Today I visited San Michele - the cemetery island.
Although a serene and picturesque place, with graves of historical note and several beautiful churches and chapels, it is also very much a working, 'living' cemetery for the city of Venice and therefore uncomfortable to experience as a tourist. Due to obvious considerations of space, the cemetery is strictly organised across several different categories including faith of the deceased and type of burial (e.g. ossuary vs. tomb or Protestant vs. Greek Orthodox); as Alain Busine suggests in Venice: The Enchancted Mirror, these practicalities divide the cemetery island into districts that mirror those of its double, Venice, across the water.
The volume of art on display in Venice as part of the 56th edition of La Biennale di Venezia is overwhelming, and it becomes increasingly difficult to absorb. Based in two venues at the Giardini and the Arsenale, the Biennale and its collateral events spill over across the whole city and surrounding islands.
There's so much going on at the huge Arsenale exhibition, but Steve Mcqueen's piece Ashes (see the artist discussing its background here) and Mika Rottenberg's NoNoseKnows (in the NYT here) were mesmerising.
Amongst the national pavilions at the Giardini, I really enjoyed the Canadian pavilion (video here), part of which involved the reconstruction of a Québécois-style dépanneur and for me a surreal moment of time-travel back to holidays spent in Quebec as a child. The Korean (video) and Nordic Countries (video) pavilions also stood out to me.
The sense of 'art overload' is heightened by the visuals of the city itself and the fact that so many of the exhibition venues, from the various palazzi to national pavilions in the Giardini, are themselves presences which demand contemplation. Some exhibitions work in harmony with their settings or even use them to enhance their content, while others seem to exist in uneasy tension with them.
An exhibition that I thought made excellent use of a potentially overpowering setting was Simon Denny for New Zealand's Secret Power at the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana. I also found Graham Fagen's sound/video piece for Scotland + Venice worked in harmony with the beauty of the Palazzo Fontana to create a compelling space.
From contemporary and historical fine art to tourist snapshots, Venice is a city all ready so full of images (and in some way made up of them) that it's hard to know what I can possibly add...
A very rainy day, with an impression that Venice is dissolving back into the laguna...
Views from the Ponte dell'Accademia, Palazzo Falier, the vaporetto stop at Accademia, and near Zattere looking toward Giudecca.
Ducked into the Palazzo Falier to visit Land Sea, an exhibition of Sean Scully's work curated by Danilo Eccher. While I don't generally have much personal response to Scully's work, the atmosphere of the day and of the palazzo itself combined with the pieces on display made for a very engaging experience.
Dried off in the afternoon while editing some clips for a new film piece. Can't upload any video yet due to internet circumstances, but some stills will be up soon.
I have some catch-up blogging to do as my internet connection fizzled out a couple days ago. I'd been staying on Lido since I arrived but moved today to Venice itself, near Ca' Rezzonico in Dorsoduro. I'm being hosted by a lovely Venetian lady in a gorgeous, eclectic flat - lots of books and art, so I feel quite at home already.
Some sketches from the past few days: Lido, Dorsoduro, S. Croce, and the view from Riva di Biasio.