The Australian Institute of Architects will present unsettling Queenstown at the Australia Pavilion at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, which will run from May 20 to November 26, 2023.
Curators Anthony Coupe, Julian Worrall, Emily Paech, Ali Gumillya Baker and Sarah Rhodes have created a multi-faceted and multi-sensory installation for the Pavilion, exploring themes of decolonisation and decarbonisation through the construct of ‘Queenstown’. There are Queenstowns all over the former British Empire: in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Africa, and both the Americas. It is a place both local and global.
Unsettling Queenstown will highlight Australia’s colonial inheritance at the end of the second Elizabethan era, treating Queenstown as an emblem for decolonial struggle the world over. Weaving between real and fictional Queenstowns, the exhibition will explore and question the relations between people and the environment under the logics of colonialism and resource extraction, through the lens of a place in which these are brought into sharp focus.
Addressing the theme of The Laboratory of the Future set by curator Lesley Lokko for the Biennale Architettura 2023, unsettling Queenstown will respond to the call to ‘chart a path for the audience to weave through, imagining for themselves what the future can hold.’
The Queenstown at the heart of the exhibition is a colonial copper-mining town on the island of Lutruwita (Tasmania). An additional Queenstown is on Kaurna Yarta, kuraYartaPuulti (South Australia near Port Adelaide). These Queenstowns will be represented and reimagined through video and voice.
At the centre of the Pavilion a ghostly fragment of colonial architecture is suspended – a 70% scale model of the belvedere of the town’s Empire Hotel – a wire frame constructed of copper tubing, this colonial ghost will be accompanied by immersive sounds, voices and images.
The intervention of settler colonisation has consistently involved an overwriting of Aboriginal Country, whereby British names and symbols are stamped upon Indigenous lands, in processes that have been repeated and refined all over the world. Unsettling Queenstown constitutes an act of ‘demapping’, revealing hidden histories of Country where colonies are built.
These layered representations of demapped Country will form part of an archive of tactics and methods from contemporary practice, engaging themes of temporality and narrative, offering ways toward reimagined futures, transcending the encirclements of our many inherited Queenstowns.
The creative directors said: “The British Imperial hangover is pervasive in every corner of the globe: there is quite literally a Queenstown on every continent, bar Antarctica. Unsettling Queenstown unites decolonial theory and praxis, weaving elements from real places and gleanings from current architectural intelligence in search of ingredients to contribute to Venice’s Laboratory of the Future.”
Tony Giannone, Australian Institute of Architects Venice Committee Chairman, said: “The AIA is honoured to take part in this year’s Biennale Architettura, the most important event in the international architectural calendar. Unsettling Queenstown will offer an immersive, multi-sensory experience that will captivate and challenge visitors. The exhibition represents an approach to architectural thinking that we believe will become a critical strategy of architectural culture worldwide.”
Unsettling Queenstown will be the ninth exhibition coordinated by the Australian Institute of Architects at the Biennale Architettura. The exhibition will be installed in the Denton Corker Marshall-designed Pavilion of Australia (2015) – the first 21st-century Pavilion to be built in the Giardini.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on 18 May, 2023 at 1.00pm.
In 2023, the Institute is pleased to welcome back Janet Holmes à Court AC as Commissioner of the Australian Exhibition.