'Held Together with Water'

Suddenly you find yourself stranded in Paradise. It’s all here, all drenched in improbable beauty, too much for one set of eyes to see in one lifetime. I become greedy, with an unquenchable appetite to see. ‘The ejaculatory force of the eye’.

I get dizzy. I suddenly feel trapped. Claustrophobia in Utopia. No quick escape in Venice, a city where you can only walk on water. Water where you’d expect land. How strange to build a city on water.

Here my obsessions are easily satisfied; saints, cemeteries, palazzos, paintings on every surface. Each detail makes the whole seem even larger, giving clues to the puzzle with no finite conclusion. There are so many different ways to combine the details as to make infinite the possibilities of how to read one place, one floor, one palazzo...

The children, the last royalty of what feels like the last kingdom, twirling on marble floors in rooms with frescoes by Tiepolo but no heat. Empty rooms, cracked walls with beautiful faded paintings, mirrors without reflections. These children accept their heritage as a given; they take pleasure in it just as they take pleasure their extreme physical beauty which could only have been created in these glorious palazzos.

Taking pictures becomes less than secondary. I fumble with the digital camera I can’t ever guess how to use. The camera can no longer protect me. So I see more. I’m nervous, my skin picks up the vibrations of the people, the rooms, the sounds. I see more, maybe because my camera won’t see it for me, won’t save it in its eyes.

‘Your film must resemble what you see when you close your eyes’. On this trip I find people who are so generous and warm and kind, who move with perfect ease, comfortable in their bodies. They do not fit easily into the usual model of infamous Venetian superiority.

Venice in the summer – an opening that you can never leave. The twenty-first century inanity of a mental hospital turned into a five-star hotel. The tourists who see postcards. The heat on cobblestones, impossible to walk in any shoes, necessary to hunt out gondola slippers…

Venice in winter – I’ve spent much time here but always remember it as dark alleys, shadows, dead ends. Trapped by impenetrable fog on an island to visit the mental hospital Museum.

I never before experienced the warmth of the light even in the cold winter. Shimmering like a mirage, very fragile and amorphic. No special time like other cities when you can set your watch by Magic Hour. The light follows its own clock.  Maybe because this time I was given the incredible privilege of having no other work but to look!

To view the works of Nan Goldin please click here

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    • Venice in Peril
      Hurlingham Studios
      Ranelagh Gardens
      London, SW6 3PA
      +44 (0)20 7736 6891