Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The World of Art - Art Night Venezia

Merciful Dream (Pietà V) by Jan Fabre
Photo at Contessanally
"I believe in God, Mozart and Beethoven, and likewise their disciples and apostles; 
- I believe in the Holy Spirit and the truth of the one, indivisible Art; 
- I believe that this Art proceeds from God, and lives within the hearts of all illumined men; 
- I believe that he who once has bathed in the sublime delights of this high Art, is consecrate to Her for ever, and never can deny Her; 
- I believe that through Art all men are saved." 
-- Richard Wagner

Lee Yongbaek - Korean Pavilion
Photo at Vogue
(Venice, Italy) The first Art Night Venezia was on Saturday night, June 18, 2011, and it was stupendous. I wish we could have Art Night Venezia every month. Nearly every museum, installation, gallery and hip palazzo in town was open until midnight for free, filling the air with art and music. Colorful people moved through the campi and calli, showering smiles and intelligent conversations all over Venice, and illuminating the Saturday night with human energy. 

Joana Vasconcelos, 'Contamination'
at Palazzo Grassi-Photo at Tate
There are many different worlds in Venice that occupy the same space and time, and intersect at certain points. For me, the World of Art is one of the best worlds in which to live. Because it is La Biennale Art season through November, there is so much art right now in Venice, you would need at least a month to see it all properly. I have lived here for more than 13 years, and still have only caught a glimpse. 

The World of Art has wonderful seasons. The Regular World has seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter, which bring us different food, different clothes, different weather. In addition to the Regular World seasons, in the World of Art sector of the Magic Kingdom we also have the seasons of Carnival, dance, literature, art or architecture, cinema, theatre and music. So the World of Art here in Venice is always filled with different types of creative people, depending on the season -- costume designers, dancers, authors and poets, visual artists and photographers, film people, actors and directors, and musicians, etc., etc., etc., in additional to the somnambulant masses. For example, today, on the street, I ran into Bice Curiger herself, the curator of the 54 Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition. I told her that I had heard only great things about her; all over town everyone was saying how kind and generous she was, and how much they appreciated her energy. 

Anish Kapoor-Ascension
at San Giorgio
I went to Art Night Venezia with my friend, Angela, who creates jewelry. Angela had been sucked into Dark World, which also exists here in Venice -- in fact, Dark World exists all over the planet -- a dismal, evil, violent world filled with liars and thieves. Mortals from the Dark World had also yanked me into their environment and tried to hold me prisoner before I managed to escape back to the World of Art, so I have first-hand experience with these creatures -- in fact, one confronted me just last night! The Dark World runs on fossils, and keeps trying to force their version of reality into existence, even going so far as to attempt to penetrate the World of Art, which runs on starlight. Of course there is natural darkness in the World of Art, there as a tool for artists to use in creation. I am not sure what the Dark World uses for light; perhaps it uses greed.

The King of the World of Art is the spirit of Ludwig II of Bavaria, who disliked wars and gave us Richard Wagner and fairytale castles, a legacy that brings in a tidy sum of money to this day. The Dark World doesn't appreciate the World of Art's power and revenue as much as they should, and the World of Art doesn't comprehend the Dark World's lust for pomp and military might.

Christors Bokoros/Chronis Botsoglou
Illuminated Shadows
King Ludwig got fed up with the entire dark lot of them, and was going to dismiss his entire Cabinet, but the Dark Ones acted first. They conspired and decided Ludwig should be deposed by reason of insanity, then had him declared paranoid without a medical examination. The Dark Ones snatched der Märchenkönig out of his castle, then tried to have him institutionalized -- as they like to do with many creative spirits who don't play by Dark World rules. Ludwig died a mysterious death; he was probably murdered as he tried to escape across Starnberger Lake. Of course, the official version is that he committed suicide...

From Wikipedia:

Ludwig is sometimes also called "Mad King Ludwig", though the accuracy of that label has been disputed. Because Ludwig was deposed on grounds of mental illness without any medical examination and died a day later under mysterious circumstances, questions about the medical "diagnosis" remain controversial.[4] One of his most quoted sayings was "I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others."[5]
Eye Fairy by Chen Fei & Luo Hui
Abbazia di San Grigorio
Ludwig is best known as an eccentric whose legacy is intertwined with the history of art and architecture. He commissioned the construction of several extravagant fantasy castles and palaces, the most famous being Neuschwanstein, and was a devoted patron of the composer Richard Wagner. Since his legacy of grandiose castles lives on in the form of massive tourist revenue, King Ludwig is generally well liked and even revered by many in Bavaria today.

On Art Night Venezia, Angela and I first stopped at Palazzo Bembo, which was scheduled to stay open until midnight. We arrived a little after 9pm, and entered with a chattering group. We climbed every step of the palazzo, looking for the installation, but nothing was there. The lights of Palazzo Bembo were dim. It was bizarre -- the installation, which featured 28 artists from 5 continents and 12 countries, and organized by the Dutch GlobalArtAffairs Foundation, seemed to be closed -- the palazzo was open, but there was nobody in charge. We arrived back on the ground floor and, poof! the lights went on as we went out the front door... which was open...

