(Amsterdam, June 18 2014) The 14th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia under direction of curator Rem Koolhaas has opened to the public. XML is part of the main exhibition of this year’s Biennale with the contribution ‘Theaters of democracy’ in the section Monditalia.
In the contribution ‘Theatres of democracy’, XML brings together its ongoing research into spaces of political congregation with an analysis of the typology of the semi-circular Greek theatre as an architectural device for democracy. Even though today’s representative democracies face different forms of crisis, many houses of parliament still draw upon an ancient architecture. The dominant model for spaces of political congregation remains the semi-circular typology of the Greek theatre, as preserved in Siracusa’s Teatro Greco in Sicily.
By exploring citizenship as a form of spectatorship, the XML installation in the Corderie of the Arsenale contrasts the inclusive architecture of Teatro Greco and the feeling of exclusion that many associate with today’s mediated politics. On one side of a wall, visitors can look through a series of peepholes into today’s halls of parliaments. The other side of the wall presents a wallpaper with a genealogy of the semi-circle that shows how the semi-circle has travelled to modern times - whereas the semi-circle as a symbol of democracy persisted, the reality of democracy has changed significantly.
Over the last two years, XML has visited and documented spaces of political congregation across the world. Part of that research is presented in this installation that contrasts the interiors of contemporary parliaments with an analysis of the history of the semi-circle: from the inclusive space of the open air Greek theatre to contemporary parliaments built as television studios. How did the meaning of the semi-circle change from an architecture of collectivity, to a mere symbolic architecture that leaves the task of shaping politics to media? And how can our spaces of political congregation be modernized while taking the genealogy of the semi-circle fully into account?