Architecture, National Pavilion of Bahrain, Pavilions from the Middle East, Venice Biennale

Bahrain reveals design for national pavilion at Venice Biennale 2018

Curated by architects Nora Akawi and Noura Al Sayeh, the Pavilion of the Kingdom of Bahrain was commissioned by Sheikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Minister of Culture, with this year marking its fifth participation.

Titled ‘Friday Sermon’, the pavilion features an installation and research on the ritual of the Friday sermon and its influence on public space and public opinion.

Bahrain Pavilion, images by Francesco Galli, courtesy of the Venice Biennale

“When thinking about free space, and by extension free speech for the Arab and Muslim communities, the Friday khutbah becomes a key protagonist, especially as state, law and religion remain as entangled as ever,” wrote the architects in a statement. “Friday Sermon traces the evolution and apparatus of this ritual of preaching and collective listening, and its implications on the transformation of common space, sometimes as an obstruction, other times as reinforcement, to the possibilities for free spaces of debate and assembly.”

Designed by Apparatus Studio, the exhibition consists of a large-scale structure that hosts a sound installation by Giuseppe Ielasi and Khyam Alami based on recordings of Friday sermons in Bahrain. The installation defines a central void under which one can experience the sound installation and references to the sacred space of the religious, while the periphery of the installation hosts three different contributions, each exploring a different aspect of the Friday sermon practices.

‘The All Hearing’, a video installation by artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, explores the effects of “loudspeaker libertarianism” in Cairo and its consequences on hearing damage and noise pollution in the city. Simultaneously, the installation by Matilde Cassani looks into the architecture of the minbar and its adaptation in the Italian context. The pavilion features other artworks, as well, including 3 Scores & the People’s Mic Khutba by Mezna Qato and Sadia Shirazi.

Further, a collection of five essays comprise the scientific content of the exhibition and offer a historical overview of the origins, history and evolutions of the practices of the Friday sermon, as well as its use for political purposes. A series of images by Camille Zakharia accompany the essays.

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