Falling Back Asleep in Venice
in “Maurizio Pellegrin: Reflections and Intentions”
Venice, Arsenale Editrice, 1999
I like Venice for its clogged canals and deserted museums, churches closed for restoration, sweaty tourists, sewer scented movie theatres. I like it when someone enterprising opens up café and it soon go under. I like it when pieces of plaster fall from a dilapidated palazzo and land on the head of someone in the street, or when a rat succeeds in gnawing through the telephone cables. For me Venice is a celebration of immobility. It’s like living in one of those inviting religious sects that still use horse-drawn carriages and whose children die of measles because it’s forbidden for them to take medicine. I don’t suppose children die of measles in Venice, but that would be asking too much. Herein lies Venice’s absolute superiority over other places. The city remains ever immobile, repellent to those little inventions which usually occupy people’s lives. Indeed, in Venice you can’t try to hide any interior emptiness behind insignificant day-to-day troubles because here the day-to-day doesn’t change; no one is allowed to mask over the poverty of his her existence. Not that this awareness ends up causing any great trauma. Of course Venetians get very bored, but their desperation is no more unbearable than any other. Perhaps the opposite happens: they learn early on to live with their impotence in a state of philosophical acceptance of their nothingness.
For a writer like myself who does nothing but reaffirm hi own nothingness and that of others there could be no better place on Earth. Since I moved to Venice eleven years ago I have come to question every conviction in individual development or in the elucidative content of art. The work of Maurizio Pellegrin has the effect of reinforcing my sense of frustration. What is that swordfish doing in a typical Venetian courtyard? Where do those Chinese chopsticks come from? Are those figures on the floor really African totems? Our few indisputable, Cartesian certainties, which regard the material world, made of familiar objects and landscapes, suddenly vanish, leaving behind only doubt, disorientation, puzzlement. Art is not anymore an element of comforting illumination, but of an ironic bewilderment which leave us defeated, inanimate. By now I feel ensnared by the torpor of Venice. I will never be able to leave this place: the city has as sedating effect on me. Sometimes I wake up with a fervent desire to etch out an active role for myself in the world, but luckily, after a few seconds, I fall back asleep. There can be no better place than this.