La città vuota

Photo: Francesca Occhi e Sebastiano Girardi


Venezia Anno Zero, March 18 2020, 05.45 pm

Photo: Andrea Morucchio


Venezia Anno Zero, April 17 2020, 09.10 am

Photo: Andrea Morucchio

Venice Design Biennial

Published: 20 May 2021
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The Venice Design Biennial returns, after a year of forced break, with the third edition in attendance. The exhibitions will open to the public from May 20 to June 27, in parallel with the first month of the Architecture Biennale, continuing to weave the relationship between the languages of contemporary design and some of the most evocative places in the city.


The curatorial theme of this edition, proposed by the curators and founders of the project, Luca Berta and Francesca Giubilei, is Design As Self-Portrait. The idea is to investigate what design represents for each of us as individuals, and at the same time, how we represent ourselves through it, through objects, spaces, experiences. With great and new attention to the evolution of the self-representation techniques themselves. 

Luca Berta and Francesca Giubilei

The self-portrait has not always existed in the history of art. Absent in antiquity and with first examples traceable back to the Middle Ages, it was only during the Renaissance that self-portraiture became a genre of art in its own right. It was then that artists began to express an awareness of their own value, placing themselves at the centre of the representation with a gaze that would evolve over the following centuries, allowing us a glimpse at artists such as Albrecht Durer, Titian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Goya, Van Gogh, Schiele, Frieda Kahlo, Andy Warhol, and Cindy Sherman. 

In recent decades, the self-portrait has ceased to belong exclusively to artists. Everyone is invited to portray themselves even from early school years, and there is no lack of tools or spaces with which a self-portrait can be achieved. On the one hand, the categories of political, religious, sexual, and cultural belonging, that in the past defined a secure perimeter for a person’s notion of identity, have now faded. On the other hand, the Internet has created a universally accessible and free space for self-expression. 

Everyone creates a representation of one’s self in a space of free fluctuation, a space in which identity becomes a design object. And this concept of identity and image as design is reiterated through the choices everyone makes when it comes to what they link to their bodies and the spaces to inhabit, through objects, devices, clothes, physical locations, and virtual spaces. We are all ‘curators’ of ourselves, self-designers expressing ourselves through the consumption of products or experiences of our choosing and through the ways in which we communicate these choices to others. 

As it often happens, the transformations within social practices manifest alongside the advancement of available instruments. About 500 years ago in the 16th century, the production of a flat, non-convex glass mirror was perfected in Venice, creating a mirror image of whatever was in front of it with a level of precision that was previously unattainable. And thus, the self-portrait was born. In 2010, just over a decade ago, the iPhone 4 was released with a front-facing camera. The self-portrait was revolutionised. 

‘Our self is the latest design product we have begun to deal with.’ 

HOMEWORKS will be highlighting several exhibits in the coming weeks, including excerpts from the Architecture Biennale, specifically highlighting Maltese architects participating.