When we arrived at The Venice Biennale Opening Week we were not looking like the emaciated, malnourished, fabulous artists we felt we were on the inside. We all know that 'skinny artist’ equals ‘famous artist' and ‘fat artist’ equals a ‘plein-aire-artist-taking-classes-at-a-local-mid-western-community-college’. I swear, The Biennial Project are the skeletal, chain smoking, debilitated dilettantes waiting to get out of our American, processed-food-built-up, flabby shells. Well, without having shed the necessary kilos, we had no choice but to simply show up to The Biennale with our chins held high (both of them). We would employ our dazzling personalities and surround ourselves with our well-connected friends to cover up our shame. Miss a moment of fun - NEVER!! Also there are always plenty of attention-seeking curators to place in front of our bloated bodies while the cameras of the international press followed our every move.
After a few days of appearing at all our friends’ events, we started to notice that we were able to button the snaps on our pants. The indentations on our skin from our too tight undergarments were not as red, deep or long lasting when we undressed. Could it be that were shedding kilos in the mist of The Venice Biennale? We were!!
Here, at the Venice Biennale, The Biennial Project was finally emerging as the gaunt, twiggy phenomenon you all know us to be. Below are a few thoughts on how you, too, can champion the bony, lanky appearance of a famous artist at the Venice Biennale.
When hungry, stop in the first restaurant you see with a free table. Chances are pretty good that the food will be uneatable and over-priced. It seems to us that no matter where you find yourself noshing in Venice you will get the same meals, made with no love, for five times the cost of what you would spend at home. We have a theory that there is one central kitchen located way beneath the island that sends the same microwaved meals to all the restaurants via conveyor belt. After a few days of grazing like this, the sight of another over-priced, over-microwaved, frozen pizza will make your stomach turn and you will start to notice yourself skipping meals.
While in the Giardini forget eating at all!! There are only two places to buy food and they each seem to be understaffed. You have to decide if you want to remain famished and possibly look at some art or if you want to wait in line for hours either in the stuffy, over-stimulating café or wait outside in the hot, Italian sun. We had the very special privilege of waiting in the pouring rain for hours only to get yet another over-microwaved frozen pizza for twice as many Euros then we would have paid outside the gate. The Powers-That-Be will not even let you leave the Giardini to scrounge for food outside of the gates without having to pay entrance again (for those of you who have to pay entrance).
The moment we landed in Venice we started to burn more calories than we normally do sitting on the couch watching The Biggest Loser. As most everybody around the world knows, there was a vaporetto strike during the opening week. Upon landing in Venice we learned that the only way to get to our fabulous Villa was by huffing through the byways of Venice dragging our luggage behind us. The first Bridge coming from the bus Station, the newest bridge in Venice, Ponte della Constituzione (but nearly everyone in Venice calls it the Ponte di Calatrava) seemed to be designed to punish the out of shape, over-packed, American tourists. The tiny, little steps built into the Ponte di Calatrava made it extra hard to drag a rollaway suitcase. After crossing the bridge you have to pay attention to every bitty sign or risk getting lost in the labyrinth of itsy-bitsy, little streets. It took one of our crew 8 hours to get from the train station to the villa, pulling their bags in the hot, hot Italian sun. It is like a Boot Camp workout. Hence, thinner us.
Another calorie burner is finding the National Pavilions or Collateral events located outside of the Arsenale or Giardini. Those of us who are fortunate enough to partake in The Biennale year after year know some of the most fantastic art is located in satellite venues all over Venice. Finding these diamonds in the rough can sometimes lead to hour upon hour of walking in circles trying to navigate the tiny often-unmarked streets of Venice. This is a fantastic way to see Venice but not so fantastic on your already swollen, blistered extremities. Some countries like Latvia for instance put arrows on the ground to guide you in the direction of the exhibitions. This is great unless some prankster turns one of the arrows around to face you in the wrong direction or a well-meaning friend decides to bring you the arrow from your country of origin as a souvenir. Such actions make finding the art very difficult.
