Globalisation, urbanity, the pandemic and more explored at MAAT Lisbon show

Globalisation, urbanity, the pandemic and more explored at MAAT Lisbon show

A new exhibition at MAAT Lisbon, ‘X is Not a Small Country – Unravelling the Post-Global Era’, curated by Aric Chen with Martina Muzi, explores globalisation, urbanity, the pandemic and more

Globalisation, our pandemic world and issues of urbanity are a few of the subjects highlighted in a new exhibition opening at MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) in Lisbon this week. Titled ‘X is Not a Small Country – Unravelling the Post-Global Era’ and curated by Aric Chen with Martina Muzi, the show spans various scales and settings, from urban hubs to infrastructure and human bodies.

Designed by architecture studio Bureau and featuring a visual identity by Joana Pestana and Max Ryan, this is an exhibition of nine large-scale installations touching upon anything from the refugee crisis to Brexit and the ongoing global pandemic. Participants include Wolfgang Tillmans, Bard Studio (Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty), Bricklab (Abdulrahman Hisham Gazzaz and Turki Hisham Gazzaz), and He Jing. Here, we catch up with curator Chen to discuss the show. 

Wallpaper*: What do you see the role of design and architecture being in this context of post-globalisation?

Aric Chen: In many ways, design and architecture are both the tangible manifestations of the post-global phenomena we’re seeing and, by the same token, ways by which we can articulate, understand, speculate about, and respond to them. The projects in the show address this in very direct, immediate ways – as with Wolfgang Tillmans’ pro-EU campaign posters, or Rael San Fratello’s Teeter-Totter intervention at the US-Mexico border wall – but also through more investigative means that reveal how the post-global might, and is doing so already, act at the level of objects, bodies, spaces, cities and the planet.

X Is Not A Small Country exhibition, red architectural installation
Photography: Bruno Lopes, courtesy of EDP Foundation

W*: How did you choose the contributing studios that created the installations on site?

AC: A lot of research-based designers and architects are already looking at these questions, and so we were not short on options! It really became an issue of trying to include as many approaches and geographical perspectives as we could in order to, as succinctly as possible, convey the complexity of the post-global condition we’re faced with.

W*: Why did you choose this format – physical, large-scale installations – for this particular show?

AC: We wanted to make these very abstract ideas and processes as tangible and visceral as possible by literally transforming the gallery space into a kind of post-global landscape. For example, one can enter into the main gallery either by descending a ramp or a stair; whichever way you choose, you’ll wind up confronting Rael San Fratello’s re-creation of the US-Mexico border wall, separating you head-on from visitors who took the other route.

W*: What would you like the visitor to take away from the exhibition?

AC: The era of globalisation as we’ve known it since the 1990s is over. That doesn’t mean we’re necessarily de-globalising; instead, things are unravelling and realigning simultaneously, often in contradictory ways, using different, overlapping and sometimes conflicting logics. If we’re going to survive together on this planet, we’re going to have to understand this and somehow make it work. §

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