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Albanian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale



Photo by Špela Volčič


Last week I was in Venice to assist in setting up the Albanian Pavilion for the 2016 Architecture Biennale.

I have left you the mountain presents ten new texts written by contemporary writers and thinkers on the architecture of displacement. These texts have been set to music and sung by some of the last remaining groups of Albanian iso-polyphonic singers, an art form now protected as “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO.

The pavilion is curated by Simon Battisti, Leah Whitman-Salkin and Åbäke, and sound design and programming is by Peter Meanwell (artistic director for Borealis) and yours truly.


Performances were captured as 8 channel audio recordings with separate channels for each voice. Using 8 speakers at the pavilion each of the voices is reproduced individually. Playback is controlled by a record player playing MsPinky vinyl records containing timecode information. A Max patch interprets this information in order to control playback of the 8 channel tracks.

I hoped to be able to spend the final days seeing the rest of the biennale and experience Venice in general, but old Mr. Max is a jealous person, and managed to come up with various bugs to keep me occupied. By the end of the stay it seems like we had managed to track them down and make workarounds, and the patch has now been stable for the past three days. Let’s hope that it stays that way.


The pavilion seems to be well received:

The Albanian space is an unexpected delight, a highlight: tiny corner of Arsenale minimally divided with a rubber curtain, and minimally filled with some pink casts, and voices. Ten texts by contemporary authors, about the architecture of displacement – geographical, cultural – are set to music and sung by some of the last Albanian ico-polyphonic singers, a UNESCO-protected intangible cultural heritage. A longing for belonging, for the structures of culture, is beautifully evoked.



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