Ian Volner in Curbed:
Every two years, a few dozen nations deputize a small circle of curators and thinkers to represent them at the show; many of the participating countries are regulars, with permanent pavilions of their own, often dating back to the early 20th century, and located in the leafy Giardini della Biennale near Venice’s easternmost tip. But each edition of the exhibition also brings a batch of wildcards, never-before-seen entrants whose homelands have decided, for whatever reason, to throw their hats into the ring. This year, first-timers included Guatemala, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon. And social media (full disclosure: mine included) took a special shine to the premier outing from the Vatican, a brace of inventive freestanding chapels by architects both well- and lesser-known. There was one rookie nation, however, whose appearance at the Biennale was especially poignant, both for the character of its installation and for the mere fact of its being in Venice at all: Pakistan.
“This is a very political statement,” says Salman Jawed, a member of Coalesce Design Studio, the collaborative, multidisciplinary firm that helped bring the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to Venice for the first time. The politics he’s speaking about are not, at least at first, overtly evident: Situated in a small public park not far from the Giardini, the Pakistani installation, titled “The Fold,” is a roughly four-yard-square cage of irregularly-spaced steel bars towering some twenty feet in the air.
Slipping into this rather forbidding envelope via a narrow passage, the visitor discovers a playground-like atmosphere within, a trio of wooden swings dangling from overhead beams, and a pair of wooden benches on curved, brushed-steel rockers. The contrast between stern exterior and playful interior gives a pleasant jolt. But understanding its polemical intent requires a little more digging. As Coalesce partner Zeba Asad explains, in Karachi, “all the urban spaces are in the street.” The Pakistani capital is home to over 21 million people, most of them jammed into a relatively small wedge of the metropolis, with little room for parks, plazas, or other urban amenities. Seen from one perspective, “The Fold” is an attempt to address this condition: The placement of the swings at odd angles means that users are constantly at risk of colliding with their fellow swingers, just as the children of Karachi must hazard cars, pedestrians, and one another as they play in the city’s crowded streets.
More here. (Thanks to Batool Raza)