Saturday, October 20, 2007

Venice in June

dear sisters,
yes, I didn't quite get around to telling you about the wonderful tales of Venice in June this year. It was quite an experience.

It is a magical city, on this we agree. We worked on the catalogue for Artempo, a magical concoction involving ancient, modern, ethnic and contemporary art and some pieces of furniture. The task involved lots of checking: spell checking, image checking, date checking, etc... This happened in heavy work sessions, in a team in Ghent first of all and then with a smaller team surrounded by other teams in Venice, we made the signage. I was flown in to do the editing of the signage in English seeing as everything changed at the last moment. When we got there it turned out they had decided only to do the signs in Italian. So I was left twiddling my fingers with a guilty conscience and then all of a sudden they said they needed someone to write lettering on the walls. So that's how that happened. I didn't get to choose the texts but it all had to do with TIME.

The Palazzo degli Orfeii, otherwise known as the Fortuny Museum, a civic museum of Venice, is a tantalizing place. There I sat on the balcony with its floor sunken in a beautiful concave curve by time in a restful moment and disappeared into the sunlight for a minute or eight... Mariano Fortuny had bought the place appartment by appartment (the Palazzo in the 20th century had long been split up into separate housing) until he had it all: you can still see the traces of the removed walls on the supporting, remaining ones. He had a studio on one floor, and sold fabric and all manner of other lovely things on others. There was a funny workman who kept crying out: "ah! che creatura divina!!!!" as if he was in pain and then tried to grab my legs and said he was going to kidnap me.
The catering was excellent, and during the press preview days as I was painting my walls in a feat of 1. challenge (try pleasing two curators who don't know what they want) and 2. endurance, a lot of these people (some 363 press people if my memory is correct) traipsed past me in my work and thought I was part of the exhibition, which in a round about kind of way, I was. I made some friends then. I actually felt like a bird in a golden cage because we were working while the Biennale was opening.
This we made up for at night and many nights ended near the Rialto bridge with an involtino (that's heavenly rolled up pizza to you) with gorgonzola and ruccola and other mouthwatering things in it, watching the sun rise. Someone said he hadn't seen the man selling the involtini smile in over twenty years. I took the challenge and succeeded in making him smile, of course!!! There was also a dancing waiter and that beautiful, sweet couple from Hawaii going on their first ever cruise with their one year old son..

I am pretty sure Mariano Fortuny had cast a spell on us since strange and extraordinary things happened.

One of the highlights of the week must have been the day the outdoor signs arrived. The printer had misread mm for cm... This was a 500 euro mistake that in the greater scheme of things was probably worth it in terms of stress management because everybody laughed so much when they arrived.

There was a snobby studio manager of a famous UK based artist up his own bottom who didn't want to speak to me until he needed my Italian language skills to help with his reservations. There was a curator who shall have no name who manages to make everyone he speaks to, whom he doesn't think important, feel like he just robbed them of their worth and dignity, just by the way he looks at them, and the man who invites you and your best friend to dinner one day and pretends not to remember a thing about it the next. Missing a dinner date because you were working for the person who has invited you, trying to get things done in time for the next day.. All things in due course, of course. One night you can be sitting at a banquet table, the next you are drinking beers under a tree with hordes of belgians visiting the biennale, and peeing in catharsis on the gracious city, or you can be skidding across the Lido looking up at the starry skies making wishes you normally wouldn't even dare to wish and then you are at a party with only cultural belgians who you see every week around your corner, lounging in beach chairs. In all it was a wonderful time and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I probably could have slept more.

We had an interesting sound scape around the appartment where we were sleeping. There was a woman and a man making love, loudly, and she was supplicating her lover to 'do this, do that, keep doing the same, yes that's good'. This lasted all night, every night. Until the last. That was when I heard her sobbing. We left at five that morning by water taxi, in itself unforgettable, as over the quiet waters we sped towards the airport, leaving the two kind waifs and strays behind at the Rialto bridge where we had found one of them - the one with the sprained ankle and the teary cheeks - and they had found each other.

My boss and his wife I got to know better and showed themselves to be so kind. The other assistant who told me his stories as we walked through the city at night. The renaissance scholar in his brilliance, who accused me of being a plenist because I said the glass is always full (if not water it is always full of something...-forgive me I become pedantic)! And the Brazillian editor and his wife and their daugter who charmed me with their colour schemes...the assistants who showed un-asked for acts of kindness or slowly opened up to me..

I will also not forget the kind Italian gentleman who took me out to lunch on the friday and made me feel very special and very myself, as it was such a delightful, peaceful moment. Nor will I forget the kind lady I met at the same restaurant on the Piazza Santangelo telling me her wisdoms of life. She was wearing two rings: both of them set in gold with petal cut amathyst arranged in flower shapes. Two rings, on one finger. "Van Cleef, you know", she said. "I thought, why wear only one, when you can wear two?" One learns to pick out the people who really matter.

kisses from s2!

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