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The Exploratorium was expected to take place in Venice in summer 2020, using as its learning environment the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. Due to the postponement of the biennial, the twelve research tracks have been redesigned around the practices of thirty participants doing research together online in multidisciplinary teams. In this way, they explore their own practice in an international context and develop working methods in a digital dialogue, highlighting and discussing questions and developments surrounding tourism, migration, forms of cohabitation, care for the non-human and interspecies communication, among other topics.

The collaboration with We Are Here Venice (Jane Da Mosto, co-founder and director; and Eleonora Sovrani, researcher) stems from the desire to give the Exploratorium a local context now that research can only take place online. Experts from Venice are therefore represented in the majority of the tracks.

The research will take shape over three months, during which time interim findings will be documented on the platform and shared publicly on a number of occasions. The documentation will form the basis for the second Values for Survival cahier, to be released at the end of the summer.

Thematic Tracks

The structure of the Exploratorium consists of twelve thematic research projects (tracks). All tracks are based on collaborations between Venice and other cities where the track leaders are based. The ambition is to develop the research reciprocally, create new knowledge and touch the limits of working together in the digital sphere. Each track of the Exploratorium will develop an online methodology in a collaborative effort to gather knowledge on 21st Century Values. At the same time each research project will explore different ways of working online, which will be documented and described in a digital and printed publication.

Thematic tracks: Radical Observation, Zoöp, Fisheye Bricola, Space of Other, Vanishing Homelands, Arsenals of Globlization, Forbidden Plants, Sant’Erasmo 2038, Tides of Tourism, Protest or not to Protest, Fans as a communicative tool and Scripts of the Lagoon. Information on the research tracks will be continuesly updated. Texts and titles will not be final until the publication of Cahier 2.

Radical Observation

Radical Observation at Venice's Green Triangle
Participants: Debra Solomon, So Young Han

Radical Observation is a methodology by Solomon/Urbaniahoeve that teaches natural world awareness towards ecosystem stewardship. It is foundational for individuals and groups preparing to ask design questions and reach decisions about their upcoming ecological interventions. The individually performed exercises prepare groups in consolidating their vision. Through regular practice of Radical Observation, individuals come to understand the patterns and rhythms of the ecosystem, experiencing the self as part of it, gradually becoming a knowledgeable steward. Practitioners of Radical Observation exercises assume observation postures for periods of time ranging from 10 minutes, to an hour, to a month, and that incorporate specific perspectives towards the ongoing natural world processes and entropy. Developed over years of teaching, the technique focuses attention on processes occurring over time; i.e. plants growing throughout seasons, plant communities wandering through space, habitats accommodating ever more plant and animal life. So Young Han/WahV will offer practical support and manage Radical Observation in Venice including connecting this initiative with local residents and community groups to ensure its lasting impact.


A zoönomic method
Participants: Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Jane da Mosto, Patricia Ribault, Emile de Visscher, Martin Müller, Samuel Bianchini, Didier Bouchon, Sophie Krier, Brice Ammar-Khodja, Brice Ammar-Khodja

In a distributed and collaborative practice-based process, researchers and students from Berlin, Paris and Rotterdam will develop a method that makes legible as well as actionable the development of resilience in a zoöp. A zoöp, short for zoöperation, is a new organisational form for collaboration between humans and nonhumans in situated multispecies communities.

After selecting the sites of research, the process will iteratively follow three steps:

  • Identifying the most relevant disturbances that happen to the zoöp, understood as the events that require the zoöp become capable of a new behaviour in order to maintain its quality of life.
  • Make legible for humans in a straightforward material way the key processes of communication within the zoöp that are involved in responding to disturbances.
  • To find the ways in which the capacities of communication need to develop for the zoöp to learn the behaviour by which it becomes more resilient in relation to its disturbances

Fisheye Bricola

Participant: Lada Hrsak

How big is the impact of the microorganisms on our planet? Radical Covid-19 crisis pointed out what the micro-biology knew for a long time. The scale relations and entanglements between social and ecological processes, visible and invisible worlds, are the main topics of the Fisheye project. Adressing the microorganisms, policies, ideologies and data embedded in spatial practices, the project looks into the hybrid geographies of the the Venice Laguna comparig it to the Dutch Marjermeer-Ijsselmeer. Looking into the fragile ballance of the shallow water territories, the narrative unfolds around the main protagonist, ‘bricola’ waterpole. The story unravels the multiplicity of scales, communities and impacts, simultaneously reflecting the prospects of raising waters, and emerging bio-immunity policies.

This research operates at the intersection of architecture, science and nature, established as collaborative effort between architects, scientists in the fields of bentic aquatic biology and envinronmental science. Challenging a perception of water from an omnipresent ‘blue’ space, towards a rich body with agency and an essential factor for cohabitation and immunity of this planet.

