Not writing for several weeks has left me with way too much to relay. This is going to be long. I’m not sorry.
The last few days in Chiusdino were a whirlwind of last minute preparations including building studio furniture and the arch forms for the firebox and chamber of the wood kiln. Towards the end I realized that whatever we chose to work on would also result in something else not getting finished. A sort of triage took place and our real priorities were clarified. That kiln must be built!
And then we were off to Venice. A local friend gave us a ride to Florence and we had a wonderful meal at a place with a fixed menu for just 13 Euro. Look up “stinco,” it’s probably not what you think. I also had a mushroom risotto and a small plate of fresh white beans cooked al dente. Fresh beans are something to experience. We took a fast train to Venice which was a bit more expensive but very comfortable and smooth. Arriving in the early evening we were treated to an energetic, picturesque reception. From the mainland we immediately boarded a water bus or Vaporetto to the island of Lido where we were to meet the students. We met a nice couple on the boat that helped us with our orientation and somehow ended up looking at my portfolio. On Lido we dropped our things at the hotel and set out to find the group. After popping into every restaurant on the island I finally gave up and got myself an overpriced slice of pizza. Defeated (I’d even lost Brian at that point) and heading back to the hotel I came across some familiar faces and enjoyed a bit more pizza with some Long Beach students.
We got back to the hotel late but merry and hit the sack for an early morning. Hotel Rigel serves a nice breakfast, especially after the espresso-and-a-pastry I had become accustomed to elsewhere. After eating, the group had a meeting and took some photos paralleling the bridal party that was also in the hotel lobby. We all headed to San Marco where I got my first real taste of the crowds in Venice. Just wow; just hold on to your wallet. We made for the Doge Palace and suddenly 28 voices were not quite speaking as one. We broke into smaller groups and I made for the entrance. The courtyard was maybe the most stunning part of all. The patina on the bronze sculptures stood out to me with incredible depth and richness. For many of the students this was the first closeup taste of historical Italian architecture. I felt lucky to have had a little under my belt so I was not stopped completely in my tracks. We continued around the grounds and into the building impressed by room after room of legislative space. As the rooms grew it became more challenging to take in the details of all the paintings and objects surrounding us. Mostly I tried to imagine all the administrative business and daily life that went on there over time. Our tickets also go us into the Museo Correr and the archeological museum. They were boring and I’m rather spoiled after the archeological museum in Siracusa, but we made our way through and saw almost everything.
And then we went to the part of the biennale hosted at the Arsenale and the Arsenale was thinly veiled madness. It took more than a full day to see everything and I'm certain I didn't see everything. Many videos installations went only partially watched. I'm still trying to figure out what I saw so I suggest looking at Instagram and other online sources with search terms like "2015 Venice Biennale Arsenale." I think it's better for you to form your own opinion, though I may post some thoughts in the future as they gestate into something more concrete.
I am also posting images from the Glasstress 2015 Gotika exhibition on the island of Murano which was hosted in an old glass factory. I was intrigued to see the old wood kilns which had been retrofitted for gas and even a little electrical equipment eventually added. This was probably the most exciting show for me and had me bouncing around trying to see everything at once. I was especially glad to find a live camel and chickens. Just look up Koen Vanmechelen. It's good to know there are people out in the world more crazy about chickens than I am. After watching a very short and confusing video portion of the monstra I reflected on all the videos I didn't take the time to watch in their entirety throughout the biennale. Maybe if I had a bit more backstory or interest as I did for Koen's work I would have tried to sit through them. Still I wonder if some of those videos wouldn't be better watched online in a setting under the viewer's control. The majority of video installations I saw were not site specific nor much more than a dark room and a hard bench with people constantly flowing in and out.
The was another Glasstress exhibition on the mainland and there is a lot more to talk about. I will try to write and post my way out of this backlog!