Venice Biennale: Within Reach
Venice, Italy (2003)
Through the collision of two very distinct yet shared aesthetic languages of the artist and architect, the pavilion offered an immersive environment in which the audience could experience the work
Artist Chris Ofili represented Great Britain at the British pavilion with the installation ‘Within Reach’ with David Adjaye as exhibition designer. Early on in the collaboration Chris revealed a desire to deeply engage the site in the presentation of his work. It was necessary to completely transform the pavilion because of the strength and particularity of atmosphere emanating from the collection of paintings, generated by their intensity of colour and texture. To give the audience a whole experience where the architectural space is borne out of the fantasy world of the paintings was essential.
Carpets and low light slowed people down, acclimatized them to the atmosphere and quited the space – creating a sharp contrast with the frenetic pace of the Biennale. The centrepiece was ‘AfroKaleidoscope’, a sculpture of steel and 176 coloured glass fragments in the form of a seven-pointed star suspended in the central dome of the pavilion, producing an explosion of coloured light. The celestial form is a recurring motif in Ofili’s work – in this case the building’s ceiling has an upper light source – related to the idea of a source of light from above, even a star or higher being that exerts a force on the couple featured in the paintings.
The sculpture itself is geometrically complex in form and structure. Through the collision of two very distinct yet shared aesthetic languages of the artist and architect, the pavilion offered an immersive environment in which the audience could experience the work.