“Sepake Angiama, Paulo Tavares Join 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial” by S.M. O’Connor

The Chicago Architecture Biennial (C.A.B.) announced yesterday, Tuesday, May 15, 2018, that curator and educator Sepake Angiama and architect and urbanist Paulo Tavares will be joining the curatorium for the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial under 2019 Artistic Yesomi Umolu.  The largest architecture and design exposition in North America, the Chicago Architecture Biennial will be in its third “edition” from September 19, 2019 through January 5, 2020 (with press and professional previews the 17th and 18th of September, 2019).

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 that 554,866 Chicago residents and visitors from across the U.S.A. and around the world took part in the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, which ended on Sunday, January 7, 2018.  It featured 140 architects and designers from twenty countries, selected by the Artistic Directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee of the Los Angeles-based firm Johnston Marklee.

Following a successful partnership last year, the opening of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial will coincide with EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art.  The main site of the Chicago Architecture Biennial will once again be the Chicago Cultural Center.  This edition of the Biennial will again be under the leadership of Executive Director Todd Palmer.

The C.A.B. stated, “Both co-curators have international, research-based practices that look deeply at how the built environment reflects social structures, augmenting Artistic Director Yesomi Umolu’s focus on global contemporary art and spatial practices.  Their combined expertise in research architecture and discursive forms of knowledge-production and engagement will materialize in the Biennial’s innovate international program.”

“I am thrilled that Sepake Angiama and Paulo Tavares are joining me to steward the curatorial direction of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial,” stated Ms. Umolu.  “Sepake and Paulo are noted for their contributions to their respective fields.  They will broaden the range of ideas and practices at the biennial, and will be instrumental as we develop platforms for learning and engagement.  I am excited to begin our work together.”

Sepake Angiama is based in Europe.  According to the C.A.B., “Her work focuses on the social framework, exploring how social spaces can be disrupted or provoked by multi-modal forms of learning, performance, design and architecture.”

This has inspired her to collaborate with artists, architects and designers who disrupt or provoke aspects of the social sphere through action, design, dance, and architecture.  Angiama recently served as Head of Education for Documenta 14 where she initiated Under the Mango Tree: Sites of Learning in cooperation with ifa (Institut für Auslandbeziehungen), a project that gathers artist-led social spaces, libraries and schools interested in unfolding discourses around decolonizing education practices.  Previously, she was Head of Education for Manifesta 10 hosted by the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg.    Angiama is currently a Fellow at BAK, Utrecht (basus voor actuele kunst) and is undertaking research on science fiction, modernist architecture and intersectional feminism.  Angiama holds an MA in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, London.

Paulo Tavares is a Brazilian architect based in (the Brazilian capital of) Brasilia.  According to the C.A.B., “His research centers on the intersections between space, conflict, rights and visual cultures.”

In 2017, he created the agency autonoma [at Goldsmiths], a platform dedicated to urban research and intervention.  Tavares is a long-term collaborator of Forensic Architecture and he is currently a fellow at the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

He is a professor at the Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo (Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, meaning the School of Architecture and Urbanism), University of Brasilia, which is a public university funded by the Federal Government of Brazil.  His work has been featured in exhibitions and publications around the world, including the Oslo Architecture Triennale, the Istanbul Design Biennial, and São Paulo Biennial, and Harvard Design Magazine.  Previously, he taught spatial and visual cultures at the School of Architecture, Design, and Arts at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador (Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador) in Quito, Ecuador.  Beforehand, he led the M.A. program at the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, where he completed his doctorate.[1]  The Graham Foundation in Chicago gave him a grant in 2012 for his project Amazon Frontiers and in 2017 for his project In the Forest Ruins.

Working in close collaboration with Artistic Director Yesomi Umolu, they will be instrumental in defining the theme for the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial, which the C.A.B. will announce in the autumn of this year.  They will be contributing to the development of the C.A.B.’s projects, public programs, and publications.

“I am thrilled that Sepake Angiama and Paulo Tavares, together with Yesomi Umolu, will curate another outstanding lineup of exhibitions, installations, programming and discussions to share our legacy of architectural ingenuity with the world,” stated Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  “Chicago has long been a global leader in architecture, design and innovation, and we are honored that these forward-looking experts are at the helm of the third Chicago Architecture Biennial.”

C.A.B. Chairman Jack Guthman added, “The diverse talents and perspectives our curatorial team bring to the Biennial assure that the 2019 exposition will again meet our dual objectives – to host an important dialogue about architecture in the American city heralded for its architecture and to provide Chicagoans and visitors to our city an opportunity to experience news ways of understanding the built environment.  The choice of these artistic leaders promises a compelling and international relevant Biennial.”

On Tuesday, March 6, 2018, the C.A.B. and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel announced curator and writer Yesomi Umolu would be the 2019 Artistic Director of the Chicago Architecture Biennial.  Her background was in architectural design and curatorial studies.  Born in Lagos, Nigeria and raised in London, England, she is the Exhibitions Curator at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at The University of Chicago where her recent projects included Kapwani Kiwanga: The sum and its parts, The Land Grant: Forest Law, and The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal.

“I am honored to be invited to serve as Artistic Director of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Bienniel,” she stated.  “Having my roots in the field of architecture, spatial questions have always been an important consideration of my work with contemporary artists, architects, and urbanists from across the world.  I am excited to embark on the journey of engaging the city of Chicago and its publics, as well as visitors to Chicago from across the country and around the world, in these conversations.”

C.A.B. Chairman Guthman stated, “We are delighted that Yesomi Umolu will serve as the Artistic Director of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial.  Her broad curatorial experience makes her ideally suited to build upon the critical acclaim accorded to our 2015 and 2017 Biennials by our dual constituencies—the architecture profession worldwide, as well as Chicagoans and visitors to our city.”

“Yesomi is a visionary curator with strong roots in Chicago, and she will work tirelessly to cultivate an incredible cultural, educational, and economic event for the city,” stated Mayor Emanuel.  “With Yesomi at the helm, the third Chicago Architecture Biennial is sure to secure its reputation as the most innovative architectural, art, and design showcase of its kind.”

“We are delighted by Yesomi Umolu’s appointment as the next Artistic Director of the Chicago Architecture Biennial,” Daniel Diermeier, Provost of The University of Chicago, added.  “The appointment further testifies to the curatorial imagination and dexterity she has demonstrated so well at the Logan Center for the Arts.  By consistently showcasing the best in architectural innovation—in a city renowned for its architectural achievements—the Biennial advances the conversation about the potential impact of design.  That conversation is playing an increasing role at the University of Chicago, and it is vital, of course, to the future of Chicago’s South Side, as to cities around the world.”

The committee that selected Ms. Umolu was comprised of C.A.B. board members, as well as previous Artistic Directors, who considered candidates from around the world and from a variety of disciplines.  Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, the aforementioned 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial Artistic Directors, stated, “Umolu’s curatorial practice, which boldly, yet elegantly, traverses the fields of art and architecture, makes her uniquely situated for success in this role.  The Biennial is a complex and multifaceted platform for exploring both the history and present-day challenges in the field, and we eagerly await the outcomes of Umolu’s curatorial inquiry and exploration.”


Figure 1 Credit: Andrew Bruah Caption: Yesomi Umolu is the 2019 Artistic Director of the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

[1] Note that in 2007, Goldsmiths’ College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of London, began to re-brand itself simply as “Goldsmiths, University of London” as if it were a group of goldsmiths at the University of London or a club at the University of London, etc.

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