Sunday, 16 June 2013

Notes From Venice: Caffè Florian and Bedwyr Williams' The Starry Messenger

Annabel Dover, our Garageland Venice Correspondent, continues her guided tour of this year's Venice Biennale. Today we enjoy a dalliance in Caffè Florian followed by a visit to Bedwyr Williams' exhibition. Click here for previous Notes From Venice.

As I walk past the heavy damask curtains of Caffè Florian I see the glittering diamond necklace and bitten lip of an illicit affair. The lagoon fills St. Mark's square past my knees and the couple are stranded in a red velvet booth, surrounded by the heavy scent of bougainvillea and cigarillo.

Caffè Florian's rococo-style glasses have been drinking in scenes of seduction since 1720. Casanova, Goldini, Goethe, Dickens, Byron and Proust have all stretched out their legs under its marble tables, and the kernel of the biennale started here: Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte Contemporanea in 1893 curated by Ricardo Selvatico.

Traditional houses in Norfolk are made of knapped flint. These fossilised squid, vegetation, razors, clams adorn the houses in a solidified underwater jelly that reminds me of the Patrick Süskind novella Maître Mussard's Bequest in which shells take over the world. In the instance of Bedwyr Williams' Venice Biennale exhibition, however, it is not shells that turn to stone, but humans.

The Starry Messenger is installed in a former Venetian convent. Entering through a replica observatory, and grappling your way through total darkness, you arrive under a glass ceilinged-tower with domestic objects on top. Viewed from below they look Arman-esque. One has a brand new looking label on, which irritated me as I couldn't help but think of somebody buying it in Venice just for the installation, rather than the intended sweeping history. This leads into a mini cricket pavilion in which you can watch Bedwyr's film and listen with earphones.

The film tells the story of a mosaic from the mosaic tile's perspective. The film is engrossing and very funny and makes use of old film footage and images of Bedwyr covered in mosaic tiles. After seeing the film, I couldn't help but think of how we are all stardust memories.

The primeval history of everything you experience is very present in Venice, a theme that translates well from Bedwyr's native Wales to the exhibition in a stone convent.

Annabel Dover

Bedwyr Williams
Caffè Florian
Piazza San Marco, 58, Venice, Province of Venice

Ludoteca Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, Venice
Until 24 November

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