ISLAND identity on blue textured background

John Morgan studio for British Council

To provide a platform for multiple voices and interpretations of Island, the British Council has invited cultural organisations to create a vibrant programme of events with us, alongside specially commissioned work by international and local artists, musicians and performers. Join us at the British Pavilion this year to take part in exploring topics ranging from migration and decolonisation to language and borders, from isolation and identity to buildings and landscapes.

Thursday 24 May

British Pavilion Opening Ceremony

Island will be opened with a special performance by writer, musician and spoken word artist Kate Tempest. 

Friday 25 May

EUROPA Super Session 
11.00 – 12.00 

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) presents this open forum discussion about the current and future relationship of architecture practice across Europe at this pivotal moment in history. Followed by closing remarks from Elizabeth Diller, Grand Jury Chair of the RIBA International Prize 2018. Speakers include: Avenier Cornejo Architectes (FR), Caruso St John (UK), Christ & Gantenbein (CH), Clancy Moore Architects (IE), Estudio Barozzi Veiga (ES), Fala Atelier (PT), Flores & Prats (ES), Gijs Van Vaerenbergh (BE), Hall McKnight (NI), Hollmén Reuter Sandman Architects (FI), Jurga Daubaraitė & Jonas Žukauskas (LT), Labics (IT), Mailītis Architects (LV), MAIO (ES), Sauter von Moos (CH), Skrei (PT), Something Fantastic (DE), Taka Architects (IE). The talk will be co-chaired by Manon Mollard, Architectural Review and Andreas Ruby, Swiss Architecture Museum. 

No Place Like Home
15.00 – 16.00

Migration and climate change have a huge impact on our world and are central to contemporary cultural, environmental and political discourse. For this panel discussion, speakers include Baroness Valerie Amos, director of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS); Alison Killing of Killing Architects and creative director of Migration Trail; Steve Trent, executive director of Environmental Justice Foundation, and Justinien Tribillon, urbanist and editor of Migrant Journal. Chaired by Manveen Rana, senior broadcaster at the BBC, the speakers will look at the broader context of migration, the role that climate change plays in this and how, through different approaches to storytelling, information and activism, their work addresses these topics. 

Please note, Thursday 24 May and Friday 25 May are preview days, access to the Giardini in Venice is limited to those accredited with La Biennale. 

Saturday 26 May
(public opening)

The Happy Island: Superstudio and the Nomadic Ideal 
12.00 – 13.00

Taking Superstudio’s The Happy Island project (1971) as a starting point, the Design Museum presents a discussion on nomadic living in a networked world. The Happy Island, one of the Supersurface series of collages, depicts a future domestic idyll played out on a seemingly endless grid. In this borderless techno-utopia, humans roam freely, plugged into the network. Uncanny prophecy or still a distant dream? In this discussion, curators Justin McGuirk and Eszter Steierhoffer (Design Museum) and architects Florian Idenburg (SO-IL) and Anna Puigjaner (MAIO) will explore the questions: how have belonging and domestic life been reconceived in an age of hyper-connectivity? And did Superstudio’s influential images anticipate the way we live today?

11, 12 August

Alternate Languages 

11.00 – 16.00 

For Island, the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) presents Alternate Languages, a performative- and installation-based programme using sound, film, movement and debate to explore ideas of disconnection and island states. This iterative project builds upon the RA’s ambition to heighten a critical awareness of the qualities of space and their impact as they are lived and experienced. Participants will include a range of groups with different spatial sensibilities – due to culture, physical ability or specialism – who will use the empty Pavilion to find a way to express different interpretations, readings and understandings of the space from its volume, form, materiality, light, acoustics, symbolism or association.

28 – 31 August

Tate Collective x Freespace 
11.00 – 16.00

Exploring the relationship between cultural production and architecture through poetry, language and sound, Tate Collective will look at how our surroundings affect creative process. Using young people's lived experience as a departure point, what does it mean to be, work or live within a space? How do we connect to seen and unseen structures in the cities and spaces around us? Where does culture happen and why? Deconstructing and reconstructing the nature of cultural spaces, the group will consider what our future cities and civic and cultural spaces could look like. Visitors to Island are welcome to join Tate Collective and young artists for a series of experiments, conversations, performances and online in response to Freespace.

In addition, the British Council is collaborating with musician Matthew Herbert, word and graphic artist Inua Ellams and Studio Wayne McGregor on a series of performances in the British Pavilion. All events programmed for Island are open to visitors to the Giardini during La Biennale di Venezia. A detailed schedule will be made available to visitors at the start of each month from June to November. Check back here for more information!

Friday 21 September

Les Grands Voisins: new public politics
13.00 – 14.30 

Join members of the Les Grands Voisins team for a picnic lunch as part of the event "Les Grands Voisins: les nouvelles politiques publiques?" in the galleries of the British Pavilion.  Visitors are invited to join the lunch to continue to discuss the subjects of the morning Panel in the French Pavilion and in their Debate Circles. This will include the possibilities of constructing a new public politics that includes urban development, social work, education, public health, democracy, entrepreneurship and ecological change, and visitors will be invited to consider this in relation to ISLAND’s themes. 

This programme has been organised by Les Grands Voisins, one of the participants in the French Pavilion’s programme Infinite Places, in collaboration with the British Pavilion. Les Grands Voisins, have become an emblem of the possibilities for urban vitality, through facilitating the cohabitation between groups of people from different social backgrounds in Paris, from entrepreneurs, craftsmen and artists to migrants, neighbours and tourists.

