Biennale Day

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Venice is home to the original biannual arts festival, called the Biennale.  Nowadays, there’s a Biennale every year, but odd years are devoted art, and even years to architecture.  This town, which has become a slave to its history, is also the setting for one of the most influential contemporary art/architecture exhibitions in the world.  Many countries have their own pavilions in the Giardini at the eastern edge of Venice.  There are a few other venues around town, too, most notably including the Arsenale, the former ship-building and naval complex, which hosts larger exhibits that are curated around the theme of the year’s exhibition (ILLUMI-nations, currently).   This, of course, is an art year, and I was excited to spend the day roaming around the Arsenale and Giardini, checking out the various national pavilions, and assorted other exhibits.

For me, the highlights of the Arsenale were an installation by James Turrell (described below), and the film, The Clock, by Christian Marclay.  The film is a 24-hour compilation of scenes from movies where clocks can be seen, or time is mentioned, in real time, and for a cinephile like myself, it’s pretty hard to pull oneself away.  There are a bunch of photos from the Giardini below, but some additional highlights included a Cindy Sherman room, and another Pipilotti Rist room (this one was much more reserved than the installation in Istanbul).

For the first time since leaving the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, I encountered some rain this evening, and after countless dry, sunny days, I’m still getting used to the idea that the weather can actually change.

Here are the photos (click to enlarge):

Although this is hardly an authentic venetian meal, I was craving pizza, and this was a good one. The wine didn't hurt the lunch, either.

I started my Biennale day at the Aresenale, where I found this little piece.

The Arsenale also featured an installation by James Turrell that was truly mesmerizing. Three at a time, visitors were allowed to put on special clean shoes, and ascend up a set of stairs, entering a hole in the wall that was defined by color. The interior space had no corners, but a gradual ramp that led to a shear drop off with no edges. A gradually changing colored glow enveloped the space, and the intensity of the color was both shocking and disorienting. Although there were no special effects, a fog seemed to be emanating from the hole, but this was just an optical illusion. Obviously, photos were not permitted, and I don't think they would have helped, anyway. This is the long passage outside of the exhibit space.

I wonder what it's like to live in a place where everyone knows the color of one's undergarments.

The facades of some Venetian houses are like archeological digs in progress, showing all the layers of construction and renovation.

A view of the Q-Tip section of the bizarre installation in the Swiss pavilion, by Thomas Hirschhorn.

I have always been inspired by Sverre Fehn's Nordic Pavilion.

The American Pavilion featured a working ATM/pipe organ, by Allora & Calzadilla. When cash is withdrawn, a room-shaking church chord is played.The installation in the Austrian Pavilion included a maze-like structure that was suspended about 3 feet off the ground, by Markus Schinwald (also in the image at the top of the page).

Josef Hoffmann's design of the Austrian Pavilion still seems current 80 years later.

The interior of the Greek Pavilion, by Diohandi.

The Japanese Pavilion featured an animation by Tabaimo that was projected in every direction, in a room full of mirrors.

The animation, and the whole experience, for that matter, was enveloping, and I have no idea how long I stayed inside. I only know that I was asked to leave at closing time.

When I emerged from the Biennale's gardens, I discovered that the weather had changed. For the first time since leaving Kyrgyzstan, I was faced with the potential for rain, and a poor evening for photographing.

One of the larger sotoportegi.

The weather was looking ominous, as I made my way back towards the center of the city. I made the decision to have dinner near my hotel, which turned out to be a good decision, because the skies opened up shortly thereafter. Yes, that tower's leaning. It's the campanile of the Chiesa di San Giorgio dei Greci.

A gondolier emerges from beneath Carlo Scarpa's bridge in front of the Querini Stampalia. I'll be back here tomorrow to spend some time in the garden.

I stopped at another small Osteria for Cicheti on my way back to my neighborhood.

I could get used to the idea of Venetian happy hour. Cicheti and wine before dinner is not a bad way to start an evening.

At dinner, which happened to be in an alley very close to my dungeon of a hotel, I started with my waiter's recommendation of pasta with tuna.

I'm almost positive that this is not what I ordered. My waiter and I discussed a couple of his recommendations, and I'm pretty sure that we settled on a mixed seafood plate. Another waiter handed me this, and walked away. After scratching my head for a moment, I decided to dig in. About 30 seconds later, I saw my waiter heading towards me with a plate of seafood, but when he saw me eating this, he quickly turned around. I didn't mind, however, because this was fantastic, and I was able to practice my newly learned filleting techniques.

The streets were soon rain-soaked, and outdoor diners were forced to huddle beneath meagre awnings.

Taking shelter in a sotoportega is a good opporunity to make a romantic connection.

The streets in Canareggio were soon deserted, and I had to rush to get back to my room before being completely drenched.

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4 thoughts on “Biennale Day

  1. When Allora & Calzadilla’s ATM has cash withdrawn from it, is the chord longer when alot of cash is taken out. Or are there different chords depending on how much money you withdraw. I wonder if the gypsies hang around listening for those chords to sound off.

  2. Yes, appetizers and wine for happy hour sound good! Maybe you can start a trend at your office! Everyone would leave work happy!

    The animation exhibit looked like it would make you dizzy, no?

    You’ll have to show me how to fillet a fish like that when you come home, I know that I would have no idea what to do with that. were there a lot of bones?

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