Friday, January 27, 2012

Andrea Frank & David Rickard at Galleria Michaela Rizzo

Sandro encounters "Internal Resistance" (an installation by David Rickard)
Located just a short distance from Campo San Maurizio, Galleria Michaela Rizzo is always worth a visit, especially from now until March 17 when it is hosting an exhibition of work by the German-born American-based artist Andrea Frank and the New Zealand-born London-based artist David Rickard.

"Untitled (Singapore)" 2007, courtesy of the artist
Frank's newest works in her Systems exhibition consider the way in which we are educated about our world. Her grids of taxidermy birds, glass botanical models, and entomological bee specimens suggest a knowledge divorced from the vital and inter-dependent systems and processes of our living world. A form of knowledge or a way of learning about the world in which the kind of extinction of species now going on around the world is, one might say, almost eerily foreshadowed.

These new works are the logical extension of her recent Ports and Ships project, also on display: photos of the behemoth cargo ships and city-like ports of a global economy of consumption operating at levels beyond the system limits of our natural world.

"Propane Dream"
The sculptures of David Rickard's Displacments challenge our usual sense of space and mass. In "Propane Dream" heavy gas cannisters of all sizes take on the airiness, the insubstantiality of their contents. Elsewhere, a large rectangular grid of small holes drilled neatly into the gallery wall casts a correspondingly-sized rectangle upon the nearby floor, composed entirely of the dust from the drilling and looking very much like a plane of sunlight through a window. In both works, the drilled holes suggest the material form that our (or at least my) conception of the immaterial, the atomic world take.

In "Internal Resistance", pictured at the top of this post, invisible forces all around us (such as gravity) seem to be given shape in a room-wide installation that both imposes itself upon our movements and vibrates systemically to our slightest touch. 

A brief video containing interviews (in English) with the two artists and an overview of the show may be found at the Galleria Michaela Rizzo website:

And here are the websites of the two artists:

Systems and Displacements at Galleria Michaela Rizzo (photo credit: Andrea Frank)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Foggy Sunset in Sant' Elena Tonight--and a Thank You

 "Asked what may be the leading color in the Venetian concert, we should inveterately say Pink..."
                 --Henry James, Italian Hours

I would like to thank Yvonne, the wonderful blogger at Hello World ( for listing me as among her favorite Venice blogs. If you don't by chance know Yvonne's blog it is worth checking out, as she is one of those bloggers on whom--to quote Henry James again--"nothing is lost." From fritelle to feast days, graffiti to palazzi to pissotte, she seems to notice or track down everything of interest in this city of overwhelming interest.

Having been cited by Yvonne, it's now my turn to list five of my own favorite blogs. I can't pretend to read as many blogs as I'd like to, and I will of course leave out far more great blogs than I can list, but here are some that I like (in no particular order):

Churches in Venice is my go-to blog when I stumble across--or into--one of the many many churches in this city and want to learn more about it. Its author, Annie, combines reliable knowledge, a keen eye, and a distinctive take on every church she writes about.

Written by a native Venetian, Alloggi Barbaria Blog is another of those blogs where I learn something new--or many things new--with every visit.

AAA Accademia Affamati Affannati is a blog I just happened upon, which offers not only a consistently fascinating array of images of and insight into the city, but recipes as well.

 Venessia nei arcani offers magical views into this most magical of cities.

When we were thinking of moving to Venice The Venice Experience--a blog written by an American about her own experiences settling into the city--was of obvious interest to us, and so it remains.

The blog of Libreria Marco Polo keeps me in touch with my favorite bookshop in the city when I'm not able to get there in person:

And though I've already exceeded five, I can't help listing one other blog about the city we moved here from. A huge city whose continued survival as anything more than simply a Disney World of conspicuous consumption is, like Venice, in serious doubt:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Long Time No See: San Simeone Piccolo This Morning

If I remember correctly it was supposed to have been Napoleon who upon his first view of San Simeone Piccolo quipped, "I've seen churches without domes before, but never a dome without a church."

I think the scaffolding was up around the front of this church for so long that it would have been fairly easy to imagine--or hope--that they were finally getting around to building a church more in keeping with the scale of the dome. No such luck, but it's nice to see the church's old odd proportions revealed once more (even if they do make the dome appear, as always, rather unpleasantly pustular), and to have one less giant billboard on the Grand Canal.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lido in Winter: Long Walk, Short Pier

The Lido is a marvelous place to walk in the winter--though recently it's been so relatively mild and sunny here that the seaside isn't as deserted as one might hope.

It is here on Lido, at the end of the Gran Viale, that you can ponder the question of whether a pier that does not extend into water should be called a pier at all. Not even at high tide does the structure pictured above come in contact with the sea.

Perhaps it was simply intended as an observation deck, you might think.

No, my friend who has lived here for all of his 70 years (and oversaw much of the construction in Venice for many years) assures me that it was meant to be a real pier. But the comune ran out of money before it was finished. And so you have a pier that is not really a pier--or at least not enough of one--and a lasting monument, my friend suggests, to the competence of the city's government.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Teatro Marinoni on Lido: An Introduction

The "introduction" I refer to in the title of this post was my own, as I'm sure some of you reading this already know Teatro Marinoni, and know it better than I do. But hand-printed flyers that I noticed recently appearing around the city suggested that even a lot of native Venetians knew little or maybe nothing about it--and invited them to pay a visit to the place and find out more for themselves.

The official introduction provided by the city of Venice (if it were to provide any introduction at all) would state that Teatro Marinoni is one of many abandoned derelict buildings in the Ospedale al Mare complex near the northeastern end of Lido that was sold in 2010 for 94 million euro to the same company that bought the famous Hotel des Bains (and is in the process of converting it into luxury condos).

