As a traveling musician I am always on the road. One is hard pressed to filter out all of the white noise of hours of sitting in airports, endless rehearsals and hours of preparation for said rehearsals to find new inspiration. Sometimes you have to get on yet another plane and force repose and reflection upon yourself. Venice was the place this time around, my first time in this curious floating city. I think it safe to say that most people have an idea of Venice from movies, pictures, post cards and art history books. Somehow it all felt oddly familiar.
Millions of tourists from around the world flood the tiny winding streets of Venice yearlong. The diversity of people is astonishing. On several occasions I found myself listening to conversations in languages that I couldn't even recognize! Guidebooks and signs do a great job of herding the crowds along the paths to the major tourists attractions of San Marco, St. Mark's Basilica, Rialto Bridge and along the Grand Canal. The amount of people jammed into these places is mind bending. Venice casted a vapor from the summer heat and canal water upon the crowds. Throngs in ecstasy, maps in hand, cameras around their necks pushing and occasionally stopping to take yet another photo. It's a wild orgy of people drunk on the cities never ending beauty.
We were rather keen on avoiding the major arteries of the city and stuck to the winding streets, sometimes too small to walk shoulder to shoulder through, getting lost and finding our way again which is very much part of the excitement of Venice. The food was remarkable. Our first night we arrived later than expected because our baggage was lost. Starving, we stumbled upon a restaurant a few meters from our hotel. It was loud, rough around the edges and fabulous. So good that we returned every night of our visit.
The best way to get a great outlook of the sheer wonder of the city is by traveling by Vaporetto, the Venetian waterbus. We paid a visit via Vaporetto to the cemetery island of San Michele to see the gravestones of both Stravinsky and Diaghilev. I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a regular cemetery visitor, but the idea of a floating cemetery was just too much to miss. It's both creepy and exquisite. We took a quick late afternoon walk around Murano, a group of five islands just beyond San Michele, famous for its glass industries, ateliers and museum of glass art. We arrived as the shops were closing and had a pleasant evening stroll, enjoying the sunset and a hazy view of the city.
The 55th International Art Exhibition at the Biennale was certainly the highlight of our visit and was where I was able to really reflect on the last few years of my own creative life. After years of creating and being in the middle of so many fantastic musical creations, it was refreshing to step outside of the creative process and take it all in ... absorbing, consuming, reflecting, questioning. We broke up our visit into to two parts. First we spent several hours walking through the pavilions of the Giardini looking at one of the most diverse selections of curated work that I've seen in a long time. One of the most impressive of which was a room of floating chairs in the fist room of the French Pavilion by Ai Wei Wei which I couldn't take my eyes off of. 'Ravel Unravel' an instillation by French artist Anri Sala in the German pavilion also left a powerful impression on us both. Our second trip to the Biennale was to the Arsenale which was more of a pumped up gallery experience. The Arsenale is a cluster of state owned armories formerly used to house military supplies and which has been impressively restored for the Biennale and other large performances. The main building is a huge labyrinth of seamlessly curated paintings, sculptures and instillations. A stand out for me was Dahn Vo's beautiful structure of a colonial era Catholic Church in Vietnam.
A trip to the beautiful Peggy Guggenheim Museum for the early Motherwell collage exhibit and then a quick day trip to Lido rounded out our visit to Venice. Our next trip will be in the colder months when the throngs of tourists are less dense.