The New Zealand Pavilion location appeared pretty straightforward. Palazzo Loredan dell'Ambasciatore is located right on The Grand Canal near the southern entrance of the Academic Bridge. When we traversed over the prominent interchange, we started to follow the well-intended arrows until they sort of just stopped. Jokesters or nationalists were at hand. We were also flustered by a lollygag of lingering, gorgeous Italian High School students on break who aroused us by the erotic smell of Italian teenage pheromones blended with cheap perfume. Venice holds so much for us!! Being as confused and distracted as we were at this point, turning around when lost was not an option. After all Michael Parekowhai, who represents New Zealand, always shows up for our shit. Plus we heard great things about his intricately-carved red Steinway concert grand piano and two concert grands fabricated in bronze supporting two cast bronze bulls entitled On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer. Furthermore, we adore New Zealand wine (especially free New Zealand wine). After trolling around the dead-end alleys of the Dorsodoro neighborhood for an hour or so we finally managed our way into the Palazzo. Our persistence burned off thousands of calories and we were also treated to some live piano music.
Another calorie-burner was finding our new friends who were showing at the Central Asia Pavilion in their exhibit entitled Lingua Franca. The Biennial Project has always had a special camaraderie with the former Soviet Asian Nations like Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan or any of the other 'stans’. We love all the stan countries. We knew exactly the location of this pavilion being positioned near The Palazzo Grazzi and the pavilions of Iran, Estonia, and Slovenia. We partied hard with the Slovenian accordion players our first night in town. Even if we knew where to find them we did not know that The Central Asian Pavilion was located on the very top floor of the Palazzo Maipiero on San Marco 3199-3201. Climbing the narrow stairs to see the work of our friends Natalia Andrianova or Artyom Ernst reminded us of our hike up Zailisky Alatau Mountain overlooking the beaches of Lake Issyk-Kul. outside of Almaty, Kazakhstan. We took that excursion last April with the artists Said ATABEKOV, Galim MADANOV and Zauresh TEREKBAY. I guess they were getting us ready for 160 stories ascent to see their work at the Biennale. None-the-less, this climb yielded us firmer, perkier, European-style asses that promote the important work of The Biennial Project.
Being squeezed into small spaces will make you thin as well. You know how they say that fish grow to the size of their bowls; well, The Biennial Project resides in the huge open expanses of America. Knowing it is wasteful to take up as much space as we do in our giant McMansions with bathrooms the size of whole neighborhoods in Kolkata, our bodies none-the-less adapt. American asses spread out all over our so-called wide-open plains. When in Venice we really feel our girth the first time when we step into a shower or sleep in a small bed. This makes us feel uncomfortable and….well, FAT. Subconsciously, I think we eat less simply because there is no room for us behind the tiny, little tables, in the tiny, little cafes. When someone guesses that we are American on the overcrowded vaporetto, we say to ourselves it is because of our distinctly American shoes(sneakers). Really? In truth we know the Europeans recognize us because we are huge. They are really thinking that we are taking up way too much space on the vaporetto and they hope against hope that we will spread our weight out evenly around the boat to avoid capsizing. This, in turn, makes us feel shame and we react by eating less.
So yes, The Venice Biennale is a great place to get thin. In Venice you can walk your asses off, starve, smoke and loosen your bowels by drinking too much. You actually never have to take a solid shit ever again!! The crappy, over-priced food looks especially unappetizing after a night of free vino. After skipping a few meals your body adapts and you eventually don’t feel hunger anymore. You actually start to enjoy the high you get from the out-of-wacky-glucose-levels reinforced by the terrific compliments you get. Nicotine speeds up your metabolism as well so smoke away. The more you inhale, the thinner you get!! Who needs The Biggest Loser Ranch in Fitness Ridge, Utah???? Simply spend your money on a trip to the Venice Biennale and smoke and drink too much. You, too, can come home undernourished, bony and ashen like a true successful international artist.