Marcus Taylor and Caruso St John construct an island on the roof of the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale – leaving a vacant space below to echo Britain’s precarious position within Europe
Words by Ellen Peirson
Pavilion of Great Britain at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition
La Biennale di Venezia
Until 25 November 2018
For the first time in the history of the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, an artist and an architect have collaborated to create not an exhibition, but a piece of architecture.
Marcus Taylor and Caruso St John’s collaboration sees the joining of two different modes of thinking and working to form something fresh, bold and powerful. The subtle nature of architecture, existing to solve problems and answer questions, is juxtaposed with the force of art that demands we question the world around us.
Where architects are restricted, artists are free and this pavilion is placed at the threshold of these two influences. They have created a public space on the roof of the British Pavilion, named Island, offering visitors to the Giardini a new place to meet.
On the surface, it references both Venice and Britain’s proximity to water and the uncertainty of this, both physically and in relation to Brexit – an inextricable link for the British Pavilion this year.
For the curators, Island has deeper readings. In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the protagonists are shipwrecked and are washed up on an island. Though the island saves them, they are still lost. The constructed space is the island, a raft on the roof of the Pavilion. With no exhibition, the space is both a haven to save visitors from the activity of the biennale below and a lost space where before there were exhibitions.
The pavilion itself is left empty to take on its own ethereal quality with the haunted characteristics that empty spaces enclose – holding only the memories of previous exhibitions. This idea of absence echoes Britain’s precarious position within Europe.
While the ideas behind the pavilion can seem dark, desperate and isolating, the space is somewhere to gather and share ideas. It will hold performances of The Tempest as well as by poet, Kate Tempest, whose poetry speaks of everyday life in Britain, becoming a place of poetry, theatre and celebration.