Bahrain national exhibition: Reclaim

The fisherman's huts on shifting sands that won the Venice Biennale Golden Lion for Best National Participation
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Bahrain National Exhibition, Reclaim (2010), Venice Biennale, Italy

1 / 5 Bahrain National Exhibition, Reclaim (2010), Venice Biennale, Italy

Bahrain National Exhibition, Reclaim (2010), Venice Biennale, Italy

2 / 5 Bahrain National Exhibition, Reclaim (2010), Venice Biennale, Italy

Bahrain National Exhibition, Reclaim (2010), Venice Biennale, Italy

3 / 5 Bahrain National Exhibition, Reclaim (2010), Venice Biennale, Italy

Bahrain National Exhibition, Reclaim (2010), Venice Biennale, Italy

4 / 5 Bahrain National Exhibition, Reclaim (2010), Venice Biennale, Italy

Bahrain National Exhibition, Reclaim (2010), Venice Biennale, Italy

5 / 5 Bahrain National Exhibition, Reclaim (2010), Venice Biennale, Italy


In Arabic, Bahrain means ‘two seas’, and the kingdom’s changing relationship to water over the last 80 years is at the centre of their national exhibition at the Venice Biennale, Reclaim, which won the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. Once a fishing-dependent nation with a natural coastline, Bahrain has now become an urban country, funded primarily by oil and with a coastline that constantly changes shape as bits and pieces of land are reclaimed from the shallow waters.

Small fisherman’s huts - structures that occupy this shifting coastline - are the focus of the exhibition. Three of them have been relocated into the Arsenale, and photographs of others as well as video interviews with their owners are also on display. The huts, even when removed from the sea and placed in a foreign, interior environment away from the water, are comfortable, welcoming spaces. At the same time, their uprooting is fundamentally melancholic, a reminder that the same process is occurring throughout Bahrain.

The exhibition deftly explores a very specific and contained condition – the disappearance of fisherman’s huts from the Bahraini coastline – so precisely and thoroughly that it evokes the larger question of what kinds of spaces (and by extension, what kind of human experience) are we allowing to disappear, all over the world?

 

By Sara Goldsmith
Project Editor, Architecture & Design, Phaidon


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