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Into the Fun Palace: The Swiss Pavilion

Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, the Swiss Pavilion transforms an archive into a living, dynamic space, with the work of Cedric Price and Lucius Burckhardt unfolding in a choreographed display of student-pushed trolleys

If you didn’t attend the three-day vernissage, the VIP invitation is being able to visit the Swiss Pavilion now: it was only once the Biennale opened to the public that the show began to operate in earnest − a turning upside-down of the usual chronology.

Artists Tino Sehgal and Asad Raza have made a conceptual space between the Biennale as the collective experience of thousands of visitors, and the individual’s ‘grab and go’ of pavilions and sprint round the Arsenale. The archives of two great lateral thinkers, Cedric Price and Lucius Burckhardt, are reanimated with the explanations of their works offered casually by a mixed group consisting of Swiss students from ETH and Venetian professionals like Jane da Mosto, who before the opening spent a week learning (from) the archives.

They go to the glass-screened stores and wheel out their personal ‘selections’; as I arrived the model of the fun palace was being parked. The local contingent can’t stop themselves from finding ways of making Burckhardt and Price relevant to critical questions in Venice now. Burckhardt’s suggestions for ‘minimal interventions’ − how the world can be changed if we only change our perceptions − is being quoted as a way to gather together multiple proposals for Venice. Price’s Lung for Manhattan is being seen as an analogy for how part of the vast unused areas of the Arsenale might be used as an escape valve, an as-found management plan.

In the pamphlet of hommages, Zaha’s contribution concluded ‘I think the idea that a whole Biennale pavilion should be dedicated to two dead heroes − instead of showing contemporary work − would have called forth Cedric’s typically dry and trenchant dismissal’. Maybe, but the pavilion’s success is the way that each circuit of the trolley is an encounter for those that didn’t meet these two thinkers/makers the first time round.

A Stroll Through a Fun Palace

Curated by Tino Sehgal, Asad Raza and Hans Ulrich Obrist

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