‘joanna (chapter one)’ by cerith wyn evans at the venice architecture biennale image © designboom

located just inside the main entrance of the palazzo delle esposizioni, ‘joanna (chapter one)’ by london-based conceptual artist cerith wyn evans is a text fabricated from white neon letters. the installation hangs suspended over the heads of the viewers, illuminating the otherwise unlit space.

the text is an excerpt from ‘the changing light at sandover’, a poem by pulitzer prize winning american poet, james merrill. published in 1982. the poem emerged from sessions at the ouija board and describes an episodic scene where the protagonist, joanna, is found lost in reverie, smoking a cigarette on an airplane.

the venice biennale has always been a place of contradictions – the great thing about it is that there is always something for everyone to love (or to hate). you can guess that ‘professional criticism’ most often focuses on each biennale’s emphasis on art-likeinstallations … like this one.

the curator, japanese architect kazuyo sejima (of SANAA) said at the opening of the biennale, ‘an architecture exhibition is a challenging concept, as actual buildings cannot be exhibited.’ the problem of how to display architecture to different audiences is of course an issue with any architecture exhibit and the question ‘how to’ is not an easy one to answer. it seems that sejima preferred to create more real experiential space and to avoid text-heavy displays full of plans and architecture models. the beauty of this year’s biennale is that it puts the human experience back at the heart of architecture.

cerith wyn evans at the venice architecture biennale 2010 image © designboom

the text: ‘joanna (chapter one) sat in the plane, smoke pouring from her nostrils. outside, rain, sunset, mild azure; sable bulks awince with fire… and all these visible at once, while heaven, quartered like a billionaire’s coat of arms, put on stupendous airs. earth lurched and shivered in the storm’s embrace but kept her distances, lifting a face unthinkingly dramatic in repose, as was joanna’s. disiccated rose light hot on bone, ridge, socket where the streak of glancing water – if a glance could speak – said, ”trace me back to some loud, shallow chill, underlying motive’s overspill”…’

cerith wyn evans at the venice architecture biennale 2010 image © designboom

interview of cerith wyn evans conducted by hans ulrich obrist to read about hans ulrich obrist’s contribution to the biennale, ‘now interviews’, and to see more interviews like this one, click here