"This hybrid book would therefore like to respond to three basic needs.
First, to honour the purpose that has characterised the Venice Design Biennial since its inception: the idea of presenting design exhibitions to visitors in a way that is inherently integrated with the experience of the city. That is, above all else, the act of walking. Venice, even more than in its physical and urban features, is defined in its experiential fabric by the practice of walking. Walking speed becomes a sort of universal constant (even the gondolas and vaporetti do not differ much: nothing moves quickly in Venice) that projects a unique, suspended temporality, immediately felt by those who land for the first time in the city. The goal was for the visitor to encounter contemporary design in an experiential sequence in which the Venetian context was not a simple backdrop, but a device for action (walking, crossing bridges, swaying on a boat or a pier), perception (refraction of the light in the omnipresent water, the humidity, the brackish aroma) and reflection, which interacted with the contents of the exhibitions. Venice, due to the way it is designed, is the context, in the strongest sense of the term, of a text made up of design exhibitions.
Now, the implicit assumption of this vision was that the onsite experience constituted the central pillar of the entire initiative. Clearly, the health crisis has shaken this certainty, putting the remote, online experience at the centre of the design scene for the first time. The question, therefore, has become: how to return the con-text of the Venice Design Biennial to the visitor who cannot physically reach the city in this historical moment?
The answer we gave ourselves is that the representation of the real context of the city could not work by itself. Having to act in a scenario of largely online-based use (social, web, media), the representation of the real context had to open up, mix, hybridise, and play a critical and self-critical visual game in relation to that same scenario - whose distinctive feature is the incessant crossing of heterogeneous visual fields, the mixing, the manipulation, the hybridisation, the dissolution of contextual frames. Not dissimilar to the how I can shift from one world to another at a distance of a browser tab. The answer could only be in the images as a field of action that opens up to the new con-text.
The images of Venice that you see in some portions of this book are not photographic reproductions of Venice in the usual sense, but visual alterations of the image / imaginary of the city. These pictures are produced with the use of artificial intelligence techniques such as hybridisation from vast databases driven by a ‘genetic makeup’, or the pure generation of pictures from a text string. But also, techniques inspired by hyperphotography, kaleidoscopy, and all the methods of manipulation and post-production that the advent of the equivalence between image and information configured in bytes originated. Those sequences, at times perturbing and bizarre, of a non-existent Venice (titled This Venice doesn't exist if it were an online project) as no real place corresponds to it - those sequences would like to be the con-text of this Venice Design Biennial. As if, moving from one exhibition to another in the territory of a city where you are not physically present, you crossed perceptive spaces characterised by the visual stereotypes of Venice, made to explode in the flow of consumption and the reworking of online images. Perhaps, walking through those calli and those visual bridges, however unusual, will ultimately constitute an authentic experience of the Venetian context in this strange era, in which we often could not walk in our cities, but only observe visual flows on the screens. The photographs of the real exhibitions will instead constitute a map of reassuring islands, where the presence of the pieces and installations is reproduced ‘faithfully’, if it makes sense to say so, in the dialogue with the spaces that host them. The book, which brings images back to an object nature, remains a highly effective form of offering a remote experience in terms of space and time, but contained within less permeable contextual boundaries when compared to the online realm.
This book, therefore, intends to be an exhibition catalogue that structurally adapts to the altered conditions of the exhibition experience, and of design exhibitions in particular, with the aim to open up a field of reflection in which design itself is the focus."
"Hybrid Venice. Designing a Self-Portrait"
By Luca Berta, Francesca Giubilei
Curated by Venice Design Biennial
Graphic design and images: Sebastiano Girardi Studio
Exhibition photos: Federico Floriani
Publisher: Quodlibet Edizioni
Texts in Italian and English
2022, pp. 240. Full index here.