On the occasion of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition, we interviewed Bruno Zamborlin to find out more about his projects, starting with the one he has curated in connection with the Italian Pavilion
Following last week’s opening of the 18th Architecture Biennale, which runs until 26th November 2023, Venice has once again become the ideal destination for lovers of architecture, thanks to the many national pavilions which animate the Giardini and the Arsenale, as well as multiple collateral projects hosted in other venues around the city. Naturally, we wanted to focus on the Italian Pavilion and its nine projects which have been realized throughout Italy, starting with the one curated by Bruno Zamborlin. Born in Vicenza 39 years ago, he is a London-based researcher, entrepreneur and artist who first founded Mogees, a smartphone app that transforms any acoustic property of objects into music. He then launched Hypersurfaces, a microchip that, connected to a sensor, interprets and recognizes every vibration, thanks to artificial intelligence.
Vibrations are also part of the project Zamborlin has curated for the Italian Pavilion, which is led by the Fosbury Architecture collective and entitled Spaziale: Everyone belongs to everyone else. In the lead-up to the final installation in the Pavilion, the initial phase of the project – titled Spaziale presenta – was activated in the first months of the year, during which nine site-specific interventions took place in nine selected locations throughout Italy, including Taranto, Baia di Ieranto in Campania, Trieste, Ripa Teatina in Abruzzo, Mestre, Montiferru in Sardinia, Librino in Sicily, Belmonte Calabro in Calabria and Prato.
In particular, Bruno Zamborlin is an advisor for Tracce di Belmondo, which takes place in Belmonte Calabro – a town located in the hinterland of Calabria in a panoramic position on the Tyrrhenian Sea – involving the Orizzontale collective as a designer.
How did the idea of "Tracce di Belmondo" come about, and what is its goal?
B.Z.: Framed in the ancient castle of Belmonte Calabro, there is a garden open to the public. After repeated attempts to reactivate the villa, the garden is now in a semi-abandoned state and needed to be reimagined. The idea is to transform an abandoned place into a wonderful garden that will host a series of interactive sound installations. In addition to serving as furnitures for visitors, these sculptures will react to the touch of the visitors, producing sound and light through a special algorithm and vibration sensors. Thus, visitors will find themselves part of a collective orchestra, an experience of active listening that encourages new connections between friends, strangers, and the place itself, creating serendipitous audible moments that foster a sense of community, shared creative ground, and social interaction.
For the Biennale 2023, these “vibrational” tracks will be sampled and digitally archived, immortalizing them forever. In the Italian pavilion, they will be continuously processed by the algorithm and transformed into real-time music and light, accompanied by video documentation. Visitors to the pavilion will be invited to interact with the artwork, becoming a part of it. The algorithm acts here as a conductor capable of harmonizing the performance of the pavilion’s visitors with that of Belmondo, encouraging dialogue and listening, and creating unprecedented and data-driven harmonies.
What is architecture for you, and how does it dialogue with art?
B.Z.: The technological advancements of the past thirty years have slowly – and dramatically – shifted people’s lives towards a digital and parallel world, distancing everyday life from direct contact with the local territory and communities. Work, communication, and information are now mediated by global digital entities that have little to do with the identity and spatiality of the neighborhood in which one lives. This process leads to a general lack of awareness regarding the impact of our actions on the environment that surrounds us.
Artists play a crucial role in reminding to the architects and technologists of today of the epochal challenge they face: to reverse this trend by creating different types of technologies that aim to generate awareness and dialogue among inhabitants, territory, and nature rather than alienating them, ones that strive to carefully and thoughtfully merge the artificial with the natural. Technology doesn’t necessarily have to alienate; it can even become a tool to encourage interactions with physical places and people, as my work seeks to suggest. If the spaces and nature surrounding us had a voice, what would they tell us?
Why did you choose to privilege sound as an expressive medium in your works?
B.Z.: In a world where we are increasingly alienated and polarized, there has never been such a need for spaces that encourage us to slow down and listen to each other. Music has the power to relax us, excite us, tell stories, and connect us together. And the experience of creating music together with other people, which I encourage in my works, can help cultivate a new habit within us: the habit of listening to others and listening to ourselves, paying attention to how we move, and witnessing the consequences of our actions by making them audible. It is an experience that can familiarize us with a greater sense of listening in our everyday lives, with the people and spaces that surround us.
AI is a very topical issue that has sparked debate in the artistic world as well. In your opinion, can there be a meeting point between art and technology?
B.Z.: Contemporary art is, for its very nature, always influenced by what happens today. This influence can have social, political and technological nature. And for the good or for the bad, AI is set to change many aspects of the way we live, including art making. The past 12 months have witnesses incredible technological breakthrough no one was expecting (at least so soon) and this will probably keep growing exponentially.
At the same time, I think there is no technological reasons for which some of the ethical problems AI poses to artists cannot be solved or at least attenuated, such as copyright and data transparency. As stopping innovation is not an option, it is crucial to come up quickly enough with the right regulations to protect artists’ rights.