Module Project Workshop Curatorial Studies

Decolonize Venice Architecture Biennale! 
Researching the histories and structures of a global presentation format

Master Level 4 SWS / 6 ECTS
Prof. Dr. Andres Lepik / Assistant: Bahar Gökçen Kumsar

*A requirement for participation in the seminar is submitting a motivation letter; please send this via email to and with the registration for the Seminar. Without this, no fixed place will be allocated.

Following a line of postcolonial thought triggered by decolonization in this seminar, we will investigate (1) the Venice Architecture Biennale (VAB) as a global exhibition format installed by colonial power over time. The VAB has adopted its format directly from the Art Biennale that came into being in colonial times through the power of colonial countries and it has become a historical institution over time. One could argue that the increasing prominence of postcolonial thought even has encouraged the VAB 2023 titled, “the Laboratory of Future”, to question its own format through the appointment of Lesley Lokko as the curator who falls in the spotlight on decolonization/decarbonization and the African diaspora. Accordingly, in the seminar, (2) we will also question the format of the VAB in line with postcolonial thought.

Postcolonial thought arising from globalization and decolonization has emphasized questioning the hegemony of the West and the nation-state paradigm. Embracing such a transition from the nation-state to transnational, contemporary culture has addressed to rediscuss the distance between West and non-West, and emphasized myriad local variations of the architecture of the non-West. Thus, the seminar aims (1) to deepen understanding and discussion on the history of the VAB and the implications of decolonization for the VAB and (2) to foster critical proposals by speculating on how the VAB would go beyond colonial attitude today.

The seminar is organized for research in a continuous discussion and presentation loop. This will require an iterative process of critical reading, mapping and continuous development in research. It will include reading and discussion sessions, lectures, presentations by students, and an excursion to Venice -the VAB, 2023- between the 10th and 12th of August, 2023. Seminar attendance and participation play a key part in the seminar and will be evaluated by the instructor.

The seminar is structured in two modules based on the history of the VAB and the future speculations of the VAB in line with postcolonial thought. At the end of each module, students are expected to present their findings. In the first module, while promoting architecture as the cultural landscape not arising from universal modernism to legitimate the West's authority but rather from the myriad variations of subordinate practices, students are expected to research the history of one of the oppressed/exploited nations' national pavilions. In the second module, the seminar will interrogate the structure and organization of the VAB regarding the political and economic concerns of the institution. Students are expected to research the changes in the structure of the VAB over the years and speculate on how the VAB would go beyond colonial attitude by focusing on the nation they will examine in the first module. In the excursion to the VAB 2023, they are expected to extend their findings with onsite observations and discuss these observations through a collective mapping workshop.

For final submission, students must submit a visualization with cartographic information, along with a complementary critical text not exceeding 2000 words. By the end of the seminar, the students will be able to: (1) be informed about the history of the VAB and its global presentation format, (2) develop an alternative, speculative and transnational approach to the global architecture, and its presentation format through an applying their own method towards critical writing and mapping, (3) have onsite and collective experience about the VAB.

Kick-Off Meeting: Thursday, 20.04.2023, 09.45
Time: Thursday, 09.45 - 13.00
Location: Seminar room 0340 B
Language: English 
Excursion: Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice, Italy /10th-12th August, 2023