Letter from Italy #2

Channel in Burano, Venice, Italy

Image via Wikipedia

Second in a series of guest blogs by my sister.

After I left you, full of chocolate (which went straight to my legs…I set out with a step all springy…) I started looking for Biennale pavilions, none in particular, just waiting for happenstance. Could not have gone better if I planned.

First, Iran…activist art both arty and challenging. A room full of photos of civilians killed in the Iran/Iraq war, screened with black paint onto mirrors, so when you looked at their pictures, you saw your own face too. Which was the point. An exhibit of photos of people and their shadows. Lots of quotes of poetry about shadows. A room of photographs contrasting the modern world with the remnants of the old Persian civilisation through portraiture.

From there to Cyprus, where two artists hung pieces of furniture from cables hooked to motors, with pens attached, so the furniture could draw…the steamer trunk drew a different image than the bedframe. No idea what the point was, but neat to watch.

From there to Central Asia, aka the Stans (Kazakh, Uzbek, Afghani, and the one I always forget). Their installations focused on whether people could communicate through art when language didn’t work. Lots of stuff done in fabric and video, poignant from a part of the world so isolated, yet perhaps keen to connect with the rest of us?

Feet up for an hour, then off for dinner. Not the same luck as the night before, off to a bad start with the curse of the single female dining alone (Buona sera, Signora, how about this lousy table by the door? Uh, how about no?) Followed by decent soup, but squishy vegetables and bitter squid.

I spent most of today at one of the Biennale’s main exhibit sites, in the Giardini (garden) section of Paris…it’s a large park with permanent national pavilions, because this biannual art show has been going on since the 1800’s. Rather than detailed comments on every pavilion I saw, here are some highlights….
Japan: video art of bubbles in a dark room with weird noises (??)
Czechoslovakia (yes, that’s right): moving interpretation of a father’s sculptures by his conceptual artist son
Britain: a recreation of a claustrophobic and dingy artist/immigrant squat in a grand pavilion
Canada: building looks like expo 67, art was far more bitter and angry than we’d expect from Canadians
Germany: the Germans turned their space into a “church” which was good, since I could sit down (and by now it was pouring rain) but their photos were odd and they were running a black and white video that seemed to have images of a bat and a snake trying to decide who was eating whom, and what looked like a man plastering a poodle to a wall. (???)
Brazil: a giant white room with Portuguese graffiti and scribbles. A cob of corn stuck to the wall. And it smells like wet dog (okay, some of these pavilions are more successful than others…)
Finland: Alvar Aalto pavilion closed because a tree fell on it. Typical. Poor Finns.

There is still so much art to see, but I’ve reached what I hope is a temporary saturation point. One question though, and I know this one would be plaguing you, Poppet…with so much great art around why were the souvenir t-shirts so lame?

Decided to walk back downtown, rather than take the water bus and while I was doing that, it hit me.
I’m in Venice.
I’ve always wanted to be in Venice.
And here I am.

That profound realisation was interfering with my plan making, and I had a semi-plan that involved food, the Doge’s palace and getting me more of that hot chocolate. Then I met a nice lady selling boat tours to the craft islands, Murano (glass), Burano (lace) and Torcello (old monastery and a large feral cat colony!) I could hear the Voice of Mother saying it’s time to eat, so the boat lady recommended a restaurant owned by the church were Venetians eat…pasta with clams, a slab of tuna and a salad for 13 euros. And back in time to catch the boat tour! The nice lady grew up in Canada where her dad was an RCAF engineer in North Bay. It’s likely he kept Uncle Bob from falling out of the sky. For which I said thank you.

Glass first…interesting to watch the blowing, and look at the shop…lots of ugly vases but beautiful chandeliers and stemware. Torcello next…first civilisation in the lagoon, very peaceful place (at least on a grey November day), and the cats were cute! Very laid back, and given that it looked like dozens of versions of the same cat, I’m assuming they are related. Finally, Burano, and a cuter town would be hard to find…it’s full of lace makers (and lace sellers) and seemed like the most happening of the three. The lace was beautiful, but how much lace does a person need?

That brings us to now. I’m on the boat, waiting to go back to the city centre, a quick stop to make a purchase (happy birthday, Big Sister (ed. Yippee!)), some dinner, a hot shower, and the good company of the BBC world service. On the train to Rome in the morning.

Oh, and only one reference to cats today and they weren’t even mine. Although…. I did see a great chess set, instead of black and white it was cats vs dogs in little pawn, knight, bishop, etc suits. Too big to carry home.



About saxbergonstuff

I'm a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a daughter, an auntie. When I'm not focusing on that, I'm an educator, facilitator and content designer. When I feel like it.
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