Every two years artists and enthusiasts alike await the announcement of the La Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy. As one of the oldest and most prestigious art exhibitions at the international level, it attracts tourists, designers, patrons, and thinkers from across the globe. A paraphernalia of contemporary art, archives, architecture, film, and music from around the world is put up to witness and imbibe. The 2023 edition of the Venice Biennale in the 59th International la Biennale di Venezia, is on till the 27th of November 2023. This year’s theme follows on from the theme of the previous version of the biennale in 2019 – “May You Live in Interesting Times”, which focuses on exploring current issues and artistic impressions and expressions of the same issues. A conscious decision to explore the same theme for two editions of the exhibition was made by the board of directors in 2017. The theme is meant to be examined over the course of a few years and gives the curators a chance to build and revisit ideas initiated earlier. 

The Cyprus Pavilion Examines Social Sustainability and Space Exploration at La Biennale di Venezia 2023 - Sheet1
La Biennale di Venezia-Cyprus to Mars_Lia Lapithi

The theme – May You Live in Interesting Times, is often associated with a Chinese curse, however, is meant to reflect on the contemporary world and the complexities we see as a global society. The theme reflects on the socio political upheavals encountered by the global ety and proposes an opportunity to find and create innovative solutions to the problems we face. In the 59th version, one would see a continuation of the exploration of the complex challenges faced by society through new and different artworks and perspectives. 

The Cyprus Pavilion Examines Social Sustainability and Space Exploration at La Biennale di Venezia 2023 - Sheet2
Explorations_Petros Lapiths

The architectural section of the biennale called the la Biennale di Architecturra, is a separate section for the last fourteen years. The section’s theme for the year is Laboratory and the Future, curated by Lesley Lokko. Lokko, a Ghanian – Scottish architect and writer, chose Africa as the laboratory model for the exhibits. Africa as the convergence point of decolonization and decarbonization is still a fairly young continent, says Lokko. 

In light of the theme and mood of the biennale, among other mesmerizing showcases, the Cyprus Pavilion is attracting the attention of many visitors and critics alike. Cyprus has been participating since 1968 and is put together by the Ministry of Education, Sports, Culture and Youth, Cyprus is their national pavilion representing the country at the biennale. The Cyprus pavilion closely examines topics of social sustainability, and space exploration, even before it was organized it garnered a lot of attention because of the exciting and thought provoking topics. It features Cypriot artists and architects working and exploring similar themes, through their unique visions. 

Titled From Khirokitia to Mars the exhibit aims to understand the idea of social sustainability in a three-dimensional and temporal manner. Through means of collaboration, egalitarian participation, and common awareness, social sustainability can be attained. It takes its name from the settlements of Cyprus Aceramic Neolith Khirokitia, which were the early communities in the region. The prehistoric Khirokita is seen as one of the most innovative cultures, with absolutely no evidence of warfare or competition of any kind. The display takes examples of these early civilizations to lay the foundation for a new environment established on Mars. The Khirokitia civilizations have been understood to be fairly independent and self sufficient. Thus they form appropriate case studies as societal sustainability models in terms of sociopolitics, economics, and environment. Understanding and taking cues from the civilization to picture social challenges from a cultural perspective and therefore developing temporal inserts to mitigate these challenges in future settlements on Mars. Using primitive structures was a model for future extra-terrestrial architecture.

La Biennale di Venezia-Khirokitia Heritage Site_Unesco

The display operates on the idea of accomplishing social sustainability through collaboration and participation. In order to preserve the quality of life and safeguard mental-physical health, shared awareness and community engagement is crucial. Using captivating visuals and projections to immerse one in the similarities, differences, and idiosyncrasies. They introduce Space 1 with visuals of the civilization. Closely followed by Space 2 with NASA-generated visuals of Mars and an insightful installation with traditional Cypriot threshing tools and asteroids. The exhibition concludes with throwing a question at the visitor – Should we build on our cultural heritage when moving to Mars?, an assertive culmination leaving one with thoughts and ideas. 

In its own subtle ways and through references from history the Cyprus pavilion foresees and proposes solutions for challenges as humanity progresses on to future explorations. They look at Khirokitia as an example that can be projected on a possibly habitable future planet, thus establishing a new one of a kind laboratory. This lab a conjunction of past and future, is an immersive reflection of the human society. The Taiwan pavilion, Roman pavilion, and Nordic countries also explore looking at the past for the future through different lenses. 

“The Cyprus Pavilion Examines Social Sustainability and Space Exploration at La Biennale di Venezia 2023” 06 Apr 2023. ArchDaily. Accessed 6 May 2023.

YouTube. (2017, September 23). May You Live in Interesting Times | La Biennale di Venezia 2019 [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18EnxbKhbTg

Lapithis, P. (2021). From Khirokitia to Mars [Issuu publication]. Retrieved from https://issuu.com/petroslapithis/docs/from_khirokitia_to_mars_-issuu_-short