Dreaming of Venice in Black and White
Dream of Venice in Black and White reveals Venice as a narrative in chiaroscuro. Over 50 photographers from 10 countries have documented the city to create a visual legacy of elegant realism in light and shadow. The acclaimed Italian author Tiziano Scarpa contributes a poignant reflection of his life as a Venetian, experiencing “perpetual change.”
His eloquent and candid Introduction exposes the complex issues that threaten the survival of Venice. Venice has had the audacity to exist as a living city for over 1,500 years. But for how much longer?’
Excerpt from Dream of Venice in Black and White
The last time I moved was several years ago. I came to live in this apartment on the third floor overlooking a canal. Even today, when I look out the window, I remember the day I first set foot here.
It was a gray February morning; the sky was the same color as the flagstones. The moving men had arrived on a big heavy boat that was practically a barge.
They had unloaded the furniture on the canalside and then winched it up to the apartment with a lift, attaching a telescopic ramp—a sort of vertical track that you use in these situations when there’s no elevator or stairs wide enough to accommodate the items.
The bookshelves, the bed frame and the rest of my furniture progressed along that slow wobbly platform that entered the apartment through the windows. In a few hours, the movers had finished lifting my belongings, placing them in the rooms and reassembling them.
When they left, my wife and I looked at the walls around us and went from one room to another in delight: Right then something new was beginning. “From tonight, this is where we’ll eat, where we’ll sleep and where we’ll wake up.” I went downstairs to buy a bottle of prosecco to celebrate.
When I opened the door onto the street and went outside, I saw a man and a woman who, like me, were closing a little door next to ours. “My neighbors!” I thought enthusiastically. I was starting a new phase of my life, so I approached them with a euphoric smile. I introduced myself and said: “I hope the movers didn’t bother you.”
The man and the woman looked at me curiously.
“Today is my first day here!” I explained.
They looked at each other. “Sorry?” they said in English.
It was only then that I realized they were tourists staying next door for a few days, obviously guests at a B&B.
A misunderstanding, it would seem. And yet it wasn’t: I was right to introduce myself to those two like the new kid on the block. Without even realizing it, I came to know the true lay of the land. They were real inhabitants of the neighborhood, even if they were only staying in Venice for one weekend in the whole of their lives.
I live next to tourists. I live alongside them. What I mean is: I don’t just meet strangers on the street; tourists are my neighbors. I live here, and I am always the same.
They change. My continuity borders on their impermanence. My destiny in life is to live next to people in continuous rotation. I live in perpetual change. Between Being and Becoming, I am a tenant of Becoming.
This was a revelation. Previously, I had been used to seeing Venetians as a physical expression of the city. A sort of secretion of the stones just like the algae that grow on the bricks of the houses on the canals or the kelp clinging to the white stone steps of the moorings.
Usually, you think that a city produces a certain kind of person, in the same way that a terrain produces certain species of flowers.
Perhaps you will look at the photos in this book in a similar way: you will think that you recognize the inseparable relationship between human beings and the city.
You may think, “Venice has secreted that elderly man sitting on the bench, those nuns in their white habits looking at the cat, that man with the tricorne hat: they are an expression of the city.”
And yet those images show a relationship that is vanishing; that has been interrupted. The real inhabitants of Venice are the tourists.
We native Venetians and long-term residents number just over fifty thousand. We are dying out. Soon we will disappear.
The city prefers to be inhabited by someone else: not so much by other categories of human beings but by another way of being in the world.
© Tiziano Scarpa, 2018
Tiziano Scarpa was born in Venice, Italy in 1963. He is a novelist, poet, and playwright.
Scarpa’s third novel, Stabat Mater (Serpent’s Tail, 2011) was awarded the Strega Prize, Italy’s most prestigious literary honor. His acclaimed Venice
is a Fish: a Sensual Guide (Gotham Books, 2008) is known throughout the world as an idiosyncratic celebration of Venice. Corpo (Einaudi, 2005) is a collection of aphorisms and short stories about fifty parts of the human body. His books have been translated into many languages including Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Hebrew, and Arabic.
Scarpa has collaborated with musicians (jazz, rock, classical, pop) including Enrico Rava, Marlene Kuntz, Michele Tadini, and Debora Petrina. His essays about modern and contemporary art have featured Anish Kapoor, Tino Seghal, Mimmo Rotella, and Giorgio De Chirico. Scarpa has twice received the international Prix Italia for radio drama (1997 and 2008). He currently lives in Venice
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