Biennale Architettura 2016 - Special Projects
La Biennale di Venezia is interested in exploring the world of applied arts, in particular where science and technologies intersect with the creation of forms.
For this purpose we have begun a collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the ideal partner in pursuing research in this field.
This pavilion is the first step of this collaboration.
President of La Biennale di Venezia
The Victoria and Albert Museum exists to enrich people’s lives through the promotion of knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of the designed world. Reproductions and replicas have played an important role in this mission since our foundation in 1852; our acclaimed Cast Courts and the astounding collection of 19th-century copies they contain are evidence of this.
Whilst the digital era has brought extraordinary possibilities in this spehere, it also poses some of the most compelling questions of our age. La Biennale di Venezia is our natural partner to explore these issues, and the Pavilion of Applied Arts is the first phase of what I am sure will be a long, vibrant and productive collaboration.
Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The increasing accessibility of 3D scanning and printing couldn’t be timelier in the context of cultural preservation, as the threat of destruction and damage of our global material heritage rises. ‘A World of Fragile Parts’ poses questions related to the legitimacy, ownership and significance of copies while highlighting their preservation value as they allow for physical, but also for cultural, emotional and political survival.
Curator of A World of Fragile Parts
Climate change, natural disasters, urbanisation, mass tourism and neglect, as well as recent violent attacks have brought the risks faced by many heritage sites and cultural artefacts into public conversation. Artists, activists and educational institutions are beginning to respond to the urgent need to preserve; by exploring opportunities provided by digital scanning and new fabrication technologies. Several key questions emerge: What do we copy and how? What is the relationship between the copy and the original in a society that privileges authenticity? And how can such an effort be properly coordinated at a truly global and inclusive scale?
Museums have a long history of producing copies. The V&A led the way in this practice since the 19th century, when its Cast Courts were created to display plaster casts of significant works of art, primarily to educate visitors and make them accessible to those unable to travel. Towards the end of the 20th century this intense copying activity began to diminish and copies started being associated with negative values such as fakery and vulgarity. Copies have recently taken on a new perceived value; that of preservation. They have become transmitters of precious knowledge and culture.
‘A World of Fragile Parts’ investigates 200 years of copying cultural artefacts, displaying items including a Facsimile of The Convention for Promoting Universally Reproduction of Works of Art (1867), an arrangement drawn up by the V&A’s first director Henry Cole to pursue the international exchange of copies; 19th Century plaster casts; photographs and electrotypes alongside some of the most significant contemporary projects that have engaged with or deployed copying as a strategy for preservation.
Some have responded directly to the ISIS crisis, such as the 3D reproduction of a segment of Palmyra’s destroyed Triumphal Arch by the Institute for Digital Archaeology. Others, like Sam Jacob Studio’s 1:1 scanned replica of a shelter from the Calais ‘Jungle’ refugee camp, emphasises the fragility not only of material objects and structures but also of human lives and experiences, elevating the copy to the status of a sculptural memorial.
A 3D printed Nefertiti bust is also on display. The #NefertitiHack was produced by artists Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles, who in 2015 secretly scanned an original bust from Berlin’s Neues Museum using a staged Kinect Xbox controller in reaction to a dispute between the Museum and the Egyptian authorities who were requesting the artefact be returned.
Also on display is a 3D printed model of Constantin Brâncuși’s famous Sleeping Muse produced by Scan the World, a community-built initiative to digitally archive scanned data of cultural artefacts from across the globe. Each object is available to download and can be 3D printed for free.
Other projects embody a broader view of copying and its relationship with preservation. Artist Andreas Angelidakis engages with the physical reproduction of internet ruins, while David Gissen copies the voids within structures by capturing acoustic impressions.