One of the most to-the-point national presentations in the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale is Latvia’s pavilion Unwritten. The name literally refers to unwritten histories - a lack of books or research projects on modernist architecture in Latvia, as the exhibit details.
To tackle this claim in the most straightforward way, the presentation invites the audience to send examples of Latvian modernist architecture to its Facebook album “Searching for Modernism architecture in Latvia” and all submitted material will serve as a basis for the so far non-existing book. What is displayed in the Biennale, is a cloud of its pages, but as today clouds are used for storing digital information, the display also becomes itself a reflection of a very current form of publishing as means of exhibiting.
I’m partly drawing from some personal experiences here, but a usual response to considering Facebook as any kind of tool for artistic creation or research purposes often gets a certain so-it’s-not-really-serious-then reaction. Yet I think this is exactly one of the most interesting aspects of Unwritten, because despite the potential cool factor backlash, it is hard to deny the logic of using a popular social media platform for crowd-sourcing. And this becomes especially true if you don’t really have a project, website, or funding in the traditional sense. (Or if your project goes anyway against the official currents of money and research interests.)
In this context, should it matter where a call for submissions is published? How does the coolness of platforms affect the evaluation of projects? Does navigating these ecosystems of production and publication become a part of the practice? Is an officiated package sometimes more important than the content? I think in today’s increasing architectural cultural production, these are valid questions.
Regardless, Unwritten is also a powerful audiovisual display with substance in its own right. Besides, the historical canon on modernist architecture could probably use a similar hacking in many other countries as well.
The floating cloud of pages are (of course) digitally readable on Issuu.
Credits: NRJA (Uldis Lukševics, Linda Leitane – Šmidberga, Zigmars Jauja, Ivars Veinbergs, Martinš Rusinš) in collaboration with graphic designer Kirils Kirasirovs; sound artist Andris Indāns, multimedia support Rihards Vītols and full-service event agency PAREIZĀ ĶĪMIJA.