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8 Jun 2021

Conexión - 2021 Architectural Biennale in Venice

Tobacco leaves, the Venice Biennale, and the Anglican Chaplaincy in Venice … The Revd Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, Chaplain at St George’s Anglican Church in the city, tells us more!

After a twelve month delay because of Covid-19, the 2021 Architectural Biennale in Venice
finally opened at the end of May this year. The theme of the Biennale is ‘How will we live together?’.

The Ministry of Culture of the Dominican Republic has selected the architectural exhibit entitled ‘Conexión’, designed by Lidia Leon, for the pavilion representing the Dominican Republic at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.

For the Biennale, the nave of St George’s Anglican Church in Venice has become the official Pavilion of the Dominican Republic. The internationally renowned architect-cum-artist, Lidia Leon, herself from the Dominican Republic, has designed an architectural exhibit around tobacco leaves.

'Conexión', designed by Lidia Leo in the nave of St. George's Anglican Church in Venice

The installation was conceived as an interior design project, composed of panels made with tobacco leaves that create a dynamic and living space. Inside, visitors can recognize the infinite web of relationships that make up the fabric of society, and rediscover their connection to nature.

The Dominican Republic is renowned for its tobacco and most especially the cigars that are made from it. Leon has stiffened dried tobacco leaves with a resin, linked them together to form a collage against a background of specialized lighting. The effect is to highlight the rich golden brown of the dried leaves, as well as to bring out the vein systems that are within them.

Tobacco Plantation in the Dominican Republic

The collage of tobacco leaves on the panels was inspired, in part, by the ancient stained-glass mosaic windows distinctive of Venice’s extraordinary artistic and artisanal heritage. The work has been placed in the nave, the traditional public space of the church.

"Entering that architectural space of the Anglican Church of St. George in Venice, and entering with a glance at what could be done, was like observing those walls, how they could be transformed to, what Roberta has even mentioned, as the "Lidia Garden" or as the "Lileón Garden"," says Lidia León, the designer of Conexión, in a sneak peak of the Biennale Architettura 2021. "I have been able to produce a kind of collage, in which there is a similarity to stained glass, with golden, yellow, orange tones."

The modular arrangement of the panels echoes the placement of the stained-glass windows in the upper part of the nave, dedicated to famous English residents of Venice – including J. Ruskin, who was the first to develop a theory emphasizing the importance of the links between art, nature, and the work of human beings.

2021 Participants for the Dominican Republic Pavillion

The second day after the official opening of the exhibition drew over sixty visitors. Accommodating the exhibition, alongside the other activities that take place in St George’s, is a working example of ‘How will we live together?’ There is a link between the Diocese and the Dominican Republic in that Bishop David is a Canon of one the Republic’s Anglican cathedrals.

The exhibition will run until 21 November 2021. The Pavillion opening was live streamed and can be watched here.

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Find out more about St George’s Anglican Chaplaincy, Venice by exploring their website  and by following St. George's Anglican Chaplaincy, Venice on Facebook.