Although Venice is undoubtedly gorgeous on a sunny day, she also has her charms in the rain. The light gets even softer, land melts into fog, the wet stones under your feet add reflections. Just don’t get caught in one of the overcrowded calles near a tourist hotspot, you’ll lose an eye from someone’s umbrella.
We took the Lagoon-side vaporetto over to Giardini for a morning at the Biennale, the staggeringly huge bi yearly contemporary art extravaganza. It is always a very mixed bag, with some installations leaving me scratching my head or wondering why the artist didn’t go into plumbing instead. But some are either fascinating, intriguing, or just plain beautiful, if often (as Philippa and I agreed on the most nonjudgmental word) Challenging.
The Giardini holds most of the big national pavilions. At opening the ticket lines were long, but since the space is huge it doesn’t feel overcrowded once you get past the entry gate.
As usual, many video installations this year. The one I really loved was from France. Layered and beautiful, full of stunning or odd images as a group of friends travel through a dreamlike adventure, finally getting to Venice. The floor under your feet is padded and soft, and in the dark space are soft sculptures, some you can sit on.
Another I enjoyed was from Canada, featuring a long, subtlety funny and ultimately sobering conversation between a group of Inuit elders, a young interpreter and an anonymous Whiteman who wants them to move to a settlement. Taken from the history of the Inuit’s forced relocation, it amplifies the huge divide of language and culture.
The Russian Pavillion started out ponderous and heavy, reflecting on the Hermitage and the story of the prodigal son. But downstairs was a hilarious kinetic sculpture, full of bobbing figures and witty images and text.
Larry liked the American Pavillion with sculptures from Martin Puryear, they didn’t do much for me. A few other things I enjoyed, but nothing else was particularly memorable. By this time it was almost 2, so we walked over to Calle Garibaldi to our favorite bar there, Cafe Refolu for some wine and little sandwiches. We will return on another day, I think afternoon would be less crowded as people run out of steam.
Then a soggy vap ride home, stopping to scope out the organic San Erasmus farm store and get a few things at the bigger Coop on Strada Nuova. Quite the selection of polenta to choose from.
Hung out and read in the apartment, and later walked further west in Cannaregio to meet Jonathan and Philippa at Cafe Dodo for a Spritz. Then an excellent dinner at Osteria Da Robia. A bit upscale, and good cooking. Larry and I split gnocchi with crab and bottarga, and then I had duck breast and a beautiful plate of vegetables. We split pistachio bavarese and a panda cotta for dessert. Another enjoyable meal in great company.