Il Concerto dell’acqua

3 Easy Pieces #3 - Ariane Michel
Biennale d’art contemporain de Venise de 2022
Il Concerto dell’acqua a project by Ariane Michel Third part of the 3 Easy Pieces series Produced by Lab’Bel during the 2022 edition of the Venice Contemporary Art Biennale Rendezvous from 20 April - 25 August 2022 at the Officina dell'acqua, Campo San Fantin 1894 in Venice (just next to La Fenice), where the artist... Read more »

2022

Il Concerto dell’acqua
a project by Ariane Michel

Third part of the 3 Easy Pieces series
Produced by Lab’Bel
during the 2022 edition of the Venice Contemporary Art Biennale

Rendezvous from 20 April – 25 August 2022 at the Officina dell’acqua, Campo San Fantin 1894 in Venice (just next to La Fenice), where the artist has set up her studio. Evenings are the best time to visit.

Ciné-concerts are organized for 22 April at 9pm at the Palazzo Pesaro Papafava (Calle de la Racheta, 3764), 25 June, 25 & 26 November (time and venue TBC).

Open rehearsals take place at the Officina dell’acqua on 20 & 21 April at 9pm.

Ariane Michel’s Water Concert is the third installment in the 3 Easy Pieces series of performances in Venice, Italy that started in 2015. Presented in public spaces, they are developed in partnership with non-institutional actors most of the time, although they take place during the Venice Biennale. They stand as alternative efforts to present current and living art through other modi operandi in an overcrowded historic city with dated means of transportation and aging pavilions.

These « three easy pieces » pay homage to Stravinsky’s original music of the same name, written for his own children. The project has grown in close collaboration with present-day Venitians—locals who still strive to live in such a precarious city. In 2015, Michael Staab’s Concertino Unisono took after Fluxus in having the orchestras of Piazza San Marco perform a waltz in unison, or in teaching how to play Chiesa di San Rocco’s pipe organ; in 2019, David Horvitz traced a path across the city’s 435 bridges; now the time has come to encounter the water flowing under our feet in the “Floating City,” beneath its streets and palaces—but also sometimes above ground. 

Is there a more utopian city in Europe than Venice? It is unrivalled in its postcard-like appearance, its bidimensional perfection. Built on water and exposed to moon cycles and the related acqua alta—its arrival being announced by a siren whose sound varies according to the water level—, the Serenissima always adapted to changing flows and fluxes. Let’s remember that mythological sirens were actually bird-like monsters: they have since become underwater creatures.

Yet the piercing eyes of birds remain at the heart of Ariane Michel’s film Il Concerto dellacqua, a work-in-progress taking flight from the glaciers of Mont Blanc, in the dead of night. The artist has always been fond of confronting or sharing her vision with that of birds, as evidenced by the owl featured in her film Les Yeux ronds (2005), perched on the roof of the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris.

Upon seeing the first images of the film Ariane Michel is currently composing for our Venitian project, I was instantly reminded of Caspar David Friedrich’s painting titled The Sea of Ice. We all feel the weight of climate change and the practical issues it raises globally in the age of the Anthropocene: we feel haunted by it. But the artist’s film never includes human beings or animals. And we are tempted—as avid consumers of art forever in service to Mnemosyne—to compare the two artworks. One thing sets them apart, however: the Romantic never saw the icy desert he painted, whereas Ariane walked across the glacier she shot.       

What this project traces is not exactly the path of water, tumbling down from faraway glaciers to end up beating against the marble of San Marco. It springs from another journey, from the sounds and the steps the artist has taken along the way. In the same way David Horvitz walked across the 435 bridges of the city, Ariane Michel started at the Mont Blanc and filmed her way down alongside the water. As I am writing these lines, she is on her way to Venice, traveling by foot, train, or car. Our bodies cannot be separated from their being present in the world.

 I see Romanticism again in the gaze of those who lament Venice’s expected demise, even though they live elsewhere. And some Venitians see the disappearance of the city as something natural, as does my friend Nicolo Zen: “Before Venice, there was Torcello, another urban area, gone and submerged today; after Venice, there will be something else.” His words remind me of Timothy Morton’s introduction to Realist Magic, where the scholar asserts: “Losing a fantasy is much harder than losing a reality. For this might be the cause of our greatest sorrow: aren’t we mourning our fantasy of Venice, our fantastical worldviews, our ancient dreams?

 Ariane has often told me how close she feels to Donna Haraway’s “string figures,” especially in attempting to “weave anew the link between reality and fantasy, draw anew the map of our unconscious” through her artworks. Her moving images are silent, harking back to cinema’s early beginnings, but the Concerto dellacqua is also a soundtrack, a score full of voices. Voices with fleeting timbres, sounding neither human nor animal—speaking the langage of water. Its sounds nevertheless have faces and bodies, those of the young Venitians who lended their vocal chords and hands to the project, imbuing it with the vitality that dying cities always have in excess.

Material objets vanish, but the aura of sounds remains audible. It’s a lively concert of noises: ice cracking, melting, flowing; water dripping, trickling down, splashing. Sounds that compose a full landscape, doubling up on the details found in Tintoretto’s paintings. They create a vibrant space in-between, humming like an orchestra moments before the opera starts, suspended in time like a plane about to land.

 I think that, nowadays, the spaces we live in echo this space in-between; a space for finetuning, between the images at our fingertips on electronic screens and the actual places we walk through, each step making us more present.

The project goes beyond the performance—an aquatic concert within a campiello or courtyard where marble and humans will trade places—and conjure up the street concerts of Antonio Vivaldi’s time, when the young “Red Priest” would gather whole neighborhoods around a few musicians. Maybe such an idea is also romantic and dated. But it might be more closely linked to our growing desire of getting to know our neighbors in this town that resembles a great big house.

My desire, my hope is that you will join us and see for yourself, whether you live a couple streets away or are just here a few days for the Biennale. Come away from the Giardini or the Arsenale and you will find our space in-between, suspended in time, where you will hear all our cells and their grand vibration.

Silvia Guerra, project curator

Biography of Ariane Michel

  1. 1973 in Paris, lives between Paris and Finistère.

For the past fifteen or so years, Ariane Michel has enjoyed a certain proximity to animals, plants and minerals, equipped with recording tools, and objects or scrap items that she puts to use for their “living” potential. Carefully elaborated, her films, installations and performances recompose sensitive systems believed to be capable of “de-anthropocentrizing” us (Philippe Descola). Like a shaman, she deploys perceptual webs and weaves intersecting trajectories based on watching and listening. In so doing, she enables us to latch onto the world in fragments, to breach holes in our “modern” and European conceptions, and subsequently, to gradually weave new mental geographies.

Ariane Michel’s works have been shown in art centres, as well as festivals and cinemas, forests, the corridors of the subway, shop windows, places of worship, or on shorelines. Some of the venues that have presented her work include the Fid Marseille, Festival de Locarno, Art Basle, Jeu de Paume, Fondation Ricard, Jousse Entreprise, the MAMVP (Paris); MoMA, Anthology Film Archives and Bronx Park in New York; Centre d’art La Criée (Rennes); HKW Garden (Berlin, Les Rencontres Internationales), as well as various cinemas in Hong Kong and the Grande Mosquée in Paris for the 2020 edition of the Nuit Blanche (Culture Night) event.

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