Backdrop on San Marco (story)

Shooting Backdrop video on San Marco, on the 8th of May 2017

By Vincent Roumagnac

The contract had been established with a Venitian boat rental company to load the equipment on a small barge at dawn, on the bank of La Giudecca. It was 5.45 am when the driver tied the cordage to the dock. And the boat got loaded. The sky never ceased to clear up over the Canal Grande, it was cloudless, brighter and brighter, bluer and bluer, and last but not least, this beautiful morning of early spring was windless. The piece ‘Backdrop’ being thought as an air-conditioned work, being expected to play with the wind, and to be played by the wind, this windlessness was worrying. The city of Venice finally gave (or should I say sold), a week before only, the permission to access San Marco square and to install the piece by the Palazzo Ducale, after a long, tedious and especially expensive process of authorization to film, this Monday morning, at dawn, and for two hours only, including building and unbuilding. Expensiveness which had not been without opening some ethical questions,  in relation to the theme of the pavilion this year – The Utopia of Access – on these policies of costly taxation of the filmed cities, until almost considering the cancellation of the project. During the sailing to the Traghetto platform before the famous square, the sun had risen. Round, big, cut neck. And still zero wind. Seppo and Sami, the technical team of the Pavillion, had joined us on the bank beside the winged lion, and welcomed us with a large benevolent smile on their face, which, for a time, had dispelled the anxiety produced by this total absence of wind. Backdrop was then installed quite quickly, thanks to the invaluable help of the two guys, and of Simo, who had come to help me for setting this project (we had joyfully exchanged the roles, since I was the technical reinforcement back in 2015 when he showed his work in the exhibition of the first edition of the Pavilion). At 6.50 am Backdrop stood there, installed, stabilized, exactly on the location of the commedia dell’arte setting in the Canaletto’s veduta that I aimed to restage. Right there, numb, perfectly still. Not even a slight weak stream of air, just few useless pigeon sweep of wing. The greenhouse plastic was getting thicker and thicker, more and more heavily hanging from his steel arch, which was reflecting the vivid – and painful – anticyclonic brightness of that early morning in Venice. However, I started filming. Fixed frame shot, ‘Backdrop on San Marco Square’, one-shot long sequence. One-without-wind-shot, disappointing. Almost useless. And then, at 7:25 am, the wind rose suddenly, powerful. And the mist rushed into Venice at a mad speed. The Basilica suddenly withdrew, caught in this accelarated tsunami of gray moisture, and the Backdrop became animated; it flew away, and the wind finally entered the stage, playing, in front of the camera, its desperately waited and improvised hyperdrama.

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‘Backdrop’ by Vincent Roumagnac (Performing Arts Research Centre/Theatre Academy/Uniarts Helsinki) will be shown in the exhibition ‘You Gotta Say Yes to Another Access’ in the Research Pavilion from 10th of May to 2nd of July.

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