This article originally appeared in UChicago News on August 30, 2017.
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago jointly announced today their selection by the U.S. Department of State to serve as co-commissioners of the United States Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. As co-commissioners, the two institutions will organize Dimensions of Citizenship, the exhibition they proposed as the official United States contribution to the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, on view from May 26 through Nov. 25, 2018.
The curators of the exhibition are Niall Atkinson, associate professor of architectural history at the University of Chicago; Ann Lui, assistant professor at SAIC and co-founder of the architecture office Future Firm; and Mimi Zeiger, an independent critic, editor, curator and educator based in Los Angeles.
Particularly important in today's context, Dimensions of Citizenship will grapple with the meaning of citizenship as a cluster of rights and responsibilities at the intersection of legal, political, economic and societal affiliations. Contemporary issues in the world today—from immigration to the impact of technology on individuals and nations—make it clear that now, and in the years to come, the stakes of citizenship are exceedingly high.
In a statement, the curators said, “It is urgent that architecture act as an important tool in understanding, shaping and envisioning what it means to be a citizen today. Our goal is to present the United States as a site of critical research and practice in architecture, at the intersection of old and new forms of community engagement, political action and public policy. Globalization, digital technology and geopolitical transformations are continuing to challenge conventional notions of citizenship across scales. This exhibition will present works by architects, designers, artists and thinkers who are responding to today’s shifting modes of citizenship, and putting forth visions of future ways of belonging.”
SAIC and the University of Chicago will announce the exhibitors selected for the U.S. Pavilion soon.
“The arts at the University of Chicago embrace a commitment to experimental scholarship with global impact and engagement with distinctive architecture.” said Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago. “The Venice Biennale provides an opportunity to collaborate with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on an exhibition that presents the American architectural imagination at its best, and dramatizes how that imagination connects to the urgent global question of citizenship,”
“At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, we are always engaging with how artists, designers, and scholars enact their citizenship,” says SAIC President Elissa Tenny. “This means recognizing the responsibility artists and designers have to explore pressing issues, like the politics of belonging, and generate new ideas, which help us better share our common humanity. The Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects at SAIC has a history of embracing this challenge head-on, pursuing urgent questions across disciplines with distinguished peers like the University of Chicago and in international forums like the Venice Architecture Biennial.”
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State supports and manages official U.S. participation at the Venice Architecture Biennale. The selection of the joint SAIC/University of Chicago proposal for Dimensions of Citizenship for the U.S. Pavilion in 2018 was made through an open competition and recommendations from the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions, convened by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Atkinson is the author of The Noisy Renaissance: Sound, Architecture, and Florentine Urban Life, an excavation of the historical meaning of sound and construction of urban space in Renaissance Florence. His research focuses the experience of space and the reception of architecture in early modern Europe, which has led to several collaborative projects involving the digital reconstruction of the social life and spatial context of Florence in the 15th century. His articles have appeared in I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance, Grey Room and Senses & Society. His investigation of “Wandering in Rome in the Enlightenment,” co-written Susanna Caviglia, is forthcoming in Word & Image.
Lui is a co-founder of Future Firm, an architectural practice working at the intersections of landscape territory and curatorial experiments, whose work has been exhibited at Storefront for Art & Architecture, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and The New Museum’s Ideas City. She recently co-edited Public Space? Lost and Found (SA+P/MIT Press, 2017), a volume on spatial and aesthetic practices in the civic realm.
Zeiger has curated, contributed to and collaborated on projects that have been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, The New Museum, the Storefront for Art and Architecture, pinkcomma gallery and the AA School. She co-curated Now, There: Scenes from the Post-Geographic City, which received the Bronze Dragon award at the 2015 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, Shenzhen. She teaches in the Media Design Practices MFA program at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.