When I first came to Venice, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. Surely, I didn’t expect it to feel like a second home as it does now. What started as map-driven directional travel became an adventure to get lost, soon finding it difficult to traverse a place in San Marco I hadn’t been. The streets and the shops became second nature and I knew exactly how to get to so many places without a thought.
In the highs of my first day, I soaked up every bit of the city as I could in all that it included: the crowds, the pigeons, the peddlers. I was even one of those ridiculous tourists taking pictures everywhere, adding filters and tags to show that I was here. This is the phase most people never leave; they do Venice in one or two days and move on, never truly calling the city home.
Towards the middle of the week, my perceptive began to change. I saw much more of Venice the Appropriated: the tourist trinkets all looked the same, every photoshoot looked the same, all the people piling off the cruise ships also all looked the same with the same ridiculous backpacks, hats, tour guides and passes around their neck saying I have the right to stomp all over the place. No amount of studying the chaos will prepare you for the heartbreaking truth: in an attempt to worship its existence, people are destroying the city.
” Cheap trinkets dominate the squares like fleas on the back of the lion. He scratches them and shakes, but it only encourages the parasites to cling tighter. It draws away from his mane of marble and his gold-plated eyes, breath puffing around teeth made of jewels.”
In the middle of the week, I went to the natural history museum. As a science geek myself, it was a great way to get away from the typical crowded art galleries. As I passed cases of fossilized fish, it hit me: I had been walking in a museum this whole time, living in a fossil. Venice continued to be appropriated; instead of understanding the life of this ancient city, people were content in photographing its skeleton.
I knew at that moment, I wanted to visit the road less traveled. I wanted to see different perspectives on the same things; find beauty through unique angles of the city, rather than take the picture everyone already has. Even through my art, I focused on details rather than whole scenes, paying special attention to the small things that gives Venice its character that day tourists overlook.
“She sat bewitched by the sea, gondolas that rang of the past rolling gently in the waves. She shut out the world and imaged Venice for what it was, opened her heart to what it is, and prayed for the strength of its future.”
Finding a new perspective has been my biggest takeaway from Imagining Venice. Whether it is gondolas at sunrise, the public gardens in the afternoon, or St. Mark’s Square at night, I forced myself to avoid appropriating the city and reinforcing what everything already thinks they know about Venice. The first day, yes, I was taking all kinds of beautiful pictures for Instagram, wouldn’t anyone? But sitting at my Italian home settling down for the last night, I am content to simply watch the rain drops cut through the green of the canals.