (Syria), and Gente Retkoceri (Kosovo), made up VCUarts Qatar’s team.

“Each participant designed their portion of the project on the basis of a small hint received from the previous collaborator in an exquisite corpse-style exercise,” Bruno explains. “The result was a continuous drawing that was produced and displayed at the Biennale, paying tribute to the experimental legacy of ‘Superstudio’, a radical Italian architecture firm from the 1960’s.”

The project took an entire semester to complete. Participants started from two geographical sites, Seoul and Venice, and each students had 72 hours to complete his/her drawing, and share a short sentence, based on the previous hint, and then pass it to the next person. As much as possible, students were asked to create their projects in their respective countries. The project is also representative of the historical routes that existed across Europe, Africa and Asia, facilitating the circulation of people, goods and ideas. The reciprocal nature of those geographical routes can be found in the artwork as well.

“The entire artwork can be read from both sides, either from Seoul to Venice, or from Venice to Seoul,” says Bruno. “Each drawing has its own life, and is unique. While most of them are celebratory of the feature or character of their country, some of them are political, and yet some are critical of social issues, such as privatization of public space.”

The artwork was presented on the Future School process wall, and complemented the ambience of the pavilion that had an open kitchen, a circular lounge, and a retreat room constructed entirely in hanji, a traditional, handmade Korean paper.

As per the VCUarts Qatar faculty member, the benefits that the students gained from the experience go beyond the obvious.

“Of course, being able to participate at an international event that drew around 300,000 visitors is of significance,” he says. “Equally important, though, is the understanding and appreciation that organically developed through the process of discussing and sharing perspectives that touched on different cultures, and the future of education.”

Participants each contributed a few lines of poetry. These were woven into one long poem, which, like the artwork, could be read from Venice to Seoul, or from Seoul to Venice.

The screen filters the lagoon and allows only a few things to go through: small boats, gondolas, birds and wind

birds and wind are breaking the silence of the place I was used to call home

call home a bit more often because mum is worried

mom is worried because we breathe coal every minute during the winter season. Our world has become grey, and getting raised in communist ex Yugoslavia makes things even worse. We need colors, we need lights, we need healthy life, we need hope

we need hope for cities that have fallen to rise

to rise a civilization, we should start to accept each other

accept each other within the diaspora

within the diaspora, we are just breathing

breathing the fumes of attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. Those moments are now all intertwined

all intertwined like the present, the future and the past

the past follows the trails of mountain wolves

mountain wolves, cold valleys, green grass and dense clouds

dense clouds and dewy mornings etch my memories in absolute beauty and harmony

beauty and harmony are endless in a land that can fulfill all your possibilities

your possibilities are like an open field that wants to be explored. Obscurity will not stop us. We are not scared

we are not scared to live together, like sound and silence. Sometimes intimately connected, sometimes respectfully apart from each other

each other bonded, without boundaries imposed upon ourselves, we are all connected by nature

nature and human decoded by the beauty of mathematics which will open all closed doors

closed doors with a flimsy lock dividing two countries

two countries, two lifestyles and two cultures crossed by a thin line full of ups and down.