Exhibition concept for Polish Pavilion on Biennale di Archittetura 2018 in Venice

As a reference to the theme of this year’s Biennale: Freespace, we intend to spark off debate about the condition of today’s woods, their significance and functions in today’s world. To paraphrase the Biennale curators’ statement, woodlands are the sum of nature’s gifts: the light of the sun and moon, air. They offer us a free and surprising space. 

 

Author's description

Year

Gross building area

Client

Architect

Illustrations

2018

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Zachęta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki

GAB

Maria Dziewolska

Woods take up approx 31% of Poland’s surface area, some 81% of which is public. Woods are also Poland’s largest public space, with an area of 77816 km2. 

As a reference to the theme of this year’s Biennale: Freespace, we intend to spark off debate about the condition of today’s woods, their significance and functions in today’s world. To paraphrase the Biennale curators’ statement, woodlands are the sum of nature’s gifts: the light of the sun and moon, air. They offer us a free and surprising space. 

The point of departure for our discussion is a part of the Białowieża Forest: its fragment made up of primeval forest that has survived without any human interference, of the kind to be found nowhere else in Europe anymore. Without engaging in the recent political squabbles over the forest, we treat it as a perfect form – a ideal woods. 

As urbanised space grows in size and importance, its residents grow apart from nature. Urban vegetation becomes increasingly instrumentalized. Plants serve as mere decoration. In consequence, the presence of trees or any “landscaped area” is reduced to the bare minimum specified by regulations. According to an interview with dr M. Głowacka and dr B. Ogrodnik published on 4.08.2017 in the daily Gazeta Wyborcza, people – and children in particular – are afraid of the woods and don’t feel at home there. A similar phenomenon was described by Richard Louv in his Last Child in the Woods as the nature-deficit syndrome, which adversely affects children’s development. Contact with nature stimulates the senses, teaches concentration and reasoning, and it reduces stress. Woods used to be humans’ natural environment. Today, their existence is determined by their utility: they are supposed to provide us with oxygen and wood. 

Virtual reality is increasingly becoming our natural environment. Virtually augmented reality allows us to move into different worlds. Worlds which can be created using image, but also sound, tactile stimuli and smell, which don’t need to originate from nature. 

In our exhibition, we wish to present woods in two forms: in a virtual way and as a physical live-size model. The unnatural representation of woods produced by the exhibition is intended to provoke the audience to reflect, ask questions and engage in a discussion. Does transgressing certain boundaries make sense? Can human creative endeavours produce an effect equal to nature? Can ubiquitous digitalisation make us flee from nature en masse? Will that be a point of no return? Will we be able to coexist with nature? 

Another purpose of the exhibition is to compare the area of woodlands in several countries in terms of ownership (public vs. private) and type, given the overall surface area of each country. 

© 2019 by GAB