I decide to immediately head out and brave through my stomach virus. I stopped at a tiny bakery and ordered food to sustain me. My order was prosecco, focaccia with olives and sopressata, and a scoop of hazelnut gelato, all fantastic.

Venice is all mazes and alleys, no cars, no bikes. It is easy to get lost in this amazing city. Having lost my iphone I was resorting to old-school navigation, asking for directions in my limited Italian and writing things down. Immediately I recall the fun of getting lost and not caring about time. This is a very special phenomenon in Venice. You cannot be in a hurry and you must enjoy the trip, no matter how brief, as much as the mission or destination. It reminded me of my first time here ten years ago. Old sensations, thoughts, and ideas re-emerged from that trip in October of 2007. I was reminded of how much I love the light, the colors, and the textures of the buildings. I was reminded of how nice the Italians are to all the local tourists. I was reminded of fast-paced and stressed American life is by comparison to life in Venice.

An Installation by Thu Van Tran

Most of all, I was reminded of my first night in Venice on that trip ten years go. I had no cel phone and I forgot to write down the address of my apartment. Heading out for a late night and not know the city, with people already home in bed I got very lost and very desperate around 2 am to return to my place. I was so dreadfully tired that I nearly decided to sleep on the corner of a little alleyway till I eventually found my apartment.
Tonight, fortunately, the memories of that misadventure helped me remember the discipline of getting my bearings right away and writing down the main square right near my apartment. It’s called Campo San Polo and it is lovely.

After my lunch I went straight to the Arsenale, the main event of the Biennale. I saw the press office and went in hoping my email request for press passes was accepted. Fortunately, it was and I was granted a two day pass with a reduced admission rate.

The Aresenale shows were mostly excellent. Sculpture, installation and odd videos predominated. The space is immense. I was still battling my stomach problems but they were not minimizing my joy and sense of wonder at discovering the immensely high rate of contemporary art. What makes the Venice Biennale so special is not that it is the oldest such exhibition in the world. It is, in my opinion, the most wonderful contemporary art experience because the work displayed is not about selling per se and the locations for the work are magnificent. By locations I mean both Venice and the particular spaces/galleries in the Arsenale and the Giardini.

I spent about three hours in the Arsenale though I needed about. I simply had to get back to my room to shower and sleep a bit. But before I made my stop I was just so excited to see the city that I disembarked at San Marco Piazza and noticed there was an exhibition of Bosch’s paintings at the Palazzo Ducale. I went in thinking I had to see it as Bosch has always been one of my favorite Flemish painters. The show was incredible. It portrayed the history of two Bosch triptychs in Venice and some work from other cities. It included other Flemish artists like Memling and a variety of drawings and related histories, documents regarding the provenance of the ownership of the Bosch works, which were once owned by Pop Pius IX, who lived in Venice during his Papal reign.

To make matters even more arduous I also stopped quickly at the Taiwanese Pavaillion, near San Marco Square. Many countries have their representational shows for the Biennale off-site at various locations in the city. The artists was Tehching Hsieh, famous for photographing himself every hour of every day for an entire year. It was a superb show of his career work, mostly conceptual performance art. I enjoyed it, particularly within the setting of Venice.

 

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