designers highlight our dependency on 'everlasting plastics' at US pavilion in venice

designers highlight our dependency on 'everlasting plastics' at US pavilion in venice

the united states pavilion opens in venice

 

Plastic, a material that has permeated every aspect of our lives, takes center stage at the United States Pavilion at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale. This groundbreaking exhibition, titled ‘Everlasting Plastics,’ sheds light on the profound influence of plastics and their complex relationship with our world with a collection of sculptural works by American artists and designers.

 

‘Everlasting Plastics’ emerges as a response to the pressing urgency surrounding the escalating production of plastics, despite growing awareness of their detrimental impact on the environment. By examining the material’s far-reaching presence in contemporary life, this exhibition strives to redefine our perspectives and actions regarding the abundance of plastic waste plaguing our waterways, landfills, and streets. Rather than passing judgment, ‘Everlasting Plastics’ acknowledges our global reliance on this material and invites us to fundamentally reconsider our coexistence with plastics, recognizing their potential as agents for transformative change. The exhibition will be on view at the Giardini della Biennale from May 20th through November 26th, 2023.

venice biennale united states
Lauren Yeager, ‘Longevity,’ 2023, Salvaged plastic objects. ‘Everlasting Plastics,’ United States Pavilion, Biennale Architettura 2023. Photo by ReportArch / Andrea Ferro Photography

 

 

co-existing with ‘everlasting plastics’ through design

 

Visitors to Everlasting Plastics, the United States Pavilion at the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale, will explore a collection of site-specific commissions by visionary artists and designers who each delve into the intricate realities of plastic. Among the featured contributors are Xavi L. Aguirre, an architectural designer and Assistant Professor of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Simon Anton, a designer from Detroit; Ang Li, an architect and Assistant Professor at Northeastern University School of Architecture; Norman Teague, a designer and Assistant Professor in the School of Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago; and Lauren Yeager, a conceptual artist and sculptor based in Cleveland.

 

Through a series of captivating installations, each artist and designer invites contemplation on our intricate relationship with plastics and explores various facets of its production and consumption. By fostering discourse and dialogue, the exhibition prompts critical reflections on how plastics shape and erode our ecosystems, economies, and built environment. Furthermore, it sparks consideration of alternative approaches and reimagines the role of plastics in our society. Below, we provide descriptions of the remarkable works featured in this thought-provoking showcase.

designers highlight our dependency on 'everlasting plastics' at US pavilion in venice
Lauren Yeager, ‘Longevity,’ 2023, Salvaged plastic objects. ‘Everlasting Plastics,’ United States Pavilion, Biennale Architettura 2023. Photo by ReportArch / Andrea Ferro Photography

 

 

the installations

 

With her installation titled ‘Longevity,’ Lauren Yeager reimagines everyday objects as sculptures, using salvaged materials to elevate their value. Her works retain their domestic origins, shifting between contexts and embodying personal histories. By repurposing plastic waste from Cleveland, she creates geometric forms displayed in a sculpture garden. Yeager’s installation invites viewers to reconsider the potential and meaning of these discarded objects and the spaces they inhabit.

venice biennale united states
Ang Li, ‘Externalities,’ 2023, Densified expanded polystyrene (EPS) waste blocks. ‘Everlasting Plastics,’ United States Pavilion, Biennale Architettura 2023. Photo by ReportArch / Andrea Ferro Photography

 

 

Ang Li’s ‘Externalities’ installation delves into the cultural and material impact of petroleum-based ‘miracle materials’ in the built environment. Focusing on expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, Li explores its role in shaping 20th-century building practices and spatial concepts. EPS is commonly used in construction as a lightweight alternative for thermal mass, forming a hidden layer within the built environment—an invisible foundation of modern societies.

venice biennale united states
Ang Li, ‘Externalities,’ 2023, Densified expanded polystyrene (EPS) waste blocks. ‘Everlasting Plastics,’ United States Pavilion, Biennale Architettura 2023. Photo by ReportArch / Andrea Ferro Photography

 

 

‘Externalities’ challenges the perception of weightlessness associated with EPS foam through a direct material confrontation. It features a 33-foot wall filled with densified EPS scrap sourced from recycling networks in the United States. The wall’s construction draws inspiration from waste-processing industry systems and alludes to older forms of monolithic building. By presenting this improvised accumulation, the project invites audiences to interpret the material in various ways: an inventory system, a monument to the past, and a geological layer in our collective record of history.