Narratives presenting the voices of the lagoon, will be bundled in an Ilustrated magazine with contributions by multidisciplinary parties, and accompanied by animated illustrations poping up live on your phone. The magazine and (animated) visuals aim to inspire the conversations and cross the disciplinary borders of science, arts and humanities, playing with the visible and the invisible actors and surprising interrelations in the narrative. By doing this, the project is questioning the accepted hegemonies of human-dominance to other species, hoping we can replug ourselves back into a planetary metabolism. Fisheye is a call for reflection, and humbleness.

Forbidden Plants

Forbidden Garden of Europe
Participants: Studio Wild (Jani van Kampen, Jesse van der Ploeg, Tymon Hogenelst), Elena Rucli, Janja Šušnjar, Vida Rucli, Matteo Vianello

For this Exploratorium we will research and investigate the possibilities for a radical new garden on the former site of the 19th century Orto Botanico di Venezia at San Giobbe. The site has long been abandoned since it has been used for various other functions like a torpedo factory and an electricity company. Our research is triggered by a European legislation from 2016, which consists 35 alien invasive plant species that have been put on a list of Union Concern. This means that these plant species have been degraded to a minority that cannot be traded, imported, sold or grown within the borders of the European Union. We want to provoke this European legislation by dealing with the question if spatial, legal and social restric¬tions always contribute to a more biodiverse society. We want to question the impact of legislation on nature and our built environment by exploring the theme of nature versus culture and pose questions like what is native and what is invasive. We think that by investigating the role of the garden within our society, togeth¬er as designers and researchers, we will find new ways of working with nature and our built environment, which are both under enormous pressure. For this we pose that the Orto Botanico di Venezia can be the perfect stage for reinventing the city garden of the present and the future.

Space of Other

Space of Other Lisbon
Participants: Afaina de Jong, InnaVisions, Giovanni Lourenço

Space of Other is a spatial installation and performative space by architect Afaina de Jong and artist InnaVisions that explores the relation between space and identity in the context of the gentrifying city. The installation mediates between the public spaces of the city, its interior spaces and its residents altering notions of representation through presentation. Spaces like identities are constructed. And even though spaces can often seem neutral or given, our movements, activities and life are always dictated by the way space is produced. The same is true for identity. Identities are constructed and not always by ourselves. In this moment in history we are once more reconsidering notions of identity, while at the same cities are becoming more and more universal and generic. Gentrification is displacing residents who have over time created local cultures, causing the loss of identity, community, and public space. Spaces of Other aims to find answers to the question of how to define identity within the dynamic environment of the city. During the summer of 2019 Space of Other hosted performances and talks with Local creatives, thinkers and do-ers in the Space of Other installation at Wozen Gallery.

Protest or not to Protest

Participants: Erica Overmeer, Eleonora Sovrani, Iván Martínez, Wouter Pocornie

With this track we will research and critically discuss the ‘linguistics’ and iconography of disruption, protest, and engagement in the context of a multispecies urbanism – as related to our own experiences, practice, and interests. We will review and reflect on these topics in relation to the urban context of Venice, and this year's Bienniale theme, How Will We Live Together, and Values for Survival as introduced by the Exploratorium of the Dutch Pavilion. We will discuss and research these topics on the level of images and the visual linguistics and ‘medialization’ – and look at the manifestation, contextualization, and representation of activism as a spatial form, and engagement, in the media, online, and otherwise. In the course of this research, we will explore the possibility of a visual narrative of our own. In the further process, we will develop a form where this narrative could work on the platform of the Exploratorium, as well as in printed form.

Vanishing Homelands

Participants: Marco Moretto, Hasna Hena Mamataz, George Kurian

Parts of our world experience climate change as personal and social catastrophe, but to many others, it is still an abstract concept, about a possible future reality. Politicians and elected leaders of some of the most powerful countries still debate if climate change is real or fiction, lobbying for industries that are proven contributors of global warming, unable to acknowledge it unambiguously and act decisively on the encircling global crisis. The waves of migration by victims of climate change who have lost homes, livelihoods, ways of life and homelands are still propagandistically lumped into the xenophobic political discourse of “illegal immigration”, blinding us to the reality of an ecological phenomenon that will affect the whole planet.

Through a series of interviews, testimonies and dialogues, using Investigative journalism and demographic data, we analyze the impact of global warming on two complex and fragile ecosystems. Venice, Italy and Shariatpur in Bangladesh are seemingly in opposite ends of the world. Though separated by geographic, climatic and cultural realities, both places are tied to the same tragic fate, being continuously impacted by rising of global temperatures and sea levels.

Sant’Erasmo 2038

Power dynamics and food production in the Venice Lagoon
Participants: Marta Fernandez Guardado, Sonja Junkers, Sonja Junkers, Roberta Jurcic, Christopher Roth, Matteo Stocco

Sant’Erasmo was until now another struggling local pantry for the restaurants in the center of Venice, dedicated to mass tourism. The island, with severe difficulties to compete with the global market and after decades of exploitation and environmental abuse, has been suddenly reappointed as possible fruitful habitat for Venetians, humans and non-humans. This is the starting point of a collaborative project that combines documentary with science-fiction, aiming to explore the complex current situation of Sant’Erasmo and speculate with feasible and favourable scenarios for its future as a living structure.


