The Wonders of Venice’s Biennale


Dante wrote: ‘We paused to peer into another bit of hell and hear the usual lamentations. It was hot down there and black as your boot as in the Arsenal of the Venetians…

Amazing to think of the industry that went on behind those old walls, the world’s first production line. They could build and fit a galleon in a day. It’s now a silent empty sixty acre site. Well actually not quite for its 2011 and the huge warehouses are full of modern art.

I could wander round for days. In fact I buy a weekly ticket and spend an hour or two every day taking it in.

I came across a fantastic piece called the Clock by Christian Marclay. A 24 hour film exactly in sync with the time, so every minute you see a sequence where time is referenced in some way and it is your time. I looked at my watch and I had the same time as Gregory Peck. I couldn’t pull myself away. I watched for two hours – a seamless mixing of thousands of film and TV clips. I walked on gazing at image after image.

At the far end of the site there’s the old convent garden of Santa Maria delle Vergini. The convent was dissolved in 1806 and taken by the Navy. Now artists have filled it with mist. I’m 2 miles east of where I entered and yet still within the Arsenal walls. I exit across a makeshift bridge over the Rio delle Vergini with enough ideas to fill a book. The time has flown, and I have pre-booked tickets to see the Marriage of Figaro at La Fenice, a fitting climax to the end of my stay in this wondrous city.

The next art Biennale is 2013. It starts on the 1st of June, though I recommend waiting until September or even October when less busy. If you want to see all the artists go in the first frantic week when they dash around, and million pound yachts are moored along the Schiavone. By the way, if you do happen to be there in October Madame Butterfly is on at La Fenice.

 Guest Blog by Simon Barnes,  fiction writer ofVenetia: A Supernatural thriller set in Venice“.  Simon enjoys walking, gardening, and writing fiction but overall  he loves staying in Venice. Follow him on Twitter.

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