A few remarks around the stones of Venice
The Biennale collateral events, with Federico Florian
[Venice is] a ghost upon the sands of the sea, so weak – so quiet, – so bereft of all but her loveliness, that we might well doubt, as we watched her faint reflection in the mirage of the lagoon, which was the City and which the Shadow.
This is the description of Venice that the British writer and art historian John Ruskin gives in the incipit of his famous three-volume The Stones of Venice, published in London from 1851 to 1853. In the following lines, the author expresses the real reason of a treatise about Venetian art and architecture: I would endeavour to trace the lines of this image [the fading, feeble reflection of the city on the sea] before it be for ever lost, and to record, as far as I may, the warning which seems to me to be uttered by every one of the fast-gaining waves, that beat, like passing bells, against the STONES OF VENICE. The purpose of the book, therefore, is a warning, an alert… but against what? Mr. Ruskin (an eccentric bearded Victorian gentleman) seems to condemn the aesthetic decadence and the moral corruption of the Italian city, a process started in the XV century with the Renaissance, which provoked a decline rather than a rebirth, giving rise to an art degenerated into formalism and devoid of the righteous truth of the Gothic style.
Of course we do not agree with this radical point of view. However, I can’t help but reflect – once again – on the double-sided nature of the city of Venice, as it is revealed by Ruskin’s words: ghostly and real, faint and mighty at the same time. But Venice is a town made of rocks, rather than of phantom ruins; the stones of its churches, palaces and buildings tell the story of the city. Even Ruskin’s warning – premise for a Gothic revival in art – comes from the walls and the domes of Venetian architecture. That’s why I would like to mark the best collateral events and exhibitions in Venice during this Biennale starting from the palaces and buildings that host them – the STONES to which John Ruskin devoted his passionate, zealous essay...
orsenigo_chemollo. Image on top: Installation view of “When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/Venice 2013” From left to right: Richard Long, A Walking Tour in the Berner Oberland, 1969; Claes Oldenburg, Model (Ghost) Medicine Cabinet, 1966; Richard Artschwager, Blp, 1968; Claes Oldenburg, Study for Pants Pocket, 1963; Joseph Beuys, Ja Ja Ja Ja Ja Nee Nee Nee Nee Nee, 1968; Fondazione Prada, Ca’ Corner della Regina Venice, 1 June – 3 November 2013 / Photo: Attilio Maranzano / Courtesy: Fondazione Prada.