Let the Biennale beginBy
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I really hope she’s going to dinner.