The Fall of Meteorites by Bizhan Bassiri
Museo Archeologico 
Over at Palazzo Grassi, however, an audience was captivated by poetry readings with Joana Vasconcelos' Contamination dangling from the ceiling. At the Istituo Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Art's Palazzo Loredan, the 15th generation of Koen Vanmechelen's Cosmopolitan Chicken Project bred happily away. Glass Stress teemed through the rooms of Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti, transporting top contemporary artists into the World of Glass. The Guggenheim has one of the best exhibitions in a long time, ILEANA SONNABEND. AN ITALIAN PORTRAIT, which is dedicated to the art dealer and presents more than 60 works by almost 50 artists; I felt like I had been transported into a slice of New York City inside a mini MoMA. Future Pass over at the Abbazia di San Gregoria blasted contemporary Asian art into the ancient Benedictine abbey. We finished at the cavernous Punta della Dogana, then hopped across the canal to end the night with drinks on the terrace of La Biennale headquarters, Ca' Giustinian, one of the most beautiful spots on the Grand Canal.  Angela was so happy to be back in the World of Art; she had been imprisoned so long that she had almost forgotten how many other dimensions and worlds there are here in Venice.  

ALSO IN VENICE: we just got a new labyrinth, the Jorge Luis Borges Labyrinth over at the Giorgio Cini Foundation! Yes, Venice aka Labyrinth City, has opened a new labyrinth for all the creative thinkers out there to puzzle out. The only ones who will be instructed as to how to execute the labyrinth are those who can read Braille, which will be installed on a hand railing once the hedges have settled in. Only the blind will be able to see. From the Cini Foundation:

To mark the 25th anniversary of the death (14 June 1986 - 14 June 2011) of the celebrated writer Jorge Luis Borges, the Fundación Internacional Jorge Luis Borges and the Giorgio Cini Foundation will present to Venice, one of the Argentinean writer’s favourite cities, a reconstruction of the maze that the British architect Randoll Coate designed in the writer’s honour and originally donated to the Borges Foundation. The labyrinth will be constructed on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the area to the rear of the Palladian Cloister and the Cypress Cloister, so as to form a kind of “third cloister”. The aim of the project is to create a garden full of spiritual meanings in memory of Borges and so generate further public interest in his world.

The labyrinth will also be the backdrop for a long-term programme of varied cultural events (research projects, lectures, master classes, workshops, art shows, productions and performances of plays, videos, choreographies and concerts). These events – both educational and artistic – will be inspired by Borges’ work and the epistemological and his torical-cultural issues raised by his imaginary world, such as the relationship between narrative and the fi gurative and performing arts and that between narrative and natural sciences.

I had the great opportunity to execute the Borges Labyrinth myself in complete solitude, accompanied only by my thoughts and the melodies of the birds. And you know what? I only made one small error, which I quickly corrected, and wove my way perfectly through the labyrinth! I don't know if I was incredibly lucky or if the labyrinth is not that difficult, but as I neared the end, I tried to contain my excitement until I was completely out of the maze. Once I realized that I had conquered the Borges Labyrinth on my first shot, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy.

I suggest that instead of measuring artists' intelligence by standardized testing, we should install labyrinths in the school yards, and give the "eccentric" creative types an Equal Opportunity.

Xiang Jing
I am 22 Years Old, But without my period
UPDATE June 23, 2011: After I published the above, I received a comment from a reader named Michael that made me think:

"Nice, particularly interested to read greed serves as light. Congrats on the labyrinth victory. Funny to emerge with doubts about the authenticity of the challenge!"

Going over the experience again, I realized that I had, indeed, made many critical decisions while inside the Borges Labyrinth -- even at the start, you must choose one of two entrances. I chose the entrance on the right because that is where the sun was shining; perhaps there is an entirely different experience if you choose the entrance on the left. Apparently Borges believed that you should be able to see over the top of the labyrinth, so the hedges are less than waist-high, not like the labyrinth at Villa Pisani in Stra, for example, where you wander around very tall hedges, unable to see your way out. The Borges Labyrinth allows you to see the maze from another point of view, so you can decide in advance which way you will travel. It also has a clearing that provides a false sense of success -- you arrive in a large, clear zone, and think, ah, ha! I've made it, when that is not the case at all. After you arrive in the clearing, you then realize you are only about half way through, and that you must go back a different way in order to move forward again. 

Jorge Luis Borges went completely blind just as his career began to flourish. Click HERE to read the Wikipedia article. 

"No one should read self-pity or reproach
Into this statement of the majesty
Of God; who with such splendid irony,
Granted me books and blindness at one touch."
Jorge Luis Borges

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog


  1. "I believe in God, Mozart and Beethoven, and likewise their disciples and apostles;
    - I believe in the Holy Spirit and the truth of the one, indivisible Art;
    - I believe that this Art proceeds from God, and lives within the hearts of all illumined men;
    - I believe that he who once has bathed in the sublime delights of this high Art, is consecrate to Her for ever, and never can deny Her;
    - I believe that through Art all men are saved."

  2. Fabulous post on art Cat! I can't wait to see the labyrinth. The Art Night is based on Paris, white nights? Either way, they are great supporters of the arts.

  3. Nice, particularly interested to read greed serves as light. Congrats on the labyrinth victory. Funny to emerge with doubts about the authenticity of the challenge!

  4. Michael, you made me think. I actually made many critical decisions inside the Borges Labyrinth. I'll try to describe it better; I was rushed for time when I first wrote the post.