The Estonian Pavilion has been turned into a perfomance stage to look at housing crisis and explore the changing conflicting paradigms between homes and real estate at the Venice Architecture Biennale.
The exhibition, titled Home Stage, acts as a rental apartment where various Estonian performers will dwell in it and each of them will spend a month in the apartment, which becomes both home and stage.
Located in Salizada Streta 96 – close to the rear exit of the Arsenale complex, Venice, the pavilion is curated by architects Aet Ader, Arvi Anderson, Mari Möldre of Tallinn-based studio b210 Architects.
The exhibition explores the contradiction between the living place as a home and as an exchange value.
“The Estonian pavilion exists in the format of a durational performance, where ordinary domestic duties as well as fictional outbursts, both scripted and non-scripted, all take place in the public eye,” said Mari Möldre, one of the curators.
“One of the performers, Paula Veidenbauma, is intrigued by how issues of invisibility, such as care, aggression, and loneliness, contrast and accelerate in tandem with the vast visibility of real estate, which especially in Venice is driven by hyper-tourism and gentrification,” Möldre added.
The pavilion is on display with all the household items and furniture that could be in a house. According to the curators, the pavilion “reflects on the contradictions between homes and real estate, dreams and realities, tenants and owners, residents and visitors.”
The curators believe that “housing is no longer just about living: investment and speculation have become the primary purpose of more and more dwellings, as real estate and rental prices continue to grow.”
“City centers are made up of houses where living itself has become redundant. Many dwellings have owners but no occupants, while elsewhere, residents struggle to become owners.”
“The stability of the home as an intimate space of one’s own, a place for family history and material biography, contrasts with the flexible and fleeting nature of real estate, of rapid buy-and-sell markets. Home becomes a disposable lifestyle product,” the curators added.
With its performers, the Pavilion of Estonia dwells on almost farcical domestic situations where dreams collide with reality, owners with tenants, sellers with buyers, coziness with alienation. Each performance lasts for 1 hour and 30 mins, it will loop during the day within the different rooms inside the apartment.
Some acts will engage visitors, some will invite them to enjoy domesticity and rest. Each performer will live for a month inside the apartment and will open the door to the apartment from morning till afternoon.
Curators have created a path that each visitor can take. The journey starts from the open street where four wooden daybeds will be installed for people to rest before entering the space.
Stepping into the apartment from the main door leads to the hallway, where, throughout the six months, a white wall will be repeatedly painted by each performer.
The living room and kitchen area will host a wall-sized display cabinet of curiosities filled with different artifacts: documents, sculptures, mirabilia, and memories, together with a selection of peculiar kitchen tools.
The bedroom will feature an installation, a mirrored ceiling, fitted with lightweight reflective panels; while the bathroom will be the stage for “a fountain of sinks” where the faucets of sinks and bathtub will dance and occasionally splash into each other.
Lastly, visitors will find themselves in front of a closed door that will be unlocked by the performer: an empty room with dust and fluff clouds blown by four vacuum cleaners.
In response to Lesley Lokko’s theme, The Laboratory of the Future, the curators said that “the contrast between home and real estate embodies a variety of human relationships and contradictory situations: depending on our role, the attitude towards spaces and people around us also changes.”
“Therefore, instead of producing new spaces and things for the pavilion, we are engaging with socio-spatial dynamics and involving several artists and writers from outside the field of architecture to do so.”
“The resulting creative mess in the Venetian apartment does not give finite answers but invites imagination and provokes critical thinking,” explained the curatorial team.
At the Estonian Pavilion, visitors will meet with live performances in a duet with the apartment, while they will be part of this performance through a loop of scripted and non-scripted activities.
The Estonian Pavilion is an invitation to be a curious neighbor, an architectural explorer, and a guest at a private housewarming party, but above all it states: everyone is welcome.
Home Stage floor plan. Image courtesy of b210 Architects
The Venice Architecture Biennale 2023 is taking place from Saturday 20 May to Sunday 26 November, 2023 at the Arsenale and Giardini venues in Italy.
The theme of the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale is The Laboratory of the Future curated by Lesley Lokko.
Read more about WAC’s coverage about pavilions on Venice Architecture Biennale 2023.
To see more pavilions from this year’s biennale, you can also visit WAC’s Instagram/Reels for exclusive videos.
All images © Kertin Vasser unless otherwise stated.
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Venice Architecture Biennale