French Pavilion 18th International Architecture Exhibition —La Biennale di Venezia
A theater to awaken the desire for utopia
The Ball Theater is a hemispherical theater built inside the French Pavi- lion, like a pavilion within the pavilion. It reflects the Biennale Architet- tura 2023 general theme – “Laboratory of the Future” – set by Lesley Lokko, because the theater is in essence a laboratory of identities, of places and of imaginaries. It is a device that enables people to project themselves into elsewheres and into the future. What the artistic team does here is to create an architecture that offers visitors an experience that is simultaneously spatial, aesthetic and acoustic. For, according to Lesley Lokko, today it is no longer the role of architecture to represent or to be represented as an image. Architecture needs to be real, tangible and concrete, to become the place where life, society and the future are experienced! Architecture is no longer something to be avoided. It needs to be made and experienced. It is time to stop looking backwar- ds, as most exhibitions do, and to look forwards. It is time to write the next chapter.
Awakening our desires for utopia
The installation is designed to reawaken our desires for utopia. With its globe shape, the theater immediately recalls the architectures of revolu- tion or of the Russian constructivists. Its smooth and continuous outline gives it a utopian aura that represents a world in miniature, this terres- trial globe that we are now ever more aware of sharing, with its meri- dians and its parallels. The shape of the theater is an invitation to look forward again, beyond crises. In a time of emergency, austerity and cli- mate anxiety, this theater delivers a message: let us awaken the utopia within us! Let us allow ourselves moments of discovery and euphoria.
Imagine it’s party time
The theater’s shape can be interpreted equally as a terrestrial globe or as a mirror ball, a kitsch icon of an era when partying was still possible. This party aura suggests a new approach to today’s crises, one where the emphasis is no longer on emergency, but on the possibility of ima- gining somewhere and something different. This is enacted in the life of the theater for the duration of the Biennale Architettura 2023 by the alternation between moments of contemplative immersion in a sounds- cape echoing with foreign and far-off voices, and periods of intense occupation and activity based on variations on the theme of the “ball”, an interplay of workshop-residencies involving artists, researchers and students.
An intriguing experiment
The installation intrigues visitors by placing them at the center of a stage that prompts risk-taking, speech, gesture and intervention. It is not the typical theater of illusion characterized by the face-to-face between actors and audience, but a theatrical setting designed for experiment. A stage that delivers an experience that challenges. Which does not so much provide answers as raise questions. Where did this half-sphere come from? Who lives in it? What is it for? How did it get there? What are the fragments of voices, the whisperings and radio static that ema- nate from these loudspeakers saying? Has it just landed or is it about to take off? These are questions we ask ourselves in an uncertain wor- ld: should we stay grounded or take off? Should we get close to things, create new communities, erase distances and distinctions, or conver- sely withdraw and remain aloof? How to choose? How do we reinvent our relationship to this world in quest of a future? And how do we readdress the question of ecology, in a fundamental way, by means of architecture, and not against or despite it?
Muoto (Gilles Delalex, Yves Moreau) & Georgi Stanishev
Sophie Mandl, Project Manager
Associate Curator Jos Auzende
Georgi Stanishev & Clémence La Sagna assisted by Laure Muller
Jos Auzende, Anna Tardivel
Muoto : Sophie Mandl
Pilooski (Cédric Marszewski), Alain Français, Thomas Fourny
Les Ateliers de l’Éclairage
Scientific “sound” consultants Carlotta Darò, Nicolas Tixier
Mainardi Metallurgica Ranzato Bruno&Figli Phoenix audio
Graphic Design Spassky Fischer and Giovanni Murolo