Friday, June 7, 2013

The Serpentine in the Garden (Giardini Pubblici)

photo credit for all photos: Jen Varni
The artist herself played an (amplified) violin-like instrument at the center of it all 
Last weekend was a weekend of processions: the liturgical one on Friday night from San Francesco della Vigna to SS Giovanni e Paolo (of my last two posts), and this linked one in the Giardini Pubblici the next afternoon, staged as part of an artist's video project.

A couple of weeks before I'd run into a friend on Via Garibaldi who'd asked if I'd be willing to dress as a Renaissance lord and participate in this. I said, yes (as I'd also agreed a couple of years back to a similar request from the same person) for precisely the reason that this was something that for most of my life I would never ever have done. And besides, what happens in Venice stays in Venice. Or perhaps that's the motto of some other place?

I wrote quite enough about my experience in costume the first time I did this kind of thing (, so I'll only say here that on a larger barrel-chested man (or even beer-bellied man), my outfit might have bestowed a grand Henry VIII kind of majesty. On me I believe it gave the impression that I was being assailed by--and vanquished by--some of the vast rich velvet draperies with which Richard Wagner liked to decorate his lodgings. But everyone else, as you can see in the photos, looked marvelous.

We weren't expected to dance for the video, though everyone else in costume was part of a historical dance troupe. We only had to link hands with about two dozen volunteers of all ages who stepped forward to help out from the many people milling around the entrance to the Biennale on that event's opening day and follow, at a pretty brisk walking pace, the serpentine meanderings of our "lord" at the head of the line. The video artist herself, dressed as lady and playing amplified violin upon a pedestal in the center of a circular flower bed, set the pace. 

Everyone had a great time. One guy had a bit too much of a good time: letting go of the hand of the person in front of him--though we'd all been directed NOT to do that--to caper around on his own. This, I believe, ruined a bit of the second take, but not so much as to be a problem We also did a third take, during which rain--as it often does these days here--started to fall.

For the second time in as many days I was struck by how much our culture, advanced as we pride ourselves on being, has forgotten. Contrary to the disastrous assertion made by Margaret Thatcher and her ilk for the past 40 years that there is only the individual, a simple procession or a simple bit of serpentining with strangers acts as a concrete reminder of what joy people derive from being social, from participating in communal activity, of quite literally moving with others. You'd think it would be obvious, as it once used to be obvious in Western societies, but it was nothing I was raised with--and nothing one can experience via Facebook or other "social networks".

The head of the line waits to be given the signal to start

There were at least three cameras; one stationary, at right, the others roving
Being a part of this line was much more fun than being a part of those at the ticket windows for the Biennale
Children made up the line's tail
Lords, ladies, photographers
Serpentining does wonders for one's mood

NOTE: I wanted to let readers know that the excellent Baroque trio Bel Ayre will soon be performing in Ca' Corner della Regina in Venice, on June 15, 2013. 
I wrote a post (with photos) about the first time I saw this group perform, at Palazzo Da Mosto, which you can see here:
They're also just finishing a CD, which should be released in September. If you'll be in Venice soon they are really worth seeing in person. If not, there's the CD to look forward to.



  1. I did a double-take on that first photo, I initially thought it was an exquisite stage set.

    Oh, oh, oh, how I would have loved to participate in this! Thanks to Jen for taking such wonderful photos. Was Sandro there as well?

    1. Well, some people say much of Venice is a stage set, Susie, but I don't think they're quite right. Though, actually, that arch in the background--I believe the door to one of the churches once located in what became the garden--certainly would work on stage.

      Sandro was there, and though other kids participated, he refused. Actually, he was so disoriented by the odd costume I was wearing he hardly talked to me till I was out of it.

  2. Crumbs, that looks like such fun! Susie, we miss so darn many good things!

    1. Wait a minute, Yvonne, if you've missed something here it definitely means you're presently far far away, as I get the impression you never miss a single thing while you're here--or probably anywhere in the vicinity. Not even a Johnny Deep stroll goes unseen by you! Wouldn't be such a bad thing to have such serpentines on a rather regular basis (no need for costumes, just music), so perhaps next time you're staying in town you can set to work on this?

  3. Hi! I've recently discovered your blog while looking for some infos about moving/living in Venice, and I truly enjoyed your clever humour and sensitive writing!
    We are an italian couple currently living in Berlin, but from the end of the summer Venice will be our new place to stay! we are particularly fond of Castello :)
    all the best,
    Tania and Claudio

    1. Thanks for your kinds remarks, Tania (and Claudio), I'm glad you enjoy the blog and you're quite generous to let me know. I think Castello has much to recommend it, it would be hard for us to live elsewhere--though when it comes to living outside of Venice and Italy, Berlin is actually the place we talk about. It's great that you're moving here, Venice needs residents! If you'd like, let me know when you get into town!

    2. Berlin is amazing! ironically at the moment it seems that there are more italians living here than residents in Venice!
      We will be there for a couple of days this week, seeing apartments... wish us luck... And, sure, we'd love to get in touch with you and your lovely family once settled! Tania

    3. Tania:

      I can easily believe there are more Italians in Berlin than in Venice: there are more jobs there!

      Good luck with your apartment hunt, and let us know when you arrive.