15 Biennale di Venezia. Bahrain Pavilion
Places of Production, Aluminium.
Curated by Noura Al Sayeh and Anne Holtrop.
The first aluminium smelter in the Gulf region was inaugurated in 1968 in Bahrain and is today the fourth largest single-site smelter in the world. It continues a history of metal trade that finds its roots in the third millennium BC when the Islands were at the crossroads of the regional trade route for copper and tin.
The smelter was initiated as an effort to diversify the economy away from its reliance on oil by broadening the industrial infrastructure although incidentally heavily relying on the oil industry and its byproducts. At roughly the same time, standardised products of construction such as window frames, cladding panels and others also made their entry into the Island and progressively infiltrated all aspects of the construction process partially disconnecting building from local context. Today, aluminium cladding of high-rises and towers, and increasingly in the re-cladding of older facades, is one of the most visible expressions of contemporary architecture in Bahrain.
The presence of the smelter, also developed a local economy of aluminium- both formal and informal. Alongside, large locally-based international companies producing typical byproducts of aluminium, smaller workshops have developed with a focus on a smaller-scale production of aluminium.
Through an investigation of the gestures in the production processes of aluminium, the installation in the Arsenale, using film, photography and sand-casted aluminium, is an attempt to extract a different potential of the material use.