Venice Biennale

Posted July 15th, 2019

Stefan Sagmeister & Jessica Walsh were invited to create an installation focused on the topic of free spaces at the Austrian Pavilion for the 2018 Venice Biennale.


The Venice Biennale is an event that has been showcasing the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world for over 120 years. When we heard the theme was “free space,” our idea was to create something that gave the biennale viewers a break during the event. In the Austrian Pavilion, we produced a conceptually and materially complex spatial installation where people could rest their mind and enjoy something both beautiful & stimulating, while also relaxing.

We created a series of videos dissecting the relationship between beauty & function, using ASMR, typography & 3D animation. The videos were projected on the ceiling & viewers watched from chairs designed for looking up.

Image gallery

For the videos, we made two different typographic versions of the sentence “BEAUTY = FUNCTION,” executing them in various ways — through slime, putty, sand & other oddly satisfying materials. Each video has ASMR sound effects that viewers can listen to with headphones. ASMR means Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response & is used to describe a pleasant tingling sensation that comes from certain sounds — some people describe it as an orgasm for the brain. The sentence “BEAUTY = FUNCTION “ refers to our belief that beauty is not just a surface strategy. We believe that beauty is central to what it means to be human and that beauty can have a big impact on the functionality of design.

When discussing beauty, we are not referring to human beauty or people’s faces, but rather, the beauty in art, architecture, design & craft. Beauty isn’t tied to one style. You can find beauty in everything from ornamental design to modernism. Instead, we’re referring to things that are well designed — crafted with love, care & attention. The technical definition we’ve been using for beauty is “a combination of shape, form, color, composition, material and structure to please the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.” We believe designers and creatives should always consider beauty, as beauty can improve functionality.

This installation was the starting point for our deeper exploration into the concept of beauty, inspiring both the Beauty Show & The Beauty Book. These videos are currently being shown at The Beauty Show in Europe.

View the work here