fang zhenning, curator of chinese pavilion for 2012 venice biennale portrait © designboom
designboom recently sat down with the architectural critic and curator fang zhenning, to talk about the theme for the chinese pavilion for this year’s 2012 architecture venice biennale. he discusses the basic concept and how its origin will dictate the story being told to visitors.
1. what will be the theme of the chinese pavilion at this year’s venice architecture biennale?
方振宁：就是“原初”这两个字，这也是我在06年做的展览的概念，其实吉普菲尔德当选为策展人我也很高兴， 因为我自己是艺术家出身, 所以我的作品也是极简主义风格。这次我们使用“原初”的概念就是我在挑选了五位建筑师和艺术家的时候， 特别强调不要讲故事，应该是强调“原初”的概念，指的就是就像一个馒头的酵母一样，可以蒸出馒头也可以蒸出包子和面包，但是最 开始的部分是最重要的，关于事物的本质，最初的想法和秩序，这是原初最基本的概念。
我们最初的想法是关于原初的秩序，就好比水开始流的地方，我们先不讨论河流和小溪，我们就去想水是从哪里流出来的，主要是讨论建筑、艺术、 城市和我们观察事物的方法，实际上它是一个超建筑的话题，虽然是一个建筑双年展，但由于我自己的研究是从80年代末到90年代初一直到现在， 都关注这个问题，那么这是一个关于艺术、建筑、策展、概念和布展的连续性的活动，不只是一个中国馆的展览。
the concept of this year’s pavilion is ‘yuan chu’ which are two chinese words ‘the origin’ and ‘the initial’ put together to form the word ‘originaire’. it was also the concept of an exhibition I presented in 2006. when I heard that david chipperfield was the main curator for the venice biennale I was very happy because my work has a lot to do with his minimalistic architectural approach.
when I selected the five architects and artists, I emphasized that we won’t tell a story, but we would underline the notion of ‘originaire’. we focus on the nature of things, initial ideas and thoughts in their incipient order. the concept derives from the source of water (rivers and streams). this is what we will be discussing with regards to architecture, art and the urban landscape. it is a ‘super’ topic that I have focused on since the 1980s to the early 1990s. it is not only a chinese pavilion exhibition, but also reflects my continuous work and research about craft, buildings, curation and concept.
2. who are the architects and artists involved?
‘square garden’ by wang yun image © cafa art info
方振宁：第一位是来自北京大学的建筑师王昀，同时也是北京大学建筑与景观设计学院的副院长。因为他多年来一直研究聚落， 这次展示的是他十多年来的研究成果，就是怎么将聚落转换成一种现代语言，对现代的社会城市和建筑设计有用。这件作品叫 “方庭”，由36个立方体装置组成，我把它形容成一个东方的庭院空降到了威尼斯。
the first architect is wang yun of atelier fronti, who also teaches and is the vice-president of the graduate school of architecture at peking university, in the haidian district, a western suburb of beijing. he has studied settlements for many years and he will show his results from 10 years of research. the focus is how to transfer the information into a contemporary language and make it useful for modern society, the city and its architecture and design. the project is called ‘square garden’, it is composed of 36 little boxes and when they come together they form a large installation which will be parachuted into the venice garden space in front of the pavilion.
‘discrete club’ in, xixi wetland, hangzhou, china image © atelier fronti
see designboom’s original article designboom conversation: wang yun here.
‘cluster’ by shao weiping of BIAD_Ufo image © cafa art info
第二是邵韦平，是第三航站楼的合作者，他主要的项目是设计了凤凰传媒中心。凤凰传媒中心落成之后，现在就快要落成了， 现在在细化，今年大概10月份落成。去年参加了罗马的展览，也是得到了意大利媒体的关注，特别有幸被designboom评为年度 十大建筑之一，这对他是非常大的鼓舞。因为他从第一次参加展览，到有这么多媒体宣传，而且有很多国外的建筑师想到他的事务所工作， 可以看到传媒是多么重要。这次他展出的作品叫做“序列”，他把凤凰传媒中心的模型，一个莫比乌斯环切开，展成一个长条，由96个切片 组成，每个切片都不一样。
the second architect is shao weiping of BIAD_Ufo who is one of the collaborators for the third terminal of beijing international airport. his most recognized project is the phoenix international media center which will be finished this october. last year, it was showcased in an exhibition in italy and received a lot of media attention, especially when it was selected as one of the top architectural structures in 2011 by designboom. as a result, many foreign professionals want to work for his studio, proving the importance of media and their presence in the press.
this time, his work will be a sequence entitled ‘cluster’. he will cut the model of the phoenix international media center into 96 möbius strips. it will be similar to a chinese dragon because every piece is completely different.
aerial view of the ‘phoenix international media center’ by shao weiping of BIAD_UFo under construction image courtesy of BIAD_UFo
see designboom’s original article of the phoenix international media center here.
