To Venezia – May 2015

Firenze is a crazy town. The aforementioned set up in Santa Croce turned out to be a sponsored 10k – 5K run entitled “Run Like a DeeJay Ten”. There were sponsor tents set up and a bunch of amplified DJs talking incessantly about absolutely nothing all through the day and into the night. If I heard the word “allora” one more time I’d have strangled the first person I saw. And in that moment I came to understand, just a tiny bit, the historic precedent of the Renaissance cultural temperament. What it amounts to is suffering non-stop haranguing until you just can’t take it anymore  – and then you fucking snap! Instant Drama! (Cellini was known for his bad temper, as were the two Micheles, as well as a number of lesser known Mannerists – lots of frayed nerves.)

I still don’t know what the Hell “Run Like a DeeJay” means or what the event was for – a charity event, an event promoting health, an athletic event – all of the above??? But seriously – DJs don’t run, they sit behind microphones and run their mouths. A couple of thousand people showed up for the gathering, all wearing their spiffy event t-shirts and running shorts. And to make a further douche-ie point – not one of the shirted and shorted participants looked like they could have walked 5 blocks, let alone run 5K. Obviously these folks were there for event – not the athletics. And that too is part of “Cultura Italia” – participating in the absolute spectacle of it all. If you’ve ever watched a talk show on Rai Uno then you know. What you’re watching is not so much an entertainment as it is just a really warped dinner party televised into your living room. I find it absolutely wonderful! But I’m done in Firenze – Allora! It’s time for me to leave.

I try to come to Venezia whenever I can. There’s something about this place that deeply resonates with me. A two hour or so train ride back from Firenze, a vaporetto, and I’m standing in a wonderful apartment in Dorsoduro where I will pretend to be a native for the next week or so. The light in Venezia is wonderful, strong, reflective. It’s a warm white light that rounds out the corners of things. It makes everything stand out in very flattering pieces. In Firenze the city is dark stone, nature is  pushed back and controlled. In Venezia the bricks and stucco are lighter and colorful, nature is a part of the cityscape and it’s everywhere. These visual differences get into a person’s life, affect one’s vision, create a different approach to color, to light, to space, to composition. Place is everything. Tintoretto, one of my favorites, understood the importance of these kinds of differences, and used them in his painting. He was determined to bring to a new perspective to Venetian painting and looked to Firenze for inspiration. His art would have the drawing of Michelangelo and the color of Venezia, creating a painting hybrid, an aesthetic anomaly to challenge colleagues. That is the beginning of change, of difference.

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I’m sure that I’ll make my way to the Biennale at some point in order to see what’s changed – the party’s everywhere in this city – an example of yet another Italian spectacle. Maybe I’ll “Run Like a DeeJay” through the thing while trying to keep an open eye and an open mind. But for now I’m going to take a walk along the Zattere and pretend I’m a local.

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