The Canadian Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale is the first pavilion to be located outside in the Giardini during its 40-year history, since the beginning of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 1975. The project explores the systems, spaces and scales of Canada as a global resource empire under the banner of the theme EXTRACTION. The project calls attention to both the territories of extraction that cities rely upon and the histories of colonization in these territories. In other words, the project is entirely about land, law and territory. The Canadian exhibition itself entails the planting of survey stake—the preeminent legal and technological instrument to mark territory and map—at the intersection of former and future empires in the Giardini of the Biennale: UK, France and Canada. Facing the British Pavilion, visitors are invited to kneel down and look through a keyhole in the survey stake to experience a second component of the project: a film of the territories of extraction across 800 years with 800 images, from 2015 to 1215, the birth of the British Magna Carta.
In the foreground of a blockade placed in front of the Canadian Pavilion, a wall filled with gold ore has been erected as a protest to Canada’s colonial foreign policy of extraction. In collaboration with governmental authorities in Italy, the mineral ore is sourced from an abandoned and contaminated Canadian gold mining operation in Sardinia, Italy. At the centre of the exhibition, the survey stake itself is forged and cast out of solid 18kt gold, by goldsmith studio Atelier Hume. Ultimately, the project shows how Canada has become a global resource empire, and how Canada has become the preeminent extraction nation on the planet. Its foreign policy today is one that is entirely based on colonial forms of resource extraction worldwide.
Kathy Velikov from the design research practice RVTR said the following about the purpose and intention of EXTRACTION: “Extraction needs to be understood as a form of urbanization. Extraction practices colonize remote landscapes and indigenous lands with infrastructural technologies and architectures—from roads, rails and pipelines to processing plants, storage facilities and worker camps and towns. Historically, and into the present day, this urbanization has been realized through various forms of violence, both political and ecological. But perhaps it does not have to be so. Transforming these practices would require more complex frameworks of collaboration, negotiation and implementation. The urbanism and architecture of extraction is an arena where the design professions can and should be involved in envisioning how to construct less violent relations between contested human inhabitations and between ourselves and lands, waters, atmospheres and other species.”
Belanger, Pierre. “Web Exclusive: Canada at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale.” Canadian Architect, www.canadianarchitect.com/features/web-exclusive-canada-2016-venice-architecture-biennale/.