February 28, 2019

Dimensions of Citizenship: Architecture and Belonging from the Body to the Cosmos has landed in Chicago, on view at Wrightwood 659 through April 27, 2019. 

Dimensions of Citizenship, the official U.S. entry at the recently-concluded 16th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, is devoted to exploring the notion of citizenship today and the potential role of architecture and design in creating spaces for it. The exhibition includes seven unique installations, each created by a transdisciplinary team of architects and designers. The curators—Niall Atkinson, Ann Lui, Mimi Zeiger, and Associate Curator Iker Gil—asked each of the seven teams to consider what it means to be a citizen today, when conventional notions of citizenship are being simultaneously questioned and expanded. The teams include Amanda Williams + Andres L. Hernandez, in collaboration with Shani Crowe; Studio Gang; SCAPE; Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman; Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Laura Kurgan, Robert Gerard Pietrusko with Columbia Center for Spatial Research; Keller Easterling with MANY; and Design Earth.

At the media preview on February 28, Paul Coffey, Vice Provost & Dean of Community Engagement at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, talked about the dynamic collaboration between many of Chicago’s cultural institutions, foundations, and local donors that brought the exhibition to life, not to mention the curators and artists involved. He acknowledged that UChicago and SAIC did “the right thing by supporting this conversation around citizenship,” and also how exciting it was to see so many Chicagoans in Venice over the summer.

“[The Venice Biennale] was populated by so many Chicagoans, I thought I saw Gene Siskel, Mayor Byrne, and the late, great Bernie Banks,” Coffey joked. “This exhibition was met with accolades from press and critics alike, and proudly ranked in the top five must-sees at the Biennale. At the closing, we returned home to Wrightwood; I couldn’t think of a better place to be showing this work.”

Bill Brown, Karla Scherer Distinguished Service Professor in American Culture, appointed in the Department of English, the Department of Visual Arts, and the College at UChicago, expressed his thrill to see the exhibition back home in the remarkable galleries of Wrightwood 659. He also spoke to how Dimensions of Citizenship reflects the synthesis of research around citizenship, urban space, and now architecture at UChicago.

“At the University of Chicago, citizenship has been a focus of research and analysis for more than a century across fields, disciplines, and schools,” Brown says. “So too, the city—urban space—has been the focus of intense attention—in the social sciences, the humanities, the material sciences, and the arts. But a focus on architecture is something new at the University, part of an exciting and widespread interest in design, with the recognition—as Dimensions of Citizenship demonstrates so well—that the design imagination, at its best, emerges at the intersection of many fields of inquiry. No less, with the recognition of how built space forms and transforms the social, political, and natural worlds that we inhabit now and in the future.”