A Biennale Volunteer ‘Wanders Anywhere’

The lagoon that surrounds Venice is arguably what makes the city so definitive. That said, the canals that run through the city act as a means of transportation, and are both an iconic and essential part of Venice. The only other way to see it is by foot, which, due to our lack of funds for gondoliers, is how we have seen the city. There is however, one other way to see it, and that is from the towering decks of the cruise ships that pass through the lagoon on a daily basis. After our first visit to the pavilion, It became apparent that its main focus, ‘The Leisure Principle’, served to highlight other more pressing issues surrounding tourism and the leisure industry.
Using the Wander Anywhere Hidden Stories of Venice map, we visited its points of reference, all of which demonstrated their relation to Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land golf. The information at each point highlighted some key issues in the exhibition, as well as providing the wanderers with information on the history of the particular sites.

Doug Fishbone, S.O.S (photo credits Cailean Couldridge, 2015)
Doug Fishbone, S.O.S (photo credits Cailean Couldridge, 2015)

One of the points, ‘The Cruise Ship Dilemma’, relates to Doug Fishbone’s own contribution to the miniature golf course. His piece, ironically named ‘SOS’, directly references the Costa Concordia cruise ship tragedy in 2012. In referencing this tragedy, Fishbone draws our attention to the pervasive presence of such vessels in Venice. This in turn highlights issues of tourism and the invasive nature of the cruise ship. Seeing a cruise ship pass so close to the coast, its decks lined with people is a haunting image, and after the wreck of the Costa Concordia, I almost dread to think what would happen were something to go wrong so close to such a historical city…
On the other hand, I can see why the cruise ships draw such a crowd. Offering an unique view of Venice, they exploit their own height to peer over the over the skyline of the islands, providing what i can only imagine is a great photo opportunity. However, It could be argued that as a result of the vicinity in which the ships are allowed to pass, Venice becomes commodified, thus taking away from the historical significance of the sights that can instead be viewed from the decks of the ship. Visitors needn’t set foot on land to see sights such as the Ca D’Oro and the Basilica Di San Marco; and therefore become voyeurs, imposing and looming over the city.
Aside from their obvious visual impact, belittling the city and overshadowing the coastline, the cruiseliners have a notable impact on the fragile lagoon ecosystems. Perhaps the inclusion of a sunken ship in Fishbones golf course signifies not only his and the general Venetian feeling towards this kind of invasion of the lagoon, but also references the effects of the leisure industry and a highlight a more sinister side to tourism.

Hannah Smith


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