Tides of Tourism

Participants: Scott W. Cunningham, Pinar Sefkatli, Carolyn Smith, Julia Ubeda

In this track we will investigate tourism as a spatio-temporal phenomenon, with its own daily, weekly, seasonal and yearly rhythms, which can be guided and governed as flows and tides. Rhythms, like tides, engage temporality and spatial compositions, and in the urban context they also gain a policy dimension. Conceptualising tourism through these frames of reference allows space to reconsider ontologies around demographics (i.e. the tourist and the local), regulations (local and regional scales), and spatial usages and distributions, while rhythm interventions choreographs how these urban practices intersect. Our exploration takes place in Amsterdam, Venice and Glasgow, cities that were adapted to tidal rhythms throughout the centuries. The first two cities are faced with overflowing tourism, and have adopted different management approaches, while the latter is looking for ways to invite tourism, enrich the economy of the city. By proposing rhythm interventions, we will think speculatively about orchestrating tourism in cities.

Arsenals of Globlization

Venice and Amsterdam: the identity of shipping ‘arsenals’ and maritime material culture
Participants: Jerzy Gawronski, Francesco Tiboni, Willem van Zoetendaal, Gilberto Penzo

The Arsenale of Venice is nowadays an urban landmark and the core location of the Biennale. Historically, it was the centre of the naval power of the Republic of Venice, where the naval and merchant fleet of the city state was mass produced. Its origin dates back to the 12th century and it continued to function as ‘one of the earliest large-scale industrial and military enterprises in history’ into the 19th century. The formula of self contained large scale production complexes can be recognized in another maritime city, Amsterdam. Although incomparable in size and age, the 17th-and 18th-century shipyards of the trading organization of the Dutch East India Company and the city’s Admiralty (navy) can be considered as identical to the Arsenale in the way they represent predecessors of industrial production and urban centres of globalisation linked to shipping networks. The exploratory project of archaeologists Jerzy Gawronski and Francesco Tiboni aims to show on the basis of archaeological analysis that Venice and Amsterdam share an identical spatial and material organization defined by the rules of maritime culture. Their similarities will be shown with a catalogue of archaeological finds of shipbuilding tools from both cities. The catalogue will be designed according to the model which Willem van Zoetendaal developed for the c. 12.000 urban material culture items recovered during the Amsterdam North/Southline metroproject (catalogue Stuff).

Fans as a communicative tool

Participants: Richard Niessen, Marco Moretto

In this track we research the fan as a communicative tool. But few historic totems carried as much symbolic weight as the handheld decorative fan. Hand fans were absent in Europe during the middle ages until they were reintroduced in the 13th and 14th centuries through Venice, when fans from the Middle East were brought by Crusaders and refugees from Constantinople. Traders brought them from China and Japan in the 16th century, and fans became generally popular. During a certain period of time, the fan became an ideal instrument of communication in an age on which freedom of speech for women was absolutely restricted. The main gestures were known as “the language of the fan”. The earliest such language was made up of individual letters, later variations were “extensions of body language”, mostly to transmit a love code. Not only are fans beautiful, a great means for communication, used in social etiquette and thus a carrier of expression in many cultures, they are foremost practical objects to carry on a warm day in times of climate change. The ornate, dramatic, and once-ubiquitous item is more worth resurrecting than ever: wouldn’t it be great to develop an updated messaging system for these battery-free tools to cool down? 

Scripts of the Lagoon

Participants: Huda AbiFarès, Michel Banabila, Fantina Madricardo, Mohamed Gaber, Marta Picciulin

The research project explores the relation between sound and responsive asemic scripts (scripts that deconstruct culture-specific and structured languages and transforms them into a universal language of pure emotion). The research project aims to develop an audio-visual script for transhuman life forms. The interaction between sound, colors, shapes, and motion will create a series of animated audio-visual segments, phrases consisting of unintelligible sounds, that can be assembled and combined in endless configurations, triggered by and responding to movement and light. The sounds of the Venetian lagoon forms the base of this exploration and guides the creation of this imaginary script that will act as interface between the underwater and the overwater worlds. With water as a central theme, other keywords will be scripted into the content, referencing hypothetical values for future communication across species. A series of prototypes will be created and displayed on screens in an interactive installation.

Guus Beumer, artistic director Het Nieuwe Instituut
Francien van Westrenen, head of Agency Het Nieuwe Instituut
Afaina de Jong, architect and researcher; Debra Solomon, artist and researcher
Richard Niessen
Laura Pappa, Robert Milne
Juan Arturo García
Caroline Nevejan, Chief Science Officer City of Amsterdam; Huda AbiFarès, graphic design and co-editor
Mike Emmerik, Simone Rots, Independent School for the City
Lada Hršak, Bureau LADA; Chiara Dorbolò and Daphne Bakker, Failed Architecture; Tymon Hogenelst and Jesse van der Ploeg, Studio Wild