Friday, April 24, 2020

UPDATED: Reopening the World? La Biennale in Venice Announces 2020 International Festival Schedule

Photo: La Biennale di Venezia
(Venice, Italy) Like all public gatherings where large groups of people congregate, La Biennale di Venezia's schedule has been upended by the COVID-19 coronavirus. As everyone knows, Italy was hit hard and early by the virus, forcing the International Architectural Exhibition to postpone its opening, which was scheduled for May 23. La Biennale has announced the new dates for all its different international sectors — real-life events, not cyber.

The Architectural Exhibition is now scheduled to open on August 29, 2020, with press previews on August 27 and 28.

UPDATE MAY 18, 2020 - Due to the ongoing pandemic, La Biennale announced today that the Architecture Exhibition has been postponed until 2021. How Will We Live Together, curated by Hashim Sarkis, will open on Saturday, May 22, 2021 and run through Sunday, November 21, 2021.

La Biennale International Art Exhibition, curated by Cecilia Alemani, has been posted to 2022. It will last seven months and be held from Saturday, April 23, 2022 through Sunday, November 27, 2022.

“The last few days – declared President Roberto Cicutto - have clarified the real state of the situation we are all facing. With the utmost respect for the work done by all of us, the investments made by the participants, and considering the difficulties that all countries, institutions, universities, architectural studios have met together with the uncertainty of the shipments, personal travel restraints and Covid-19 protective measures that are being and will be adopted, we have decided to listen to those, the majority, who requested that the Biennale di Architettura be postponed. I have received many messages asking for a postponement to 2021. We now plan to open the 17th Biennale Architettura in May 2021 and allow it a longer life until November, as it was before the pandemic. Nevertheless Architecture will be in Venice this Fall organizing several events keeping at the center of the stage the question, more relevant than ever, of “How will we live together?”.”

Actress Cate Blanchett attends the premiere of the film "A Star Is Born" during the 75th Venice International Film Festival in Venice in 2018.
The Venice Film Festival starts on September 2 and run through September 12, as originally scheduled. The international film star, Cate Blanchett, is the president of the jury.

These international events normally draw large numbers of journalists and visitors from all over the planet. In normal times, during the openings, Venice's lagoon is often full of yachts and jet-setters, as well as a vibrant, educated general public. There are parties in palaces, bustling restaurants and busy bars. It is difficult to get a hotel reservation.

Venice looks forward to La Biennale's openings because they attract a valued type of traveler. The private and civic museums, art galleries and local businesses often schedule their own events based on La Biennale's schedule. Contrary to the destructive over-tourism that feeds off masses of tourists and daytrippers whose sole purpose seems to be to pose for selfies, the educated travelers who visit the lagoon for cultural events bring a welcome, dynamic energy.

It will be fascinating to see how Venice and La Biennale organizes these events with the COVID-19 coronavirus health crisis lurking in the background. La Biennale is a wise organization who understands well how to manage large crowds and keep people safe with military precision. We can imagine that this year will present one of its greatest challenges, with the eyes of the world watching how it goes.

Prophetically and appropriately titled, "How Will We Live Together?" the Architecture Exhibition directed by Hashim Sarkis will have 113 participants from 48 different countries, all of which you can find on La Biennale's website.

La Biennale International Architecture Exhibition 2016 - Photo: Cat Bauer
La Biennale also has a new President, Roberto Cicutto, who was born in Venice in 1948 and has a background as a film producer and distributor. His production company, Aura Film, won the Golden Lion in 1988 for La Leggenda del Santo Bevitore directed by Ermanno Olmi. Cicutto replaces the beloved and highly-respected Paolo Baratta, who has steered the vast organization through times of political turmoil and threats of terrorist attacks while hosting everyone from world leaders, to renowned artists and architects, to Hollywood celebrities.

The new Board of Directors met online on March 19, 2020 due to the current health emergency. President Roberto Cicutto stated:

“The exceptional conditions under which we are beginning our work must compel us not only to find the best solutions to pursue La Biennale’s mission, in the interest of its international prestige, of the city of Venice and of our country, but above all to enrich it with new initiatives and new ideas for the dissemination of the contemporary arts. Nor can we forget La Biennale’s role as a factor in the growth and development of the city of Venice itself and of our nation."

Immediately after the Venice Film Festival ends on September 12, the International Theater Festival will open on September 14 through 24. The next day, on September 25, the International Festival of Contemporary Music Festival opens, and runs through October 4. There is a brief pause until the International Festival of Contemporary Dance kicks off on October 13 through October 25. These events usually draw a creative, intelligent and young-minded crowd, interested in the cutting-edge of what's in vogue.

Here is La Biennale’s program for the remainder of 2020:
·         August 29th to November 29th, the 17th International Architecture Exhibition directed by Hashim Sarkis
·         September 2nd to 12th, the 77th Venice International Film Festival directed by Alberto Barbera

·         September 14th to 24th, the 64th International Theatre Festival directed by Antonio Latella

·         September 25th to October 4th, the 48th International Festival of Contemporary Music directed by Ivan Fedele
·         October 13th to 25th, the 14th International Festival of Contemporary Dance directed by Marie Chouinard
Venice Over-tourism - Photo: CNN Travel

The masses who were flooding Venice and the businesses who targeted them were like a virus themselves. The disease of over-tourism infected everything, creeping into all aspects of Venetian life -- the high cost of AirBnBs priced residents out of apartments. Supermarkets raised their prices, catering to tourists, not residents. Cruise ships barreled through the Giudecca Canal, unloading thousands of passengers at once, who flooded the streets, making it difficult to conduct everyday business. Daytrippers swarmed into the lagoon on trains and buses from newly-constructed hotels and hostels on the mainland, where tourists slept cheaply, crammed eight beds to a room. Venice was being killed in front of the eyes of the world. Then suddenly, the whole frenetic mess was brought to a grinding halt by the COVID-19 coronavirus.

