Applied Strollology - part III
HETEROTOPIAS IN THE HETEROTOPIA
When are republics possible? When they are just.
Lucius Burckhardt, Venice is invisible
The Venetian had to become a new kind of being, how could you only compare Venice to yourself.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey
Under an arch behind me, a few people are looking at a slogan. Fat, round letters in black chalk: this gang had to die: “Ah yes,” says the mustachioed gentleman with the straw hat to the others, “that means: death to the socialisti.”
John dos Passos, Orient Express
Boat station San Marco Zaccaria
“Avanti, avanti, avanti!” yells the vaporetto attendant. Avanti popolo, the working-man’s song from nearby Lombardy with its inflaming melody and its variable lyrics, is in the air. The attendant, who also acts as on-board-dispute-mediator and gastronomical expert, cheerfully escorts the pedestrians, by way of internationally comprehensible hand gestures, over the extended threshold onto shore. “This is like King’s Cross,” hisses a man in a Union Jack t-shirt, his fingers entwined his bored companion’s. But nobody drives to work at this time: the vaporetto is full with vacationers from around the world.
Riva dei Sette Martiri
Whoever steps out of the Arsenal and into the tourist stream stumbles, after a few minutes, across a demarcation line on the riva dei Sette Martiri-Promenade. The white stones embedded in the sidewalk are not decorative. They are meant to make the dinstiction between here and there, when a yacht like the AZTECA docks here. Borders define both community and exclusion: I begin where you end. Borders offer protection to some, others they drives to ruin. The line tells the street vendors from Senegal: up to here, but no further. In a city whose every nook and cranny has been globalized, the white stones do not signal a border between countries, but a boundary between public and private; between vendors and buyers; winners and losers. Borders exist in the gut and in the head – even when the heart cries like a Blumfeld book title: Mein System kennt keine Grenzen.
Rio dei Giardini, Arsenal
They just threw an apéro riche party for special guests of the Russian Pavilion. They: the catering team of the Hotel Cipriano in Giudecca. They had everything with them and are now loading all of it back onto the boat. Tables, chairs, glasses, cutlery and large bins. “Siamo artisti anche noi,” says the chef to his colleagues. And to the visitor from Switzerland: “Ho lavorato a St. Moritz.” They: are a liveried waiter wearing a cream-colored jacket; a waiter in black trousers and a white shirt, who has taken off his jacket, but is still wearing his bowtie; two men in polo shirts (written on the back: I clean); another cook, hatless, but still wearing his apron, an orange-yellow backpack already fastened on his back; finally, a man from the freighter company Brusato Group. The chef waves to the visitor from the boat.
Rio dei Tolentini
As soon as one disembarks from the vaporetto in San Basilio, one sees a café run by a Chinese family. The boss stands self-confidently behind the counter. His colleague, unasked and uninhibited, is looking at the tourist’s laptop screen; the tourist is looking for his hotel on Google Maps. Memories of the story of a Swiss Italian, whose family comes from Veneto, an area where the Venetian bourgeoisie have their latifundia. One still stumbles upon, he says, the subject-habitus of a servant. Back then even the foreign child was addressed by adults with comandi (“commands”) when one wanted to fulfill one of their wishes. Venice, the heterotopia, the republic, is also a social topography: “The lower class in Venice is still the upper class in the eyes of those from Veneto.”
At the counter of the kiosk/bar twenty meters away, someone keeps shouting, “Here! Here! Here!” The man is about 40 years old. He has melancholic eyes, sports a full beard, dreadlocks, a reggae beanie, a batik shirt, a backpack with Maghrebic ornaments. He’s pointing at an article in the newspaper. It says the same things you can hear on RAI: 20,000 to 40,000 tourists from cruise ships would be bearable, but it’s about 100,000. They dock, stay three or four hours, continue to Rimini. His speech escalates even more as he is joined by a blonde man, also bearded, in an orange shirt and shorts. The story about the deepening gullies of the oil tanks and freighter ships is raised. The story of the summer, barely any nice weather. Half a minute later they are gone. You can see them from the bank of the Rio Tolentini as they escape through the outer borders of the big waterway that leads to Giudecca and Bar Palanca.
At the Fondamenta Barbarigo, a gallery artist is taking matters into her own hands. The painting, which is already hanging on the gallery wall, is being prepared for the art fair that will take place in Giudecca two weeks from now (the ad for the event is printed on the back of her t-shirt). The painting depicts a scene from the big protest against the Grandi Navi of last summer. Protestors waving flags and banners in a boat. Six of them are men; five wear sunglasses, one very stylish glasses. Two are women; one wears a red scarf. To the left of the painting, which is receiving the last touch-ups, is an impressionistic city scene. To the right, the Taj Mahal.
El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido. Chilean protest hero Victor Jara’s song is playing from the open windows of the Hostaria da Barbarigo on the other side of the Rio dei Tolentini. The era of Salvador Allende is incorporated in the Chilean Biennale exhibition in the form of prefabricated Soviet concrete, which was important back then, not only for the housing developments of the mountainous country. Today the in-word is modernism, which the Chilean exhibition also touches upon. A bourgeois interior, decorated with pictures of loved ones, a bit of Christianity and a few braided elephants that call to mind the far east.
Campo Bandiera e Moro
It’s getting dark around the square. Of the three Swiss couples who got together for an apéro, only one seems to be in the mood for discovering, thinking, talking. Looking at a swarm of children of all ages, who are chasing after a football: “I don’t think they’re doing that for our benefit.” Pointing at the man with the accordion, who, accompanied by the tearful yowls of a dog, is playing an especially difficult piece: “But you all know that that piece is by Tchaikovsky, right?” The accordionist’s name is Christian. He comes from Bucharest, where he studied the pianoforte at George Enescu Secondary School. To underscore the importance of Enescu, he says, “For us Romanians he is like Vivaldi.”
As to the cultural hero’s worth at home and as to why there is a Romanian Vivaldi but not an Italian Enescu. It is said that when Marco Polo and his companions returned from China in 1295, their relatives didn’t recognize them at first. Only after they tore open the seams of their clothing to reveal the gemstones they had brought back with them, were they finally persuaded that there, standing before them, was their own flesh and blood. And thus began the unstoppable rise of the China-traveler as material for global brands.
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Translation: Sophia Cosby