The exhibition opened with a panel discussion chaired by RIBA President Ben Derbyshire, members of the 2018 curatorial team Peter St John and Marcus Taylor, Fellowships Programme Manager Genevieve Marciniak and 3 Liverpool Fellows, Alice Bufton, Nansi Jones and Nathaniel Welham. The panellists discussed the role of language and audiences at the Biennale, and within the architecture sector more broadly – highlighting the unique role of the Fellows in engaging visitors with ISLAND. The discussion was opened up to the audience, with other 2018 Fellows given a platform to feed back to the curators.
The British Pavilion ISLAND, Freespace, and the wider city of Venice provided a vast multifaceted array of ideas for the Fellows to engage with. The Fellows spent time stewarding the British Pavilion during the course of the Biennale, and some responded to the experience of being in an empty pavilion and how this impacted the visitors, observing and engaging in conversation with them as part of the performance of the exhibition itself. This often instigated a dialogue about national identity and representation, particularly in light of Brexit. Other research outputs focused on the experience of ascending the pavilion building via the scaffold staircase, a structure that references restoration and reconstruction.
Other Fellows interrogated the concept of ‘Freespace’ – the overarching theme for the 2018 Venice Biennale - how space is negotiated in the city of Venice, drawing from natural elements such as light, and the waterways, or in time and collective memory.
Inevitably, the city itself was the crux of the research produced. Outside of their daily routines and among new people, the heightened experienced of living in a culturally distinctive city for an extended period of time made the Fellows something more than tourists. Instead they became observant guests, distinct from locals and tourists alike.
Constructs related to Venice have been reflected on, which include the extensive canals, bridges and gondolas, craftmanship, porous materials, tourism, the Venetian way of life. Some of the Fellows witnessed the acqua alta in October 2018; the flooding, caused by a convergence of high tides and a strong wind, heavily impacting the city, with the water levels reaching over five feet. While some Fellows made distinct connections between Biennale exhibits and UK architectural projects, many of the Fellows used their experience as an opportunity to explore wider questions, and to develop their own architectural practice, sometimes via other disciplines.
Exhibiting Fellows: Haziq Ariffin, Lizzie Atherton, Christina Barton, Hannah Berrisford, Jessica Bishopp, Blair Boyle, Alice Bufton, Gustavo Fijalkow, Jack Foster, Uli Gamper, Adeola Gay, Catalina Ionita Nansi Jones, Vicki Jones, Jordan Keaney, Daniel Kelly, Ari Khoshnaw, Cameron Lintott, Hugo Lopes, Jas Lucas, Rhea McCarthy, Karly McGinty, Ella Merriman, Phuong-Trâm Nguyen, Sandhya Parekh, Tarn Philipp, Calvin Po, Shemol Rahman, Mandalika Roberts, Charlotte Robinson, Madeleine Sinclair, Eniola Sonusi, Fraser Streatfield, Mary Trapp, Nathaniel Welham, Augustus Wray