UNOFFICIAL REPORT, AS CLOSE TO LIFE AS IT CAN BE
By Rosanna Albertini
Shaken by wind and rain, Venice, the lady who never undressed after the party, is splashed by the waves. And it’s only September. New monsters navigate between Giudecca and San Marco, before they turn right leaving through the lagoon. Each of them is a five, even eight deck high cruise ship, taller than any building in the city. They came into my dreams at the end of the night, bringing shivers in my spine. Years ago the wooden dock on which one waits for the boat in San Marco was cut into two parts like a piece of butter by the 2 deck boat that goes to Lido. The boat was ridiculously small compared with these ships. No one was angry, white wine is a local gold, a drunk captain can be forgiven; we jumped onto the shore without missing a second of the funny, unbelievable performance.
As for now, I wouldn’t like to watch a cruise ship cutting the city in slices. The population is angry. And the Biennale brought art from all over the word into a theatrical scene more and more used and abused by foreign intruders (Costa, the shipowner who built the port in Venice is from Genoa, already an insult to the Venetian dignity). Working in a cafe near the Arsenale is an ordeal that transforms a pretty waitress, at the end of the day, into an almost unrecognizable wreck of a woman. The Biennale has temples at the Arsenale and Giardini, but the fusion with the city did not happen. Many national pavilions scattered in the meandered body of Venice had already disappeared in September. Some exhibitions seemed made to fill pages in the press, or to adorn empty palaces.
Not the Iranians though. They were given the most ruined, modest and spooky space in Cannareggio. There, the exhibition was shining, thoughtful about the present as much as rooted in an ancient civilization.
The press office of the Biennale let us writers know that information about the entire Biennale will be available online. Confident in the future, I feel allowed to skip details. I only hope this project won’t have the same destiny as the Monument to the Partigiana, a bronze by Augusto Murer, installed by Carlo Scarpa in front of the Giardini entrance of the Biennale in 1964. Soon damaged by the waves, the site restoration was completed in 2009. Time, in Venice, is a flexible entity that Albert Einstein couldn’t theorize.
Once more, no verdict about the art. I loved and learned. I will go back. But this Biennale left a melancholy taste in my mouth. I’m not able to separate the Biennale from Venice. The world is changing, Venice is sinking.
HERE IS A VISUAL STORY OF PERSONAL, HEARTFELT WAYS TO PRESENT THE SPIRIT OF OUR TIME
Artists: Joan Jonas, Katharina Grosse, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, Melvin Edwards, Huma Mulsi, Babak Kazemi, Farideh Lashai, Georg Baselitz, Irina Nakhova
nature and art have no borders
they come to us without a word
what road do I take?
the way it is
the camel is embalmed
trees move on their own
still walking on their heads
don’t fall from the wall
while a man
flew into space from his apartment
THE LAST VENICE BIENNALE I VISITED, IN 2009
There will be no verdict in this report from the Venice Biennale 2009. A “quiet” venue? It’s the general verdict. Yet, what’s the difference between a lagoon and swamp? They are both quiet. If nonsense weren’t good for the brain I would throw the word “quiet” into a canal, but so many told it, or felt that way, a common sentiment must be treated with consideration. Quietly, seventy seven countries from all over the world sent their artists to Venice, to refill the historical pavilions as well as empty basements on the Canal Grande, empty churches, dismissed convents, the abandoned ship factory of the Arsenale, other modest or rich spaces, private foundations. And many artists, instead of magnifying the aura around their ego or their objects, brought to Venice scenes of human experience of the kind shared wherever humans live.
Venice is an expensive shell waiting for artists every two years to bring back international gossip, art comedies, and provocative gestures, as if the ballrooms were still open, and bridges and narrow streets could still embrace and hide love games and illicit exchanges, monkeys, bears, prostitutes, commerce of exotic goods, knives and fists in return for someone’s insult. “Quiet,” sounds like “nianca na strasa de comedia sto ano,” venician language for “not even a rag of a comedy this year,” in a play by Carlo Goldoni, the local glory in the Eighteen century, a sort of Venetian Woody Allen.
Not my impression this year, frankly, maybe because in a previous life I have been a Venetian, and I love the city insanely. Today Venice has the charm of a lady who for centuries never undressed after the party; even threatened by financial straits, she is a majestic old lady. And this Biennale turns out to be an interesting, silent merging of international art into the normal flow of the city life, so that the art spaces are next to the pharmacy, the bakery, clothes and fruit vendors; at times signs for national pavilions or side events (forty four) compete with street markets, flocks of tourists, and spots of chairs for tired legs in front of small cafes. Some exhibits are so hidden in meanders that to find them is an adventure. No complaints: when the art is good, visitors are even more rewarded.