Brazil’s official entry at the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale won the Golden Lion for Best National Participation during a special ceremony held on Saturday, May 20th, at the Ca’ Giustinian Ca’ Palazzo in Venice.
A select international jury led by Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, Izabela Wieczorek, Tau Tavengwa, Nora Akawi, and Studio Museum in Harlem Director Thelma Golden was responsible for administering the honor, in line with Biennale’s curatorial theme “The Laboratory of the Future.”
The jury’s statement commended the pavilion for creating a “research exhibition and architectural intervention that center the philosophies and imaginaries of Indigenous and black population towards modes of reparation.”
Titled Terra [Earth], the Brazilian exhibition features a list of Indigenous collaborators and challenges visitors to examine the country’s colonial history through the lens of land rights, land management, and the role Indigenous environmental stewards have in spearheading a push towards a more sustainable future.
The pavilion’s curators Gabriela de Matos and Paulo Tavares shared, “Our curatorial proposal is based on thinking of Brazil as earth. Earth as soil, fertilizer, ground and territory. But also earth in its global and cosmic sense, as planet and common house of all life, human and non-human. Earth as memory, and also as future, looking at the past and at heritage to expand the field of architecture in the face of the most pressing contemporary urban, territorial and environmental issues.”
The exhibition breaks into two separate galleries, beginning with a critical reassessment of the narrative behind the late-1950 construction of Brasilia in “Decolonizing the Canon.” The curators said their aim is to “show an image of a more complex, diverse and plural territory, architecture and heritage of national formation and modernity in Brazil, presenting other narratives through architecture, landscape and heritage neglected by the architectural Canon.” The pavilion also includes a map of Brasilia’s forcibly removed Quilombola dwellings that was commissioned specifically for the Biennale.
The second half of the pavilion, titled "Places of Origin, Archaeologies of the Future," begins with a video installation by the artist Ayrson Heráclito before turning to five separate “memorial heritages” to demonstrate the connection between decolonization and a decarbonized future, backed up by studies which prove Indigenous lands are the best-preserved territories in Brazil thanks to their endemic technologies and customs.
The curators added, “We are very happy to have received this opportunity, inspired by Lesley Lokko, to present Brazil as a diasporic territory with great ancestral contributions by the Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous communities. We believe that those are the technologies that must form part of the solutions to create a different and more egalitarian future for humanity and to restore and protect our natural world.”
“We are very happy with this award that repositions Brazil in the international architectural scene with the exhibition Terra, a show that brings to the Biennale di Venezia the origins of our country. Congratulations to curators Gabriela de Matos and Paulo Tavares and to all who worked with our pavilion. And congratulations to Brazil! Long live Brazilian culture!" the country's The Minister of Culture, Margareth Menezes, said finally.
This is Brazil’s first win in Venice since the event began in 1980. Their entry follows the 2019 Golden Lion winner for Best National Participation at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale from the UAE. The Brazilian pavilion will remain on view until the Biennale closes on November 26th.
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