Emma Carpenter's letter from Venice

Vecchio mondo. For a first timer, arriving in Venice feels like entering the old world. Its commanding beauty, passing by as I descended the Canal Grande on my inaugural vaporetto journey, could only come from centuries of Western Enlightenment. Unlike anywhere I had experienced until now, my first 24 hours in Venice were like a dream, there was no way such a beautiful city could exist. Not a bad start to my new role as Research Assistant (RA) to Prof. Matthew Barac for the project Afropolitan Architecture: Imagining the African Urban Future by Design. 

Dialogue. I was one of the many transient bodies in Venice to experience a new kind of energy generated by Lokko's provocation for the 2023 Biennale: The Laboratory of the Future. Looking to Africa as the birthplace of our future, beyond seeing it as a resource for the West, gave me the confidence to inhabit this foreign space. The Biennale, and Venice, became a site for dialogue. Between the environment and the city. Between visitors and locals. Between architects and artist Between the ‘Global North’ and ‘Global South’. The dialogues we hosted in the British Pavilion were three out of countless dialogues between the world in Venice, and Africa in the world.

In common. Before my trip, I would never have guessed that I would have felt so in common with the world in Venice, least of all in the British Pavilion. The internal tension I feel as a member of a diaspora in Britain temporarily left me during our time in the Giardini. This unexpected feeling of commonness hit me, particularly considering the wider tensions in Italy and Europe. Our Afropolitan dialogue series brought me in common with incredible people from the African continent I would have never imagined meeting. Together we ‘danced before the Moon’ inside a pavilion from another time. 

Nuovo mondo. I am a member of our future, walking through this city of the past and basking in the tension between the two. Lokko’s Biennale pulled the city open – whether it liked it or not – to platform voices on the same pedestals they were once ruled from. Through dialogue and exchange brings an understanding that we are all in common. The world needs to be pulled apart in the same way, in order to bring our futures closer together. 

Emma Carpenter on the steps of a building with colleagues and the venice biennale logo

London Met alumna Emma Carpenter shares her experience of the Venice Biennale 2024 as part of an inspiring collective account authored by London Met's representatives at the world-famous event.