Aug
29

Let the Biennale begin

By

The Venice Biennale of Architecture is:

A)  A great place to show off your new clothes

B)  A great place to show off your new boyfriend/girlfriend/baby/dog

C)  A great place to walk up and down various densely populated areas displaying your heartrending coolness, trendiness, disposable income

D)  A great excuse to come to Venice for the weekend

E)  A great place to look at new ideas in architectural design

Correct answer:  All but E.  If you want to learn something about architecture, read a book.

Yachts are the first intimation of the imminent onslaught of the glamorous people.  Here, Roman Abramovich's "Luna," which could probably host the entire Biennale with room to spare.  I mean the exhibitions as well as the people.ed,

Yachts are the first intimation of the imminent onslaught of the glamorous people. Here, Roman Abramovich's "Luna," which could probably host the entire Biennale with room to spare. I mean the exhibitions as well as the people.

Immediately followed by the classic vintage yacht, "Haida G."  I'll take a fantail over a floating football field any day.

Immediately followed by the classic vintage yacht, "Haida G." I'll take a fantail over a floating football field any day.

The Biennale has an impressive history, pockmarked with names ranging from famous to immortal in the worlds of art, and, with the passage of years, in dance, music, theater, and architecture as well.  Let me  not belittle it, nor its aspirations, nor its useful toil nor homely joys nor anything else about it. If I were the owner of a bar, cafe, or restaurant, I would have been counting the minutes till its opening on one hand, and my estimated daily take on the other.  Oops, not enough fingers.

What it looks like to me — looking at it without any architecture, or painting or dance or whatever — is the biannual gathering of hundreds of people who have just landed from the famous Planet Look at Me, Look at Me.  I can’t take it as seriously as it wants to be taken — I’m not sure anybody can –precisely  because of the people from London and Berlin and Paris and all sorts of other places in order to A, B, C and D.  Judging by the characters I see around, it is not something to be taken seriously.  It’s probably wrong to evaluate an exhibition using the old ad hominem approach, but it’s almost inevitable.

Friday evening the vaporetto docks by the Giardini looked like this.  This is the world of people without yachts.  Depressing.

Friday evening the vaporetto docks by the Giardini looked like this. This is the world of people without yachts. Depressing.

The end of August is always like that scene in the horror movie when the monster, which is supposed to be dead, suddenly rears up in his coffin and lunges at you.  The stupefying heat and the fact that nine-tenths of Venice is empty of Venetians would lead you to think that all the city needed right now was for somebody to place the coins on its closed eyelids and tiptoe away.

Getting off the vaporetto is an interesting challenge, especially for people like the Venetians who are invisible to tourists.  That must be why the tourists are all blocking the way.

Getting off the vaporetto is an interesting challenge, especially for people like the Venetians who are invisible to tourists. That must be why the tourists are all blocking the way.

But no. In the space of two weeks we have: The Biennale, the Venice Film Festival, the Campiello Prize, and the Regata Storica.  This weekend is the Biennale’s opening frenzy, and Friday was the inauguration of two new exhibition spaces.

I enjoy all this, it’s better than TV.  Except for the hell of traveling on the vaporettos, which suddenly turn into Third World ferries loaded with fabulous people being fabulous with each other and with themselves — I’m here in Venice, look upon me, ye Mighty, and despair — it’s  pretty entertaining.

Platoons of people with bags and badges and cameras and laptops and accessories such as shoes clearly not made for walking, and scary jewelry and clothes.

In fact, it’s better than Carnival.  In Carnival, you have people dressing up and pretending to be something or somebody else, but  everybody knows they’re pretending.  The thing that makes the Biennale so diverting is that the people dressing up and behaving oddly aren’t pretending.

Her house has no mirrors.

Her house has no mirrors.

