November 5th, 2005


Scotland in Venice

Part of the fun at the Venice Biennale (it closes this weekend) is finding the unofficial national exhibitions held in scattered, marginal venues by scattered, marginal principalities like Scotland, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Latvia and Estonia. Hisae and I spent the day yesterday wandering around the Accademia area, finding these little shows, often hidden down tiny back alleys, in palace lobbies of superb faded splendour. We started at "Scotland in Venice", a rag-tag bag of domestic detritus (TV sets, prams, tiny paintings) in a lugubrious palazzo. The friendship / fascism quote below is from the catalogue essay by Will Bradley.

Next came Latvia and Estonia. Estonia had a series of completely dark rooms in which night-vision videos of wary-looking soldiers played. It seemed to be something to do with disorientation techniques and torture. Latvia had a beautiful piece called Dark Bulb, a white room with a digital clock speeding through the day in just 12 minutes, while theatre lights played the appropriate light through a window. This rapid day was the one an astronaut speeding away from Earth at just below the speed of light would see, apparently. Cyprus had a scribbly-childish celebration of "Alice in Wonderland" spread across several rooms of a lovely palazzo with speckled, damaged marble floors. Hong Kong was best; a tea room designed for contemplation and conversation in which everything was made out of cheap plastic picnic bags, blue, red and white-striped. We sat there for a while watching gondolas on the Grand Canal. Then there was Indonesia, a bit New Agey, and a thing called Personal Living Space near the theatre where I played my show a couple of hours later. Blobby black scorpions under baroque Venetian lamps and very Chinese carved beams.

Later, the show went well; I cavorted like a super-snobbish pierrot across a vast, empty theatre stage, singing my mannered short fiction. Most of the songs I chose had Italian or ancient Roman settings. It's amazing how many of those I seem to have written.