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Simon Anton, ‘This Will Kill____That,’ 2023, Recycled plastic waste, steel. ‘Everlasting Plastics,’ United States Pavilion, Biennale Architettura 2023. Photo by ReportArch / Andrea Ferro Photography

 

With ‘This Will Kill____That,’ Simon Anton transforms waste plastic into functional objects by grafting it onto metal armatures. He salvages plastic from various sources, confronting its materiality and elevating it as both attractive and repulsive. Anton’s installation in Venice combines historical design elements with the present plastic proliferation, exploring its ties to global capitalism and urging action. His work reimagines the future relationship between waste plastics and the natural environment.

venice biennale united states
Simon Anton, ‘This Will Kill____That,’ 2023, Recycled plastic waste, steel. ‘Everlasting Plastics,’ United States Pavilion, Biennale Architettura 2023. Photo by ReportArch / Andrea Ferro Photography designers highlight our dependency on 'everlasting plastics' at US pavilion in venice
Simon Anton, ‘This Will Kill____That,’ 2023, Recycled plastic waste, steel. ‘Everlasting Plastics,’ United States Pavilion, Biennale Architettura 2023. Photo by ReportArch / Andrea Ferro Photography

 

 

Xavi L. Aguirre’s ‘PROOFING’ explores architectural tactics and ecological readiness. It examines how we protect built environments and the connection between materials ready for the body and ecological preparedness. The installation showcases various proofing materials and proposes modular reuse in construction. Through immersive elements, it blurs indoor-outdoor boundaries. Aguirre prompts us to rethink reliance on environmentally damaging products and create resilient, sustainable spaces.

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Xavi L. Aguirre, ‘PROOFING: Resistant and Ready,’ 2023, Mixed Media. ‘Everlasting Plastics,’ United States Pavilion, Biennale Architettura 2023. Photo by ReportArch / Andrea Ferro Photography

designers highlight our dependency on 'everlasting plastics' at US pavilion in venice
Xavi L. Aguirre, ‘PROOFING: Resistant and Ready,’ 2023, Mixed Media. ‘Everlasting Plastics,’ United States Pavilion, Biennale Architettura 2023. Photo by ReportArch / Andrea Ferro Photography

 

 

Norman Teague’s ‘Re+Prise’ explores the possibilities of plastic as a medium through experimentation. Departing from wood, Teague’s work draws inspiration from African basket weaving, transforming everyday plastic objects into vessel-like forms. By applying shredded recycled plastic in controlled coils, Teague combines traditional craftsmanship with industrial manufacturing. The resulting objects challenge conventions of color, scale, function, and history. Teague’s experimental approach aligns with the Biennale Architettura’s theme of “The Laboratory of the Future,” emphasizing production, resources, and representation.

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Norman Teague, ‘Re+Prise,’ 2023, Extruded recycled plastic. ‘Everlasting Plastics,’ United States Pavilion, Biennale Architettura 2023. Photo by ReportArch / Andrea Ferro Photography

Organized by SPACES, an alternative art organization based in Cleveland, Ohio, and supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, this thought-provoking showcase is commissioned by Tizziana Baldenebro, Executive Director of SPACES, and co-curated by Baldenebro and Lauren Leving, Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland.

 

‘In representing the United States at La Biennale, we wanted to draw a connection between an industry that is deeply rooted in Ohio, where we are based, and communities across the world, including here in Venice,’ said Tizziana Baldenebro.What emerged from the United States as a material with utopian capabilities is now contributing to a dystopian reality for our planet. In exploring this duality, the design and artistic fields can be leaders in evolving humanity’s position.’

 

 

project info:

 

project title: Everlasting Plastics

designers: Xavi L. Aguirre, Simon Anton, Ang Li, Norman Teague, Lauren Yeager

location: Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy

on view: May 20th through November 26th, 2023

exhibition design: Faysal Altunbozar, Chloe Munkenbeck

organizer: SPACES

commissioner and co-curator: Tizziana Baldenebro, Executive Director, SPACES

co-curator: Lauren Leving, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland

photography: ReportArch / Andrea Ferro Photography

 

Explore designboom’s ongoing coverage of the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale: The Laboratory of the Future here, and follow our dedicated channel on Instagram here.
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