The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, has today (Friday) announced details of ‘Losing Myself’, Ireland’s exhibition at the 15th International Architecture Biennale Exhibition being launched in Venice today. Ireland’s exhibition at Venice is an initiative of Culture Ireland in partnership with the Arts Council.
The theme of the 2016 Biennale, ‘Reporting from the Front’, invites participants to report on how architecture can improve the quality of the built environment and consequently people’s quality of life. Commissioned and curated by Niall McLaughlin and Yeoryia Manolopoulou, Ireland’s entry for the 2016 exhibition ‘Losing Myself’ is inspired by the Orchard Day and Respite Centre in Blackrock, Dublin, which was commissioned by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland to provide flexible short-term care for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
‘Losing Myself’ reflects the reality that dementia is one of the major ‘fronts’ facing society globally and draws on the idea that while architectural plans typically illustrate a fixed, coherent space, this can never be experienced by someone with Alzheimer’s disease, who can no longer fully orientate themselves in their environment.
Speaking about the exhibition, Minister Humphreys said:
Ireland’s exhibition in Venice ‘Losing Myself’ asks important questions as to how contemporary architecture can integrate design with healthcare needs. It also considers how frontline care issues like access, mobility, security, space and social interaction are addressed by architecture. As our population ages, dementia is becoming an increasingly challenging public health issue affecting thousands of families across the country, so I am sure this exhibition will strike a chord with many visitors.”
The installation at Venice uses time-based projections to show how the Respite Centre is experienced by sixteen people over the course of a day and conveys how the overlapping, perhaps conflicting experiences of the Centre’s inhabitants challenge the notion of a building as a singular concept, and by extension, those architectural drawings that insist upon buildings as fixed and whole objects. ‘Losing Myself’ draws on the research of neuroscientists, psychologists, health workers, philosophers and anthropologists, as well as on the experiences of people with dementia and their families.
According to Niall McLaughlin:
“The ‘front’ that we have chosen to report on is that of the architect designing for dementia. The title of our project, ‘Losing Myself’ is, in part, drawn from the principle that architects have a responsibility in our designs to imagine the experiences of others. We have tried to develop a process of drawing through which we can imaginatively inhabit the minds of people with dementia, whose view of the world is not immediately clear to us. Our installation and the accompanying website, www.losingmyself.ie, seek to communicate the specific ways in which dementia might impair an individual’s ability to navigate their environment, based upon our observations and our conversations with experts and people with personal experience of the condition.”
The Venice International Architecture Exhibition is the world’s most important international showcase for architecture, and Ireland’s exhibition at Venice provides an unrivalled opportunity for an international audience to experience the range and vigour of Ireland’s diverse architectural culture and the strength of Irish architectural practices and architects.
Audiences at home will have the chance to experience the ‘Losing Myself’ exhibition when it is adapted for an Arts Council supported national tour in 2017 on its return from Venice.
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