‘variation’ by wei chun yu image © cafa art info
第三个是魏春雨，魏春雨是湖南大学建筑学院院长，他在湖大做了相当多的建筑，湖大的很多建筑都是他设计的，他还设计了张家界博物馆， 这些设计都非常出色。但是我们认为威尼斯建筑双年展不是把一个成品拿去展览，而是一种探索性质的，所以他更接近于艺术家的思考。 我要求建筑师他们应该拿出新的方案，而不是把他做好的方案的图片拿去展出。魏春雨做了一个叫“异化”的装置，这个装置大概23米长， 由黑色不锈钢做成的，空心的，50公分乘一米再乘23米，上面刻了一些数字，很多人都看着很奇怪，因为看似没有规律、也没有逻辑， 实际有很多内在的关系，是欧几里得很早的时候提出的“质数”，根据这种数的定位来切割了23米长的黑色的不锈钢，所以 我们在上面刻有数字，这相当于一个哲学的命题，也是对“原初”这一主题非常好的阐述。
wei chun yu, is the president of the architecture school at hunan university and he is the third participant in the pavilion. he has designed many important buildings within the educational institution as well as the zhangjiajie museum. the projects are very well done, however I think that the venice architecture biennale is not an exhibition to showcase completed works, but a type of exploratory processes which is closer to the thoughts of artists. I demanded that the architects show new ideas not images of their structures.
wei chun yu, has created an installation called ‘variation’ which is made of black stainless steel measuring 0.5m x 1m x 23m. he has engraved numbers on the surface which might be strange, because it seems irregular and illogical, but they have an inherent relationship. the values are ‘heteromer’, and make up the larger whole of the piece. it is a philosophical proposition and a good explanation of our ‘originaire’ theme.
‘the zhangjiajie museum’ by wei chun yu image © wei chun yu
see designboom’s original article of wei chun yu featured in the 2011 shenzhen & hong kong bi-city of urbanism here.
‘palace in the sky’ by tao na image © cafa art info
第四位是陶娜，她是学建筑出身，后来做艺术装置，是在历届中国馆里面最年轻的参展艺术家，她这次的作品叫“天阙”，就是天上的宫殿的意思。 这是一个互动的装置，共有三层画面：第一层是北京，以中轴线为中心拍摄的俯瞰图，第二个层面是火星，好像焦土一样的，没有生命感的表面， 第三个层面是银河。观众可以将方块拿下，是由磁力吸附的，拿下来变成第二层，第二层还可以继续拿下来变成第一层，好像我们是在探索未来，跟原初 有点不搭界的感觉。但实际上，当你越探索未来，越想离开这个星球的时候，你再回头看，在我们的银河系、太阳系，在我们现在智力所能够得着的地方， 你看还有比地球更美丽的星球吗，地球确实是天上的宫殿，我们应该好好爱护我们的地球，这也是一种反馈和反思，也是跟“原初”搭上关系的，很好的阐述了这个关系。
the fourth artist is tao na. she used to be an architect and now is creating art installations. she is the youngest exhibitor in the history of the chinese pavilions in venice. her work is called ‘palace in the sky’ and will be an interactive presentation which has three levels of frames. the first is the aerial view of beijing which was taken through the central axis of the city; the second consists of new and dead surfaces like the scorched landscape of mars; the last is the milky way. visitors will be able to remove the layers, which are held together by magnets. the process slowly reveals the images underneath.
at first glance, it is disparate but the more we explore the future, our planet, galaxy, solar system, and the space that only our intellect can reach, the more we fell that there is no place better than earth. it is a ‘palace in the sky’. as a result, we should take good care of our planet. it is a dialogue and reflection of the ‘original’ relationship we have with the universe.
‘lightopia’ by xu dongliang image © cafa art info
第五位是灯光设计师许东亮，他的作品叫“光塔”。是由1米乘1米的正方形LED灯组合而成，搭上台子共有2米多高，由3万多个红色LED组成的， 点亮的时候像火的塔一样，这个火是红色的，有五个档次的调节，就是20、40、60、80、100的亮度，象征着在远古时代人类围着篝火时生活的情景， 因为篝火产生了社会、产生了家庭，是人类最早的，生命原初的状态，也跟“原初”相关。
the fifth participant is xu dongliang, a lighting designer whose work is called ‘lightopia’. the piece is composed of 1m x1m red LED square panels stacked together to form 2.4m high with a 50cm high platform. the entire installation is 2.72m high and is made of over 30,000 crimson LED. when it is lit, the exhibition is like an explosive tower. the blaze has five levels of luminance, that is 20, 40, 6, 80 and 100. it represents the scenes of life in ancient times when people were living around a bonfire, it was the society and the family. it is the first initial state of ‘originaire.’
portrait of fang zhenning image © cafa art info
born in nanjing, fang zhenning graduated from the central academy of fine arts (cafa) in 1982. he teaches at the school of architecture, cafa and acts as dean of review and curatorial research studio, graduate center of architecture, peking university. currently, he lives and works in beijing.
the 13th international architecture biennale is curated by london-based architect david chipperfield. the theme of the event is entitled ‘common ground’ and will run from 29th of august through 25th november 2012, in venice, italy.
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