The Belgium Pavilion at the Venice Biennale is a richly researched collage of domestic adaptations, but its verbose descriptions of everyday interiors strays towards pretentious
Focusing on domestic interiors, Belgium exhibited a five-month research project into the personal and often-improvised alterations inhabitants make to their homes. Over 250 properties are shown in photos and drawings alongside details of the dweller themselves. It argues that occupying a building is a means of interpreting it − selecting, rejecting, adjusting, modifying, transforming. Through a methodical documentation of these interventions, a specific architectural culture is revealed, drawn together in a catalogue of photos characterising the contemporary Belgian residence.
A handful of archetypal ‘interventions’ have been recreated in pure white within the pavilion to create a collage of common domestic architecture, a platonic ideal of the vernacular. Alongside these, extracts from the catalogue are pinned to the walls, the A4 pages lost in the size of the space. The most alluring moments are the simplest: a door clumsily filled in, the retained door jamb giving the game away, or a suspended ceiling cut away to form a skylight for growing plants.
The raw documentation raises interesting questions of taste and agency in how we adapt our homes. It reveals interiors − usually only depicted in a pristine state when a building is new − as dynamic environments. The source material is, however, somewhat obscured by an over-intellectualising of the content. Describing a wardrobe with two fixed counters either side as a ‘tripartite composition’ is pretentious nonsense. Similarly a fridge pulled out into the centre of the room has not been ‘emancipated’. The interiors should be allowed to speak for themselves, not shouted over with self-important theorising.
Photographs of the original Belgian dwellings were taken by Maxime Delvaux