  • Island Programme, Les Grands Voisins (Adobe PDF 28KB)

    Tuesday 25 September

    Therme Forum: Free Future Cities 
    15.00 – 17.00

    A panel discussion with leading voices in art, architecture, and science about the future of architecture and city planning. Presented within the context of the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale and the British Pavilion's Island Program.

    Featured Panelists:    

    • Hans Ulrich Obrist, Serpentine Galleries Artistic Director
    • Stefano Mancuso, Professor of Botany and Author
    • Lonneke Gordijn, Artist, Studio Drift 
    • Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst, Founding Partner, FuturePace
    • Peter St John, Partner, Caruso St John Architects
    • Robert C. Hanea, President & Chairman of the board, Therme Group™
    • Michaela de Pury, Co-Founder & Partner, de Pury de Pury
    • Simon de Pury, Art Auctioneer, Co-Founder & Partner, de Pury de Pury


    • Mikolaj Sekutowicz, Vice President of Therme Group - International Expansion, & Curator of Therme Art Program 
    • Sara Faraj, Advisory Board, Therme Art Program

    About Free Future Cities

    Using the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale exhibition concept of ‘Freespace’ as a point of departure, Therme Art Program will be hosting a panel discussion under the title Free Future Cities. How can we transform our urban living environments, adapting them to the changing social systems and modifying human behaviour, when appropriate? The topics of ‘Freespace,’ ‘Freetime,’ and ‘Freemind,’ will be analyzed by a multidisciplinary group of leading voices in art, architecture, and science. Discussions will redefine how a free and common environment can liberate the mind and body; how the idea of ‘Freespace’ can be created through innovation in art and architecture; and how aiming for a 'Freefuture' will help us to reconsider architecture and city planning. 

    Learn more about Free Future Cities panellists and view map attached.

    *Please note: admission to FREE FUTURE CITIES is free, but admission into the Giardini requires a Venice Architecture Biennale ticket

    27 October

    British Pavilion Invites Universities:
    Arts University Bournemouth

    10.00 – 17.00 

    Nought may endure but mutability
    - Percy Bysshe Shelley, Poet

    Visitors are invited by the students of Arts University Bournemouth to explore concepts relating to the fragile nature of islands; ever-shifting geographical and psychological boundaries will be considered through a series of workshops and discussions.

    Take part in an interactive workshop to participate in constructing a framed lightweight structure with translucent screens that will define a series of connecting, temporary ‘island spaces’. Folding miniature works will continue to appear throughout the day. Crucially, new folded and drawn pieces created by visitors during the workshop will contribute to this evolving and transformative event.

    With the support of the AUB Mike Davies Fund for international projects

    3 November

    British Pavilion Invites Universities:
    The Kunstakademie Düsseldorf 
    Île Flottante

    10.00 – 18.00

    Students and professors from the departments of Architecture, Art History, Fine Art and Theory at The Kunstakademie Düsseldorf will reconsider the Raft of the Medusa through a continuous sound piece on Saturday 3 November. 

    'The Raft of the Medusa is a story of a catastrophic rescue, of hope and despair’ 

    - John Morgan, The Kunstakademie Düsseldorf

    The Medusa was a ship which ran aground off the coast of Senegal in 1816. Only 15 survived of the 147 left by their captain on a makeshift raft. Two survivors, Henry Savigny and Alexandre Corréard, drew a plan of the construction of the raft; The Kunstakademie and its students have used this as the starting point to explore the idea of a raft 'as a place of isolation and precariousness, but also as a means of escape and encounter, and an indirect provocation to established notions of society.'

    The original 1816 illustration of the abandoned raft by Henry Savigny and Alexandre Corréard is transposed as a musical composition that floats through the rooms of the pavilion in a circular movement audible throughout the Pavilion.

    Mythological and historical stories analogous to the Medusa‘s raft tragedy are compiled and printed on flyers, which will be handed out to visitors by students and tutors of the Kunstakademie, supporting the encompassing sound with narrative and visual content.  

    Sound Concept: Arjan Stockhausen with technical assistance from Till Bödeker 

    Generously funded by The Brenda R. Potter Kunstakademie Düsseldorf Fund for Community, Public Art and Travel 


    9 November

    Studio Wayne McGregor Performance
    14.30, 15.00, 15.30, 16.00

    Artists from Studio Wayne McGregor, an interdisciplinary studio headed up by choreographer Wayne McGregor, will present a performance that will take over to the empty gallery spaces of  ISLAND at the British Pavilion on Friday 9 November. The studio's artists have worked with a group of local dancers (professional and non professional) based in and around Venice to create a site specific dance in response to the abandoned internal galleries of the British Pavilion. The artists have worked with the group of dancers over four days to generate a physical response, using Wayne McGregor’s choreographic processes. The final work will fill the spaces of the pavilion with movement and sound in four short ten minute performances that can be discovered and observed by visitors.

    24, 25 November

    Alternate Languages
    Saturday 11.00 – 18.00, Sunday 12.00 – 14.00

    Over the second weekend in the Alternate Languages series developed by the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) and the final weekend of the Venice Architecture Biennale, artist Rachael Young responds to Island with No Woman is an Island. For this performative showcase, Young brings together three female performance artists – herself, Toni Lewis and Louisa Robbins – working across continents to inhabit the British Pavilion. With vast swathes of the British empire built off the back of migrant communities over the course of generations, the artists invite us to consider how we can come together in the wake of Brexit, nationalism and other divisive political agendas. Collectively this group of women Re:claim the space between the divide; they move beyond borders, culture and place, exploring not what divides us, but rather what connects us. They utilise the universal languages we share, those of love, care and humanity.

    The artists create works that are personal and intimate, connecting with the audience through shared emotional experience.

    See also