These photographs were taken one morning in Venice, Italy. According to the New York Times, fewer than 100,000 people visited Venice as part of a cruise in 1999. Last year nearly 2 million people came by cruise or ferry. We came by overnight ferry from Patras, Greece. Were we tourists? Is there a tourism of necessity vs. a tourism of frivolity? Does it matter that there was no way to cross from Greece back to Northern Europe without crossing into Italy by ferry since to do so would be to cross a picket line, the whole country being on strike at the time? What were we doing there in the first place? Our ship was smaller than this one, the Seven Seas Mariner. There were only a few hundred passengers aboard, most sleeping huddled beneath the staircases on deck or in the creaking and uneven catacomb of halls below. Some more resourceful had pitched tents in the public spaces. Was it a refugee ship? We arrived at 7 in the morning and there was nobody in the cruise terminal to tell us how to get to Venice, but we were also let in with no questions asked. We wandered for an hour there and caught a vaporetto, also empty aside from ourselves and the driver.
“I was seeing a soul resembling mine, and I could not find it. I searched throughout the seven seas; my perseverance proved of no use. Yet I could not remain alone.” ~ Maldoror (Comte de Lautréamont)
The gargantuan cruise ship, the Seven Seas Mariner, slumbered that morning in the harbor. Its voyagers perhaps already ashore, or else unawares that they had arrived overnight in this modern port that looked nothing much like Venice, Italy. The “real” Venice Italy that some locals would like to preserve and others would like to be rid of so that they can continue living their lives in what Venice, Italy has become today. Real or unreal. Within an hour after crossing San Marco we would encounter the cruise ship arrivals in the narrow streets leading to our room in the boarding house. Two million people is a vastly larger nation than the roughly 30,000 who inhabit Venice by the last census account. Each day two million visitors. The floating city may be sinking into its lagoon, but it is also drowning in the swell and tide of tourism. Roughly 20 million people come each year. Twice the population of New York City, in an area a third its size, not counting the land lost to the canals. New York City is also being transformed into a museum, or a town of museums, it is a tourist destination among tourist destinations now, a town of museums for museum-goers. A new museum opens up every few months: Mocada, MOCA, Rubin, Museum of Biblical Art, Museum of Sex, Museum of Math, Museum of the Lower East Side, Tenement Museum. What about the Museum of Museums? Tourism is a strange panacea, isn’t it? Are we all tourists now — or refugees?
Curated by Timothy Nazzaro, Amy Russo & Hallie Scott
August 3– 5, 2012 | Wassaic Project, Wassaic, NY