Call for proposals: NZ at Venice 2021
May 23, 2019
Benny Chan taking over duties from previous Exhibition Attendant, Hope Wilson
Making connections at the New Zealand Pavilion
July 11, 2019

On Venice, vernissage and the vaporetto

The Sant'Elena Gardens as seen from the vaporetto

Hope Wilson, our first attendant for Dane Mitchell’s Post hoc exhibition for the Biennale Arte 2019 reflects on the Vernissage and her time in Venice in her blog:

During Vernissage week, as one of my many duties, I was inducted into the routine weekly checking of the cell tower trees that were installed in locations around the city by Exhibition Coordinator, Amber Baldock, and Roberto Fattoretto, one of Venice Exhibition Manager, Diego Carpentiero’s installation assistants.

The walk from North Arsenale tree to Via Garibaldi

As the vaporetto (water taxi) moved from stop to stop – Giardini to San Marta to Ospedale to Bacini – Roberto introduced the buildings and histories of the area – pointing out restaurants, streets, and architecturally significant buildings. At each vaporetto stop, we navigated our way through the streets, over bridges and through squares towards the Post hoc cell tower tree located at that site. Each sighting of a tree brought a fresh wave of familiarity – ‘ah, there it is!’ mixed with the peculiar sense that Dane’s cell tower trees would be alien no matter where they were placed.

These first off-site tree visits gave me a sense of the ambitious scale of Post hoc and I was intrigued to know what the students at Università Iuav di Venezia (IUAV) or people visiting the hospital might make of these newly-planted cell tower trees. Each tree seems to claim the site – whether it’s part of the courtyard greenery at the hospital, in a field beside Bacini, or a grove of real pines at St Elena. These cell tower trees possess an alien indifference to the natural environment. Instead, mimicking infrastructure, they stand aloof transmitting the lists.

Stopping at the final tree for the day, Arsenale Nord, by the Bacini Vaporetto stop, we wound our way back through the streets of Castello to a bar on Via Garibaldi for a spritz and final debrief. The walk took us along the seaward facing walls of the extensive Arsenale complex and left me thoroughly convinced of the special navigational nous required to traverse Venice unaided by Google maps or otherwise.

A friendly cat lounges at the Ospedale tree site

During that first trip, it felt like some magical privilege to feign familiarity with the ways of living in this city. As I near the end of my stay in Venice, I’m still struck by the privilege of spending so much time here (even though we’ve had many rainy days since my first trip around with Roberto and Amber). Each week as I head out to examine the trees and their operation, I’m excited afresh by the chance to navigate the city and the now familiar path laid out before me. There’s a wonderful rhythm to the journey and a simplicity to the meandering route of the 5.2 vaporetto, and constant reflection on how Post hoc is immersed in this environment.

Words and photography by Hope Wilson.

Hope Wilson

Prior to taking up her role as Attendant in Venice, Hope was the Assistant Curator for The Physics Room in Christchurch, a role she had held since 2016. She also volunteered as a Committee Member for the Friends of Christchurch Art Gallery and recently took up a role at Eastern Southland Gallery. Hope completed her Bachelor of Arts with a combined Honours in Art History and English (1st class) from the University of Otago in 2013. In 2017 she completed her Postgraduate Diploma in Museum Studies from Massey University.