Friday, October 21, 2016
I think it was John Berendt in his City of Falling Angels who referred to a claim he'd either heard or read that one could count out 50 paces (or 100?--I've forgotten the exact number) in any direction in Venice, stop, and look around oneself and be sure to find at least one beautiful sight or detail or juxtaposition in front of one's face. Then, setting off in any direction, one could count out another 50 paces, stop, and look up to find more beauty. And so on and so on, no matter how many times one set off, and no matter how arbitrary one's choice of direction, at the end of the counted paces there'd always be something extraordinary to see.
Berendt (or whoever wrote this account) actually put this to the test, and he found it to be true.
The two images of this post come from my own impromptu test of this idea. I took them as I was walking my son home from school, simply as a way of acquainting myself with a 40-year-old Soviet-made Helios lens I'd bought at an outdoor flea market in Croatia (it was attached to the old Zenit film camera it originally came on, and the whole thing cost about 25 euros--though I really only wanted the lens). I didn't really care what I shot as we walked along, yet no matter where we paused there was something to see and shoot (even if I didn't necessarily do a good job of capturing it).
It made me think that Venice is rather like a hologram, in that each piece of a broken hologram contains in itself the entirety of the original image as a whole--though seen from a slightly different perspective, or, if broken into very small pieces, with reduced clarity. So, in a similar way, it can seem that every bit of Venice--whether captured from a limited perspective, or in just a detail--represents the whole of Venice. The whole is there, somehow, to be seen in just a piece, it seems.
Though that's not to say that seeing only a small fraction of Venice is enough. No more than seeing "all" of it from the elevated vantage point of a passing cruise ship is enough. As easily and emphatically visual as the city may be, its three-dimensionality--unlike that of a hologram--depends on a certain amount of time and of experiences.