On 21 May, originally planned as the official opening of the Dutch pavilion in Venice, we invite you to an alternative preview of Who is We? – the Netherlands’ contribution to the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.
Rather than face a curious crowd in the busy Giardini against the yellow and white of Rietveld's pavilion, we unpack the themes of Who is We? from the living rooms with which we’ve become so intimately acquainted over the last two months. These were months in which we saw an increased urgency to the central Biennale question, ‘How will we live together?’
In Who is We?, Het Nieuwe Instituut questions the dominant structures and histories we inhabit and inherit, presenting an urbanism that is Other – female, of colour, queer, and multispecies. It presents a counter-language based on Other knowledge development and pedagogies that make visible what is unseen, propagating inclusivity on all levels. This departs from the research and practice of architect and researcher Afaina de Jong and her The Multiplicity of Other concept, and artist and researcher Debra Solomon, who has developed Multispecies Urbanism.
Both Debra Solomon and Afaina de Jong will join moderator Saskia van Stein in a conversation about their fields of research and practice. Caroline Nevejan, Chief Science Officer for the City of Amsterdam, will elaborate on the ideas behind the parallel programme Values for Survival that led to the first in a series of cahiers, launched during the event. Jane da Mosto of We Are Here Venice will talk about the current situation in Venice and her co-curatorship of the Exploratorium (also part of Values for Survival). Francien van Westrenen, curator of the Dutch pavilion, connects the themes of the exhibition with the agenda of Het Nieuwe Instituut.
Dr. Huda AbiFarès (co-editor Values for Survival, Cahier 1) is the Founding Director of the Khatt Foundation and Khatt Books publishers. She holds degrees in design and design history from Leiden University, Yale University School of Art, and Rhode Island School of Design. She is a designer, writer, researcher and curator, specialising in mul- tiscript typography and design.
Afaina de Jong
Afaina de Jong (exhibitor Who is We?) is an architect and contemporary thinker with an international and intersectional discourse that explores the boundaries of architecture, art, and culture. Integrating theory and research with design, she believes that architecture is not only to be perceived, but also experienced and interacted with. After working with renowned international firms, De Jong established the creative studio AFARAI in 2005. An Amsterdam-based architectural studio, that specialises in spatial design and strategy, with a deep connection to represent people and cultural movements that are not traditionally represented in architecture. Using form, language, colour, pattern, and narratives that are 'other', the studio works towards a more holistic and inclusive urban space. Read more.
Jane da Mosto
Caroline Nevejan (curator Values for Survival) introduces in the research program as part of the Dutch contribution for the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, City Science, a new way of working in which research, design, and policy work together structurally in the city. As Amsterdam's Chief Science Officer, she inspires and connects various research programs between city, municipality, universities, and colleges. She initiates and directs research based on questions from officials from various boards in the City, and from university researchers in alpha, beta, and gamma sciences. Read more.
Debra Solomon (exhibitor Who is We?) is an artist, researcher and educator. In 2017 she introduced the term ‘multispecies urbanism’ to describe urban development driven by the priorities of urban ecosystems and natural world stewardship as giving primacy to the care for the natural world. Multispecies Urbanism promotes policy innovations that engage citizens as part of a resilient urban habitat founded on environmental justice for all species. In Soil in the City: the socio-environmental substrate Solomon explores this new paradigm in which urban nature is a rightful stakeholder, engaging with civil society reciprocally. Read more.
Francien van Westrenen
Francien van Westrenen (head of Agency Het Nieuwe Instituut, curator Who is We?) studied Arts and Culture at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, graduating with her Master’s thesis on the future of the art museum. Since then she has worked at various cultural institutions, including Stroom Den Haag as architecture curator, where she curated, among others, Another Reality. After Lina Bo Bardi, Proposals for a Qualitative Society with Céline Condorelli, and Revolutionary Traces with Ângela Ferreira. With Maaike Lauwaert, she edited Facing Value. Radical perspectives from the arts (Valiz, 2017). Since March 2018 Francien van Westrenen is the Head of Agency at Het Nieuwe Instituut. She addresses the innovative force and international role of the various design sectors, mediating between Dutch designers, makers and architects, and both national and international platforms, manifestations and policymaking.
Michel Banabila (participant Exploratorium), is a sound artist, composer, and producer. Banabila releases music since 1983 and has produced musical scores for numerous films, documentaries, theatre plays and choreographies. His music varies from minimal loop-based electronica, fourth world, and neoclassical pieces, to drones, experimental electronica, tribal ambient, and punk-as-fuck tape music. His work has been released internationally by labels like Bureau B (DE), Eilean Rec (FR) and Séance Centre (CA).
Saskia van Stein
Saskia van Stein is an independent curator, moderator, and as educator head of the MA department The Critical Inquiry Lab at Design Academy Eindhoven. The Critical Inquiry Lab is a two-year Master’s program, an inquisitive trajectory with artistic research at its core. She was artistic and managing director at Bureau Europa, platform for architecture and design, Maastricht, 2013–2019. Van Stein worked as a curator at the Netherlands Architecture Institute (now Het Nieuwe Instituut) in Rotterdam from 2002–2012. Van Stein’s deep-seated interest in the discourse of exhibition-making and the politics of representation explores different formats and methods of knowledge production and performative display. Through a broad cultural perspective, Van Stein examines issues related to contemporary urgencies and how they manifest at different levels. She contributes to the development of cultural discourse, and she is a member of various advisory committees such as architectural journal OASE and The Independent School for the City as well as being chair of several juries.