Danaë by Vadim Zakharov

venice-biennale-russian-pavillion-danae-vadim-zakharov-3-thumb-620x413-60437 copiaMy new article for Cool Hunting.

Greek mythology is the inspiration for the Russian Pavilion at this year’s 55th Venice Art Biennale, which is seen in “Danaë”—a provocative installation conceived by conceptual artist Vadim Zakharov and curated by Udo Kittelman, under the supervision of commissioner Stella Kesaeva.

The rooms of the building (designed and built in 1914 and situated in the area of the Giardini) have undergone some structural changes to connect all of the spaces that host the installation, which consists of objects, performance and the continuous involvement of the visitors.

The action is centered on the flow of custom-made golden coins (each one is One Danaë), symbolizing fertility and abundance. Coins fall from the sky, in a room where only women are allowed to enter (protected by a transparent umbrella) and take a handful. The coins are then brought by female visitors to an adjacent room, put into a bracket and hand-lifted to the upper floor through a hole in the ceiling. The man who takes the coins up is in charge of filling a machine that, thanks to a special lift, automatically takes them to top of the pavilion, where they fall again. This process keeps repeating and repeating.

In another room, a man is sitting on a saddle on top of a pillar. While he’s eating peanuts, the only thing he produces is leftovers falling on the ground—trash, not gold. Writing on the wall says: “Gentlemen, time has come to confess out Rudeness, Lust, Narcissism, Demagoguery, Falsehood, Banality and…” In another room the sentence continues: “…and Greed, Cynicism, Robbery, Speculation, Wastefulness, Gluttony, Seduction, Envy and Stupidity.” Only the golden coins carried by the ladies can save: on one side, their true value is unveiled and it consists of “Trust, Unity, Freedom, Love.”

The 55th Venice Biennale is open to the public now until 24 November 2013.

Torre David / Gran Horizonte

My new article for Cool Hunting

Torre David is an abandoned 45-story skyscraper located in Caracas, Venezuela. After the death of the developer in 1993 and the collapse of the Venezuelan economy a year later, the office tower was almost complete, but the construction was suddenly and inexorably interrupted. Today Torre David is a real vertical slum occupied by a community of more than 750 families. The residents of the tower have spontaneously created a sort of city within a city with areas for sports, leisure, worship and meetings—an extra-legal community whose organization has been studied by Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner, along with research and design teams at Urban-Think Tank and ETH Zürich.

The exhibit Torre David / Gran Horizonte is one of the most incredible surprises at this year’sArchitecture Biennale in Venice. It wasn’t by chance that this project was awarded with the Golden Lion for the Best Project of the Common Ground Exhibition, the true core of the Biennale curated by David Chipperfield.

In the Venetian exhibit and in their book Torre David: Informal Vertical Communities (due to release October 2012), Brillembourg and Klumpner analyze this reality and other similar informal settlements, coming up with concrete ideas for sustainable interventions aimed to transform and take these places back to the urban landscape.

The center of the exhibition is far from a didactic space. The fully functioning arepa restaurant, Gran Horizonte, acts as a traditional place to eat and create community, like those created by the inhabitants of Torre David. The exhibit also displays some breathtaking pictures by Iwan Baan that describe the thin line between everyday life and this one-of-a-kind situation, where despair and beauty coexist in every shot. The Common Ground Exhibition runs through 25 November 2012 at La Biennale.

Image courtesy of the U-TT Archives and Daniel Schwartz.