Let’s talk about garbage in the main exhibition at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale

WLOCHY WENECJA ARCHITECTURE BIENNALE 2016 LETS TALK ABOUT GARBAGE PROJEKT HUGON KOWALSKI I MARCIN SZCZELINA

Photographs: Bartek Barczyk for Ikea Retail Poland

The biggest architectural event of the year – the 15th International Exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale, titled Reporting from the front, can be viewed until November 27. Its curator, the Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, invited two young Polish authors – architect Hugon Kowalski and architecture critic Marcin Szczelina – to take part in the main exhibition.

Kowalski and Szczelina  present an innovative, ecological installation basing on their earlier experiences with India’s largest slum – Dharavi, as well as its unique waste management system.  Preceded by a trip to Mumbai and extensive studies of contemporary waste management systems and recycling methods, the exhibition titled “Let’s talk about garbage” points our attention to the problem of waste overproduction and the possibilities of its effective use in architecture. A vast social and cultural background aims at presenting various points of view and thus provoke a change in our approach to refuse. The authors decided to confront the western and Asian approaches to waste processing, present the differences, hence the two walls of the installation, which starts with a brief history of trash – its origins and the first ideas to cope with its overproduction – for instance by feeding it to the pigs. The gallery of the first criminals showcases the first can models, the archetype of the paper towel. Then starts an exciting and dangerous journey of the largest and wildest Third World waste dumps. Strolling through a post-apocalyptic plastic desert scenery, we not only trace the complex process of processing precious waste, but also complex commercial trails it follows around the world. Parallel to the story of waste, following the changing latitudes, where waste is transformed into desirable and valuable goods, another story is told – a story of the fate of those who live by the waste they process. On the way there, we pass through a metal barrack of the size of an outhouse, illuminated by ingenious lamps made of plastic bottles filled with bleach, which serves as a household for a 4-person family inhabiting areas in the proximity of landfills.

The last stage of this journey is an elegant, black wall, resembling a piece of art more than a trash bag. On the wall, elegantly illuminated products by leading Western construction manufacturers include windows, flooring panels, bricks. Next to each of them is a plate with information, or rather a survey completed by each manufacturer, regarding the environmental consciousness of the product’s manufacture process.

The exhibition by Kowalski and Szczelina not only displays our negligence in terms of ecology or the ethics of production processes applied by Western concerns, which tend to self-promote by proclaiming sustainable development. First and foremost, however, the exhibition exposes the dull invariability of the brutal mechanisms of post-colonial exploitation. Despite good intentions and honest declarations in the 21st century, hundreds, thousands of residents of the so-called Third World still vegetate on piles of waste produced by the civilized Western world, literally and figuratively living on dumps.

WLOCHY WENECJA ARCHITECTURE BIENNALE 2016 LETS TALK ABOUT GARBAGE PROJEKT HUGON KOWALSKI I MARCIN SZCZELINA

WLOCHY WENECJA ARCHITECTURE BIENNALE 2016 LETS TALK ABOUT GARBAGE PROJEKT HUGON KOWALSKI I MARCIN SZCZELINA

WLOCHY WENECJA ARCHITECTURE BIENNALE 2016 LETS TALK ABOUT GARBAGE PROJEKT HUGON KOWALSKI I MARCIN SZCZELINA

WLOCHY WENECJA ARCHITECTURE BIENNALE 2016 LETS TALK ABOUT GARBAGE PROJEKT HUGON KOWALSKI I MARCIN SZCZELINA

WLOCHY WENECJA ARCHITECTURE BIENNALE 2016 LETS TALK ABOUT GARBAGE PROJEKT HUGON KOWALSKI I MARCIN SZCZELINA