Notes on Cities: Venezia
The grand but the bruised, the beaten and used.
The interviews that comprise the Notes on Cities: Venezia have all been conducted prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. To the interviewees and the interviewer their content may seem like a premonition. From its outset, this series has aimed to emphasize the uniqueness of Venice as a model city in the best and in the worst of times. It is the urban city by definition, and possibly the greatest intervention in nature. A floating city constructed by man to a level of beauty parallel to nowhere else in the world. The beauty of this topos has given fruit to the beauty of the mind and the heart across millennia. In other words, Venice is amongst the best achievements humankind has been able to prove. This is perhaps no news but telling old truths by new forms is now, more than ever, a task for all to pursue. Decelerated times favour re-prioritization. We have gotten used to consuming, and whilst doing so, disregarded the long-term effects.
These effects are hitting us hard as we speak.
Beauty comes at a high price. It is at peril when greater forces act upon it. Add neglect and exploitation of resources and the equation is simple. Beauty can, after all, quickly disintegrate to a zero. Current global circumstances are almost too exemplary a proof that Venice has been leading the way as a city ensuring first refuge, generating excellence and, eventually, staging the decline many associate it with today.
It remains, however, the city that has proven most consistently the universally beneficial phenomenon of community spirit. What we amount to today is much indebted to its outlook on life as a whole. It already knows what we are today: the grand but the bruised, the beaten and used.
Venice is the leading city spanning the spectrum of social choreographies – from the solitary in quarantine to the pas-de-deux of the romantic couple to the 28 million visitors per year that are serviced by 22,000 locals. It seems only logical that Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man has been destined towards his current home, the Gallerie dell’Accademia. For whether anatomical or monetary, social or hydraulic, it is portion and proportion and a grasp on numbers that feed the city’s DNA. Collaborating with nature – mainly water, that is – means following the rules. No cheating.
Delegating the administration of this city to anyone other than its current inhabitants is cheating. It is not what Tiziano Vecellio, Monica Viero and Jane Da Mosto have in common. They all follow the rules of respect and live according to a balance principle. Living in Venice now is not too different from inhabiting it 5 centuries ago. Tiziano, Monica and Jane are a good example of making friends with the idea that pasts and presents are connected by the human condition. As contemporary as it ever has been.
—Lara Verena Bellenghi
Notes on Cities: Venezia is unfolding as a series of interviews conducted by Lara Verena Bellenghi