The Dominican Republic pavilion narrates the story of a propagandistic international Expo wanted by dictator Trujillo that was celebrated with flamboyance and fireworks and soon forgotten by the rest of the world. After the event and the assassination of Trujillo himself, the fair site was revitalized by Dominicans who erased the ideals of the tacky modernity promoted under Trujillo’s sanguinary tyranny. The country debuts at Venice Biennale with the exhibition at Arsenale curated by LAD Laboratorio de Arquitectura Dominicana. www.lad.do – labiennale.org
In 1955 the Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina organized a world’s fair to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his rule. The Feria was both an idealized portrait of a modern Europeanized Dominican Republic and a lavish paean to the dictator himself .
In less than a year, a broad, empty area of Santo Domingo was covered in concrete and over seventy buildings were constructed on the site. The world came over, did its thing and promptly forgot about “theater of power” wanted by the Mussolini of Caribbeans. Nowadays, thanks to a vibrant instance of community and a spontaneous expression of dominicanidad the fair site it is doing very well indeed. The architecture of the sanguinary regime has been converted and it now hosts markets, public spaces and even a convent.
The design of La Feria Concreta exhibition captures the schizophrenic personality of the fair site with two rooms of opposing contrast. A sober, monochrome box focusing on Santo Domingo’s history cleanses the palette before visitors enter a kaleidoscope of contemporary, colourful images. In the second room, lush, hand-crafted pelliza rag rugs complement the vivid images of modern-day Santo Domingo.
Two opposing figures capture the public. A staged photo of a famous Dominican dancer used to advertise la Feira is opposed to a contemporary photo that shows an anonymous streetwalker who participates in the illicit activity that reprograms the fairgrounds by night. Originally erected in homage to Trujillo, the obelisk has since been rededicated to the hundreds of Dominicans who attempted to overthrow the dictator in 1959. As act of vandalism and protest, the writing “Ni Patria, Ni Banderas (No Countries, No Flags) on an Americas-oriented globe proclaims local ownership of the monument.
Photos: Courtesy of LAD Laboratorio de Arquitectura Dominicana. www.lad.do