17.09.2012 Cordula Vielhauer

Effect Rooms 1: Netherlands, Poland, Serbia

A curtain dances through the Dutch Pavilion, the walls vibrate in the Polish Pavilion, and everyone can have go at the gigantic table drum in the Serbian Pavilion: the curators of some of the national pavilions in the Giardini use their pavilions as exhibits in themselves. Three of these 'effect rooms' are presented here: Netherlands, Serbia and Poland.
In another life, fashion designer Peter Niessen would presumably have become a dancer: the co-designer of this year's Dutch Biennale contribution in the Giardini doesn't stand still for even a second while explaining his concept to us. Re-Set is the name of the installation, for which Inside-Outside (Petra Blaisse) was commissioned by curator Ole Bouman (nAi). It refers on the one hand to the Dutch contribution of two years ago, when the pavilion was literally filled 'up to the ceiling' with models of vacant buildings in the Netherlands. But the pavilion itself is empty for eight months of the year – during the periods when there is no Art or Architecture Biennale. This emptiness was chosen as the topic for 2012, which is why the Rietveld Pavilion is now an exhibit itself. The Dutch go about this simply as well as beautifully: a curtain of different fabrics and materials runs through the pavilion at 5-minute intervals along a meandering rail, dividing the pavilion – or also the visitors – into various different sections.
A lively play of light and colours results, which is reinforced by the reflectors in the ceiling especially fitted for this exhibition. While the latter reflect rays of sunlight on the walls like windows of light, the pink side of the curtain gives the room a rosy glow. Transparent, closed and metallic surfaces alternate. You can even experience a kind of solar eclipse if you wait for the whole cycle to complete.
The Serbs already declared their pavilion to be the exhibit in itself during the last Architecture Biennale in 2010. At the time, they put a large box in a narrow room. Only one person at a time was admitted to this room, while all the others could look inside through small round peep holes and watch that person looking. While things were mainly about seeing two years ago, hearing and touch are addressed by the installation commissioned by curator Igor Maric this year: a huge table is located right in the middle of the room, as an interpretation of the Common Ground theme of the Biennale.
The designers of the exhibition translated the title literally: Common stands for unity, something indivisible, at the same time banal, while Ground stands for an area, the basis. This resulted in an oversized plate, which is a table as well as a sounding board. Knocking or drumming on the surface is turned into a variety of sounds that can be heard coming out of loudspeakers. The Common Ground becomes the sounding board for a joint drum fire.
Something isn't quite right here: at first, the Polish Pavilion looks like a bright, friendly room with a wooden floor, grey walls and a special kind of skylight. But that's only the first impression. Walking around the room designed by Katarzyna Krakowiak who was commissioned by curator Michal Libera, it soon becomes evident that the walls are crooked and the floor is sloping. On top of that, the insides of the building rattle, hum and vibrate. The sounds produced are transmitted inside the pavilion through loudspeakers. It's loud. Making the walls quake as if they were dilating with the secret knowledge of great powers is the name of the contribution that this year's jury also found to deserve a Special Mention.
all photographs: Jonas Stürzebecher, Berlin
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