What the city would not tell you is that Teatro Marinoni was designated as a gift to the residents of Venice by the man who built it, Mario Marinoni, and as such--argue a growing group of residents--cannot be sold to private developers without violating the terms of Dr Marinoni's bequest.

A detail from Giuseppe Cherubini's ceiling fresco
This group of residents, some of whom have taken to occupying (or "squatting") in the theater, would like to see the theater reborn as the public community cultural space it was originally intended and used as. In fact, they have already began holding cultural events in the space.

As more and more people have began to realize, the immediate peril facing Venice is not environmental or architectural, but demographic and sociological. (See The Venice Report: Demography, Tourism, Financing & Change of Use of Buildings, Cambridge University Press; or Veniceland Atlantis: The Bleak Future of the World's Favorite City by Robert L France:

A recent headline in the local paper announced that the population of the lagoon has now dropped below 59,000 for the first time. The architecture and art of Venice may survive, but is a city without actual residents a city at all? Whatever jobs may eventually become available in the Hotel des Bains luxury condo site will not pay enough for the workers to reside in the lagoon. Nor will any similar luxury development of the Ospedale al Mare complex. As the ex-Thatcherite John Gray pointed out in his 1998 book False Dawn, untrammeled free markets (of the sort that now determines policy in Venice) have consistently undermined the very social institutions--family, career, community--they purport to value.

In any case, that is more than enough for an introduction. For more information I refer you to the website:

And to some few pictures of the theater, present and past, below. I'll try to get more information on this group and its project soon.

The rear of the house and its balcony
Another detail from Cherubini's 1920s fresco: Neptune as a beach bum
The theater building during its heyday in the 1920s
Cinema paradiso perduto: the theater's small metal projection room
Above the theater are a couple floors of rooms that could use a little TLC

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Last Glimpse of La Befana This Year

photo credit: Jen
I'm surprised that La Befana is still hanging around five days after the Feast of the Epiphany but here's photographic proof, taken this afternoon.

photo credit: Jen

Friday, January 6, 2012

Presepe and Fishing Nets on Island of S. Pietro di Castello

The Christmas season comes to a close tonight with the feast of the Epiphany and the visit of the witch La Befana to the houses of children throughout Venice. Tomorrow most of the Christmas decorations will come down, so I was glad I stumbled upon this particular window display tonight before it disappeared.

This being Venice, and this being the magazzino window of what seems to be one of the last working fisherman in the city, you'll find a few boats floating upon an aluminum foil sea in the foreground of the photo below, just behind the wise men gathered on the shore, and notice that the Holy Family has taken refuge from the elements not in the traditional manger but in the shelter of a sandolo turned upon its side.

And, naturally, instead of the star we usually hear so much about, you'll see in the upper left corner of the photo the bright beacon of a striped lighthouse summoning admirers to the newborn babe. Much more effective on a foggy night than any celestial light.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Honeymooners Above the Riva degli Schiavoni

I hope you'll excuse the picture quality of this post--I only had a small point-and-shoot on me--but the sight of a couple wrapped up in matching white hotel bathrobes and luxuriously enjoying cigarettes in their hotel window above the busy Riva yesterday evening reminded me of various old movies such as Rear Window, with its standard running gag of two honeymooners who never manage to leave their room.

A similar idea pops up in The Comfort of Strangers--in which Natasha Richardson and Rupert Everett fall into a period of not leaving their own room above the Riva at Hotel Gabrielli. But in that film it's taken into decidedly darker territory.

Let's just hope the above couple did not run into Christopher Walken if they did leave their lodgings.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Plunging Boldly (and Coldly) into the New Year

It was so (relatively) mild this year that these people almost seemed sensible

 It says something about the effect that expectations and context and memory have on our sense of present reality that as I made my way to the Lido late this morning I was thinking that it really seemed too warm to take a dip in the Adriatic.

It was about 10 degrees C (50 degrees F).

Of course I was not about to strip down to a swimsuit and venture into the sea to celebrate the first day of the New Year, but the Lido Ibernisti were, and the fact that the sun was bright, the sky clear and blue, and the silk long-johns I wore beneath my jeans felt almost unnecessary--these facts deprived the club's annual event of some of last year's thrill. The particular thrill one gets from watching a group of people do something both admirable and absurd, courageous and perhaps a little moronic.

Last year the sun took New Year's Day off. It was cloudy and cold and blustery and as the Ibernisti filed into a horizonless sea--water and sky one indistinguishable gray wash--it was almost like you were observing some mysterious Druidical rite. At least for me, as I always vaguely (and perhaps inaccurately) associate Druids with dampness, coldness, baleful skies, and rituals that clearly seem deleterious to one's health.

This year it was like a beach party, with a live band cruelly playing hits from the 1980s and a big crowd, comfortable in their jackets and scarves beneath a cheerful sky. 

Carrying red & white balloons, the Ibernisti make their way from what only appears to be a space station toward the sea 

 With the sun warm on my face I wondered for brief moments, "Why aren't I going into the sea today?"

Of course, as a local friend informed me, the Ibernisti do not only go into the sea on January 1. Starting from the time when lowering autumn chases fair-weather crowds from the shore, the Ibernisti go into the sea every day, rain or shine, throughout the winter.

They believe that doing so prevents them from getting sick, he told me--a little dubiously. 

I didn't think I was up for that level of commitment. At the edge of the sea I took my jacket off and that was as far as I went. I still had on a knit cap, a light thermal long-sleeve shirt, a light flannel shirt, a merino wool sweater and a polar fleece pullover. And the aforementioned long johns.

No, I really don't think I'm Ibernisti material.