Thursday, May 31, 2018

Striking a Pose on the Grand Canal

Three ages of girls and boys (two couples posing, one couple running)

When roughly 980 of every 1,000 people you encounter in the historic center of Venice is a tourist I must admit that it's sometimes tempting as a resident to try to simply stop seeing them at all: to let your eyes pass over them, or through them, as if they were (to use a phrase that Jack Nicholson claimed the director Michelangelo Antonioni used to describe his vision of actors) "moving space." It's a desperate defensive strategy for residents, employed in the interest of trying to preserve the illusion that, in fact, we are not living in a theme park--in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

But, of course, it's a strategy that's doomed to fail, as people, regardless of what Antonioni may have wished, are not "moving space." On the contrary, they're quite solid, and in the numbers in which they now teem over the city they impede your progress at nearly every turn.

Besides, even among the overwhelming multitude a few will always manage to distinguish themselves: kids with their liveliness, for example, or the very few among the crowds who express interest in something--anything!--other than the endless array of junk souvenirs, candy, gelato, "Italian delicacies" in convenient travel-sized jars, and take-away fast food that now line the city's calli, and which can easily monopolize a visitor's attention in spite of their best efforts or desire to see something of actual Venice.

Among the most eye-catching and diverting of things that tourists do--at least for me--is when they pose for photos, either alone (for a selfie) or before others. As much as one might imagine that there is a narrow range of conventional poses to choose among, and even when visitors strike the most familiar of poses, there's always a refreshing degree of self-revelation otherwise lost among the crush of humanity stumping through the city.

Paradoxically, it's in these moments of performing for the camera that visitors seem to show something of their truer selves: their sense of humor, or bravado, or romantic ardor, or maybe just their shyness. And at such moments I'm reminded of one of the things I've loved most about living in cities: these seeming glimpses into the lives of others--glimpses that are usually among the first and most human of experiences obliterated by the sheer numbers of mass tourism. But, fortunately, not entirely.

1 comment:

  1. I know exactly where that is! Were you on a vaporetto? Is the person on the far right explaining something about the capitello to the couple looking at her (or him), do you think? She (or he) appears to be holding something up, but it looks too thin to be a smartphone.