We have a new opportunity in Venice to reopen the city with wisdom and foresight. The model of mass-tourism that Venice was practicing must be completely overhauled. Venice can be a leading example for the rest of the world, spinning straw into gold, transforming the sacrifices that all of humanity has made, and is still making, into worth and value. Let us hope that Venice and the travelers who visit the city have learned something during these demanding times and rise to the challenge.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, April 13, 2020

Thoughts of Venice during Holy Week & Easter - Quarantine 2020

Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) I left Los Angeles for Venice twenty-two years ago, on April 8, 1998, planning to stay for three months to write, the amount of time an American could stay on a tourist visa. When the three months were up, I stood in the middle of Piazza San Marco, weeping. I didn't want to go back to Los Angeles. My then-husband didn't want to come to Venice, so I went back to LA and started divorce proceedings. I was back in Venice by September with an extended visa, and have lived in Italy ever since.

I fell in love with Venice on our first vacation here, back in 1991. I wandered off alone, strolling through the calli and campi, astonished that such a city could exist. I took the vaporetto to the Lido and back, sitting outside in the front seat, not knowing exactly where I was going... swept up in the journey... just enjoying the ride. Venice felt so familiar, so comfortable, like coming home. I visited again in 1995 and 1997, and the feeling of familiarity only grew stronger.

Venice bewitches many people, of course. But it is an utterly different experience to have the privilege of being a resident rather than visiting on vacation. I was talking about this during the quarantine with a friend on Facetime. He said, "You can't genuinely be in love with a place where you've never lived. Otherwise, it's just a fantasy."

On vacation in 1995 - Venice as a fantasy
When I first arrived in 1998, Easter Sunday was on April 12, the same day it was this year. I briefly lived in an apartment on Calle Santa Maria Formosa Lunga, right across from where the Acqua Alta bookshop is now. I bought my cheese from a little shop owned by Marco Contessa and his father -- I have a weakness for Gorgonzola, and they always cut me a gooey piece. (These days, the shop no longer exists and Marco has transformed into a popular photographer whose images of Venice have captured the haunting stillness of the coronavirus lockdown.)

The apartment next door to the one I was renting was being restored, and the noise was disturbing. So I moved down to Castello to a tiny ground floor apartment in Corte Sarasena, off Via Garibaldi. Elderly women sat outside their doors, sewing lace and chatting. Laundry stretched across the courtyard like color-coordinated works of art from house to house, and people spoke Venetian. I wrote about the experience in an 2001 article for the International Herald Tribune's Italian supplement, Italy Daily:

Miracle Madonna in Corte de Cà Sarasina - Venice

I only knew two Venetians when I decided to come to Venice -- one was the concierge at Hotel Flora, and the other was Sergio Boldrin, a mask-maker whose shop, La Bottega dei Mascareri, is at the foot of the Rialto Bridge. My husband and I had bought one of Sergio's masks a few years before, a happy sun, and it had a starring role in our living room in L.A.

Sergio's prophetic Sun Mask on the wall in L.A.
So I went over to visit Sergio, whom I hadn't seen for several years. He was in the process of wrapping up a box to ship to the United States. To my astonishment, it was addressed to a friend of mine in Los Angeles. "I know him!" I said. Sergio replied, "Your friend is leaving today for Rome. Maybe he's still here. I have the number of the man he was staying with."

My friend had gone, but that is how I met Jack Cope -- Jackson Irving Cope -- a Leo S. Bing professor emeritus of English at the University of Southern California. Jack was living in an apartment at Rialto overlooking the Grand Canal, and working on a monograph about Ernest Hemingway and his circle and their attachment to Harry's Bar. Jack was thoroughly engaged in his research, and invited me to Harry's for a drink. He was quite a character, a small, wiry 72-year-old man and former Golden Gloves boxer from Chicago, who had morphed into an eminent scholar with a rich knowledge of Italian theater. Jack still practiced the art of seduction and was in the process of drinking himself to death -- a goal he achieved a year later on August 9, 1999.

In another strange coincidence (actually not very strange when it comes to Venice -- coincidences are woven into the fabric of the city), at the last minute, the apartment I was about to rent on Riva degli Schiavoni down in Castello overlooking the lagoon fell through. I had to scramble to find a new one. I answered an ad in the paper, and was shown Jack's former apartment on the Grand Canal. He had promised me a wooden cat as an inheritance, and the cat was still inside, as if it had been patiently awaiting my arrival. So I rented the apartment, which would later become the perfect theatrical setting for much festivity, drama and trauma.

Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge during quarantine 2020
This Easter we are in a state of suspension, quarantined due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. We are finding new ways of communicating through ZOOM tea parties and SKYPE video chats. I have spoken to friends and family members that I haven't talked to in years, reliving fond memories and reinforcing lifelong relationships. The entire planet has withdrawn into their private spaces as we watch heroic health and essential workers put themselves in life-threatening situations to keep the Earth's vital heart beating. Characters are being tested. The masks of leaders are being stripped away. The voices of truth ring out over the rumble of deception.

While a few profiteers look to capitalize (as always) off human suffering, much of the world has realized what the prophets and Jesus Christ have been telling us all along -- that the engine that runs this planet is fueled by Love.

Buona Pasquetta from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog