Venice for sale

What do we really know about the most incredible town of the world?

Flooded (even) by over 30 millions of visitors per year, Venice is collapsing. Or probably it’s just our society mirroring itself in this city in a ruthless, emblematic way, so hard that we almost can’t stand the view of the reflected image. Residents leaving the town, tourists frantically taking pictures of themselves, not the monuments at their backs, stand up paddle boards sharing the canals with the gondolas: in Venice the feel of wonder now originates from a short circuit of sense, not from the magnificence of its beauty. This fact highlights a tragic paradox: Venice is useless, now. It has some value if seen as an enormous amusement park for the enjoyment and the narcissism of those visiting it, but would never, ever live in it. In fact, even the public policies, in the end, are conceived to shape the town as a consumer product.
Yet the empty houses, hidden behind gigantic ad billboards, whisper a protest that those who lived in those palaces can hear. It’s something clearly showed by the photographic project of Federico Sutera, a Venetian far from his town for five years to be then back to a “Venice for sale”. A place where residents’ voices are constantly covered by the ones of tourists needing to know the cost the mask, not the story of who’s wearing it. It’s not the immense treasures threatened by the acqua alta (high tide) to worry the visitors in front of the Basilica of San Marco, but the urgence to photograph their feet in the water. Is space missing in the squares and along the canals?

Let’s squeeze ourselves and push like crazy, unconcerned about the basics of safety and the right for a liveable place. What are all the people after, in Venice? They’re just after its phantom, a glimmer of it. Some look for it reading Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice”, and just don’t realise the corpse of the town is at their side. Facing such a tragic, grotesque destiny, the only way left to denounce it is just ironically point the finger to those who seem to have lost their sense of limit. While freezing the frame of “the others” during a leisure trip to become a luxury frame instead of the painting, Venice brutally put us in front of ourselves, forcing us to wonder about the way we know the world today, or about what we think we know of it when using that deforming lens called tourism.