David Horvitz “435 bridges and some shortcuts” at Lab’Bel, Venice
A site-specific project by Lab’Bel in the public space during the 58th Biennale: an art performance throughout Venice
Curated by Silvia Guerra
435 Ponti e qualche scorciatoia (435 bridges and some shortcuts), David Horvitz’s project, commissioned by Lab’Bel in Venice, is easy, meaning discreet with an invisibility that is non-intrusive and vast like the city. It is as much a personal act, a performance in a public space that draws a path across all the city bridges, a manifesto on slowness, as an initiative of storytelling and interactivity with the inhabitants of Venice. In this sense, the conceptual artist and poet David Horvitz carries on the tradition specific to the Fluxus movement of interconnecting art and life.
Venice has 435 bridges. These bridges unite the micro-islands, making the city walkable without the need to take a single boat (the primary means of transport). It is the proximity of the Venetians to each other within their daily lives that transforms the city into one big home where we can still go out and buy bread in our friulane*.
Venetians struggle to maintain their unique way of life due to the singularity of their city, many of the local trades disappearing under the shock wave of globalization – like St Mark’s Clock Tower, as if the city’s unique way of keeping time where the day began at first hour of sunset should be normalized with that of other cities.
But there are determined Venetians who persist in exercising their trade to the rhythm of the city – boat builders, ice cream makers, pastry chefs, gardeners, priests, organists. And there are children born every day who are perhaps named Alvise or Maria.
The 3 Easy Pieces project is a three-part contemporary art project that is spread over several areas of the city and pays tribute to the resilience of the Venetians and the city itself: the famous stones of Venice as described by Ruskin in his eponymous book.
The first occasion of 3 Easy Pieces, Concertino Unisono by Michael Staab, was held in 2015 in the only square with this name, piazza San Marco (the others are campo). He invited the three historic cafés and their musicians to join together in a Walzer, a waltz with three orchestras.
This year, 435 Ponti and qualche scorciatoia is taking hold of Venice through an internal itinerary, a walking map drawn by David Horvitz linking all of the bridges of the city by foot.
Our history as thinkers is tied to walking. We know since Aristotle and the Peripatetic School that philosophers have associated the exercise of thinking with that of walking. A few centuries later, Rousseau theorized the main themes for his work Reveries of a Solitary Walker while taking walks. Our reflection is activated by our steps and with them, ideas are born by free association. In the 20th century, Robert Walser and W.G. Sebald carried on this art. More recently, Rebecca Solnit dedicated a remarkable work on this very subject called Wanderlust, A History of Walking.
Many cities in the world no longer allow for pedestrian space. The inhabitants are forced to move from one interior to another via transport. However, it is precisely through walking that we occupy space, through those in-between stretches that connect places, that we are able to grasp the world as a whole. Venice has the exceptional quality of being a city made to be experienced on foot; on foot and in the calle, where we all become equal under the stars.
A performance transforms its audience, while a walk at night composes a story to tell.
David Horvitz is an artist who regularly creates maps, whether around a bouquet or a constellation. For the second of the 3 Easy Pieces, he has collected stories of people who have lived in Venice, connected the places they frequented and the impressions they kept from them, and given all of this voice and circulation, transmitting them in his own way, which is that of a conceptual poet who with two words, Tu (you) and Nebbia (fog), transforms us into a fog, ready to envelop the Serenissima.
He has chosen sites that are still authentic, where the inhabitants obey their own time, without being conditioned by the rest of the world. These people collaborate with the artist in a creative way, remaining free within their own schedules. Venetians appreciate “foreigners”. The city has always been linked to them and built with them. The authorized city guides try to tell their history.
More than a calendar of events and performances, this project is presented in the form of a city map that indicates where projects can appear and disappear. Beyond the walk, it is also praise to the proximity that the inhabitants of Venice maintain between themselves, for whom the private space blends together with the common space; the breathing of the neighbours opposite exhales within our own home, upon us; and where the calle stretta (narrow street) only allow the passage of a solitary walker.
The Colussi pastry shop will welcome you, as will Carlo Pistacchi, the ice-scream maker of the Gelateria Alaska, who will have you taste his sea-flavoured sorbet. In some kiosks you will find postcards to send to your friends as a souvenir of Venice, cards that speak of the distance that separates us in space and time.
During his stay in Venice from April to May, David Horvitz will do a reading from his book How to Shoplift Books at the Marco Polo bookstore, on the campo Santa Marguerita. He has been taking Italian classes since he started this project to get closer to the language that connects him to the inhabitants and the city.
Massimo Bisson, a talented organist from the Veneto region, has especially adapted Stravinsky’s Three Easy Pieces for piano to the organ so that children can play them in the churches throughout the city, as well as on the pianos in their homes during the summer evenings. As you stroll the streets beneath the open windows, you’ll be able to hear the Conservatory students play partitions of Stravinksy’s Walzer, Marche, or Polka – the three movements that give the 3 Easy Pieces their tempo and colour.
One of finest Venice guides, Elena Degan will be at your disposal every day, throughout the duration of the project, offering an intimate tour of the city by visiting the places dear to the artist.
There are many places to go, to relax in, to discover, to meet the people who are Venice’s lifeblood, giving us the opportunity to experience the city not just as tourists, but as locals, even if it is only for one foggy day.
*Friulane are traditional slippers associated with Venice or the Friuli region in northern Italy.
Curator of 435 Ponti e qualche scorciatoia and artistic director
at Lab’Bel, Venice
until 25 November 2019