And what does all this mean to me?  Not much, except between 1:00 and 2:30 in the afternoon, when I could really use a nap.  As I may have mentioned (many times), our bedroom windows open onto the street, a street which is a major thoroughfare connecting Sector A (via Garibaldi) with Sector B (the last little lobe of Castello).  Unfortunately, the Biennale has installed some exhibitions in said lobe, which means that groups of people stream past the window all day, talking  loudly and excitedly in English and French and German and some Slavic languages, maybe Slovenian or Croatian.  Excellent languages all, except in Venice, where they cannot be spoken at any level below a shout.

Somewhat compensated for by these shoes.

Somewhat compensated for by these shoes.

Come to think of it, they could just as easily be passing one by one, each one talking loudly and excitedly on his or her cell phone.  In any case, loud and excited talking does not conduce to my after-lunch slumber party.  I apologize for reducing the magnitude and splendor of this cultural pageant to my insignificant personal needs,  but my apology is not sincere.

When the exhibitions close, everybody migrates to another display area.

When the exhibitions close, everybody migrates to another display area.

He's got the music, the stage, and the audience for what appeared to be a dance based on tai chi. The performance wasn't any odder than people sitting in the middle of the street.

He's got the music, the stage, and the audience for what appeared to be a dance based on tai chi. The performance wasn't any odder than having people sitting in the middle of the street.

I really hope she's going to dinner.IMG_0440 bien comp

I really hope she’s going to dinner.

Yes, the hair is unpleasant, but so is the fact that his friend feels perfectly fine folding herself up barefoot in public like some lost village tribeswoman.

Yes, the hair is unpleasant, but so is the fact that his friend feels perfectly fine folding herself up barefoot in public like some lost village tribeswoman.

I think they're phoning each other.

I think they're phoning each other.

Now that I've made this picture, we can all gaze upon him forever.  He would be so happy.

Now that I've made this picture, we can all gaze upon him forever. He would be so happy.

Food is for peasants.

Food is for peasants.

Cue the peasants.

Cue the peasants.

Even the kids come loaded with attitude.

Even the kids come loaded with attitude.

This toddler hasn't yet learned that attitude is what you use to fill the place currently being occupied by spectacular boredom.  A plastic rake is going to help him for only about five more minutes.  Then I guess he'll have to start smoking or something.

This toddler hasn't yet learned that attitude is what you use to fill the space currently being occupied by spectacular boredom. A plastic rake is going to divert him for only about five more minutes. Then I guess he'll have to start smoking or something.

And this little girl is still too young to be thinking of anything except how pointless it is to be standing around outside doing nothing, far past her bedtime, with strangers who are more interested in her than her mother is.

And this little girl is still too young to be thinking of anything except how pointless it is to be standing around outside doing nothing, far past her bedtime, with strangers who are more interested in her than her mother is.

Meanwhile, restaurant and cafe owners all along via Garibaldi are working like crazy, stretching their premises far, far beyond the space they are permitted to occupy. A table for 54?  Right away, sir.

Meanwhile, restaurant and cafe owners all along via Garibaldi are working like crazy, stretching their premises far, far beyond the space they are permitted to occupy. A table for 54? Right away, sir.

And some people aren't thinking about architecture at all, but how very charming this portrait will be of her holding a bouquet of red peppers on one of those cunning little bridges.

And some people aren't thinking about architecture at all, but how very charming this portrait will be of her holding a bouquet of red peppers on one of those cunning little bridges.

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Comments

  1. Robin Hilliard says:

    How I so enjoy your piquant, lovingly told stories.
    I have one suggestion for you. Ear-plugs. They may require some acclimatization, like new glasses, but I promise you, the loud, multi-lingual chatter will settle down to a dull roar and you will sleep the sleep of bambini. A bonus: if your husband snores and snorts in his sleep(all men do) he will sound like distant surf breaking on a beach.

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      I’m glad you like my tales from the dark side out here. I will consider the ear-plug suggestion. I like the idea of sleeping with distant surf.

  2. […] the fact that “Biennale” literally means bi-annual (that is, every two years), this extravaganza of art has been […]

  3. […] opening weekend of the annual Biennale, of whatever sort, as I have chronicled in other years, is a spectacular spasm of art objects and art people in the zone of the Giardini, where the […]

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