“Venice Wants to Live” Flashmob at the Biennale

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Demonstration by Gruppo 25 Aprile, Italia Nostra and Forum Futuro Arsenale: “There is a disconnect between the world of the international exhibition and our city”

By Eugenio Pendolini

Many visitors were intrigued by the banners of Venetian associations that had just appeared at the Biennale. As they waited in line for tickets there were those who turned to observe, take out their phones for a picture, and others who came closer in order to better understand what was happening. “Venice Wants to Live” and “Arsenale for the City”: these were the messages from the residents, drawn in block letters. The messages were also explained in English in the flyers distributed to passersby. There is a disconnect between the world of the Biennale (with all that it attracts) and its city.

So the flash mob yesterday afternoon, at the entrance of the exhibition, was an attempt to connect these “two realities with no dialog”, and to make a request: “Listen to us”. The appeal came from Gruppo 25 Aprile, Italia Nostra and Forum Futuro Arsenale.

There were about 30 activists, who for half an hour peacefully occupied a space close to the ticket office. “We are not here to protest against the Biennale”, clarified Marco Gasparinetti of Gruppo 25 Aprile, “but rather to build a bridge between theory and practice. There is a growing divide between good proposals and the daily reality of a city that is losing a thousand residents each year. What does the Biennale want to do about this problem?”

What happened at the inauguration of the event is emblematic for these associations. Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, the two curators of the Exhibition, when asked a question about the problems in Venice responded as follows: “We don’t understand the situation”. Here, then, is the disconnect of which the activists speak. In this fashion, they say, the Biennale has become “an alien ship that maintains important relations only with worlds similar to itself”.

Yet the potential could be great if one considers that that the best of the architectural world arrives in the Lagoon for this event.  Even more so in an edition with the label “Freespace” intended as a place of opportunity, free for as of yet undefined uses. “Sure, but who listens to us?”, said Cristina Romieri of Italia Nostra, “Dialog and connection with the city are completely absent”.  This pattern, she added, has been repeated on other occasions: from the new Palazzo del Cinema at Forte Marghera, to the Lazzaretto Vecchio. In the end the restoration and recovery of abandoned and decaying properties is welcome. Maybe, however, it would be proper to share the benefits with the citizens. Lidia Ferosuch of Italia Nostra pointed the finger: “The City Administration has abdicated: now urban policy is decided elsewhere”.

Even the five acres of land at the Arsenale, granted for free by the City and restored by the Biennale, remain inaccessible to the citizens. They are used for private parties and receptions. However it is only with free use of such property, said Barbara Pastor of the Forum Futuro Arsenale, “that we can reverse the tourism monoculture”. It is to the leaders of the Biennale that the demonstrators sent their shared message: “A day needs to be organized to listen to the city that hosts the Biennale, to hear about the city’s daily needs and problems. Only in this way can we find shared solutions”.

Source: La Nuova Venezia, 27 May 2018

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