You can love Venice even without ever having been there. Thanks to the surreal charm of this city, the dreams it evokes and its diversity. And you can love it even more today, now that we have a greater need for irreality, dreams and diversity. Venice satisfies our irrepressible desire to break the rules and ignore the limits set by our superiors.
This happened to me when Director of the Biennale Theatre, during that unique event – Carnevale – that I helped created on behalf of the Theatre in 1980 and 1981 and again in 2007. Carnevale, the “party” par excellence . I tried to grasp precisely these private and shared desires and needs, but also the aspects of socialising and scenic space, both outdoors and inside theatres. No image in the world - whether handed down by word of mouth or in books – fails to point to the awareness of man’s presence in the entertainment factor, opportunity to reflect or dream and in the fatigue involved in theatrical work. No image fails to emphasize the importance of the relationship with space.
Venice offers some of the most original and profound combinations of man and space. Firstly, our relationship with the water and the narrow streets crossing the city. Then we are faced with the changing complexity of the architecture, the rhythms, sounds and colours, to the point that our very words, our very gestures are conditioned by it all. Venice has always known this and is very proud of it.
Thanks to its unique setting, the city has developed a split character: one of a political nature (ceremonies, funerals and official events), the other its fight against (and resulting freedom from) the environmental conditions that always threaten to destroy it. Even the typical Carnival mask expresses the ambiguity of Venetian life: sometimes it hides and justifies all excess, at others it reveals the almost metaphysical strength of what is not expressed (strong/weak, woman/man, old/young).
A strength that transcends reality, but one that can never be ignored. It is a strength that leads to our capacity to create new living conditions and build new worlds. A strength that provides fleeting moments of surprising impact on social matters.
Venice is a magical world. We should be aware and proud of this. Venice is Kant’s Never Neverland. It provides room for the imagination. It represents utopia. Yet the city must also be experienced through the institutions (including, of course, the Biennale) and through those who live there or travel there, not so much as a city of art, but as a cultural city, as has recently been observed: the city welcomes permanent workshops and shows, thus new stimulating experiences for artists and scholars, stressing its international vocation .
Modern Venice offers a chaotic mix of signs for institutions and individuals: its history and "splendour" during the 18th Century and the "urgency" of our modern lifestyle, leading to our need to find a place to get away from it all for a while – to a place such as a desert island, or Venice – before setting off again.
Certainly Venice is regarded as having been extremely decadent in the 1700s.
But compared to what?
It was way behind other cities in certain aspects, but also represented a huge leap forward towards the dream of utopia, precisely because it is constantly threatened with destruction.
So the thought of Venice and the word "festa" leads to a very serious question: just what is our future?
How will we talk, how we will make love, how we will live in the future?
Sociologists are not surprised that so many people nowadays chose an apparently evasive period of the year to pose such a serious question. They question those other periods of the year that are so ominously "carnival-like". They seize on the danger of rapid corruption and ruin to speculate about what is just round the corner. They embrace the signs of a great willingness to find a legacy and move forward to discover our future.
It is not at all strange that this happens in Venice, and only in Venice. It is thanks to that special feeling of time and space that is so hard to find elsewhere.
Venice, miraculously, offers us this chance. For now.
1800 - 2000 - - rev. 0.2.9