Venice (Italy)

RE - USE Projekt

Project “Role of Visual - Sculpture Art Creation in the Context of Sustainable Bahaviour” (RE-USE)

The project under the title “Role of Visual – Sculpture Art Creation in the Context of Sustainable Bahaviour” (RE-USE) co-funded by the European Union, Creative Europe Programme, combines the aspects of sustainable art creation with the characteristics of the location where the artwork is installed. The aim is to raise awareness about the issue of sustainability and climate change through art creation. Besides Venice, two other artworks have been created, one in Iceland (Kópavogur) and one in Czechia (Usti nad Orlici), all three artworks are linked by the themes of textile production, environment and the impact of climate change. In this context, the artwork installed in the Thetis Garden, Venice created under the project reflects the topics as follows: Sustainable art creation, textile production, maritime trade, protection of the environment as well as consequences of climate change in Venice.
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Venice between history and today ´ s challenges

Historically, culturally, and architecturally the city of Venice and even before the Serenissima Republic owe their growth to the Silk Road, the commercial line that connected East and West. The Port of Venice has historically been the centre of this journey. In the context of the textile industry, Venice had gained special privileges of tax-free trading of all sorts of goods from the East. Among others, it had the exclusive right to import silk fabrics. Over the recent years, the Port of Venice, both passenger and commercial, has been experiencing a period of great transformations. As a result of marine traffic in Venice, unprecedented consequences of climate warming have been experienced, these impact the city economy but also directly people, numerous pictures as testimonials of growing sea level have been published. In reaction to the situation, the Italian government decided to ban large cruise ships in the Venetian lagoon after threats of being put on UNESCO´s endangered list. This shows the necessity and emergency to reflect on the climate change issues and take concrete actions.
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Textile import and production from Marco Polo to today

Golden times of silk import and production in Venice

Venice discovered unique textiles and decorative motifs thanks to Marco Polo (1254- 1324) and his travels in the East. Through the Silk Road, he brought to the Serenissima various kinds of merchandise, including silk fabrics. Moreover, he paved the way for trade with the Mongolian Empire. Venice imported the raw silk used to produce its first fabrics from the Mongolian Empire, but when the Empire dissolved, Venetians began to develop local silkworms raising. 

During the 15th century, sericulture was flourishing in the Serenissima, silkworm farms were not found on the islands of the lagoon, but on the mainland, with sufficient space, particularly between the cities of Verona and Vicenza. This activity continued and became one of the most important for the Veneto region until the second half of the last century. 

Nevertheless, silkworm breeding is only a part of the production process of silk: it was necessary to know how to obtain the precious yarn from cocoons and Venetians were very jealous of this skill and knowledge that every single stage in the processing of silk took place in the city and underwent painstaking controls.

The government of the Republic of Venice emanated strict laws to punish those who did not respect the numerous regulations on the procedures to guarantee the quality of the silk used in the city, also appointing inspectors. Only by applying these measures, they could guarantee that the brocades, damasks and velvets were the best in Europe. The rules meant that the raw silk was extracted from cocoons after immerging them in boiling water, carefully spun by Filatori (spinners), perfectly whitened by Cocitori (cookers) and colored by Tintori (dyers) using the best dyes. That is why, during the Renaissance period, a glorious time for culture and art in Italy, silk was one of the most produced and traded textiles and by 1510 Venice became one of the most important centres of silk production in the Western world.
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Silk production and import today

Today producing Venetian fabrics as refined as those made during the Renaissance is still possible, such as Inferriata velvet , Da Vinci soprarizzo velvet, Griccia brocatelle and Rinascimento soprarizzo velvet , but with a difference in the raw material. Moreover, these are produced and considered rather as artistic products. In general, since the 1950s Italy has not produced any silk, so it must be imported from abroad, mainly through maritime routes. However, some companies have recently started trying to rescue the variety of silkworms that characterized the Veneto region, with a project to restore the silk production around Venice and to bring back to the Veneto region a tradition that represented it for centuries. Coming back to the traditions represents a good example of textile related production made locally. Additionally, silk is considered one of the most sustainable materials. It is a renewable resource, can biodegrade, and uses less water, chemicals and energy than many other fibers. On the other hand, when thinking about the sustainability of silk, one has to be aware of ethical issues, especially those linked to killing the silkworms in the process of making silk.
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New Silk Road challenges

Today, Venice, the “Serenissima” which was important for commerce and the “Silk Road” reaffirms its role as a meeting point between different cultures, mainly through arts and becomes the “new Silk Road” after 500 years. In this context, the City of Venice has been working for some time on the concept of a new European Cultural Route, the European Silk Road, with the intention of submitting it to the Council of Europe for certification. The Route, ideally starting from the route followed by Marco Polo on his travels to the East, will include the itineraries of silk production and trade in Europe in the centuries that followed. The narrative that will be developed will originate from the travels and commercial and religious exchanges along the Silk Road routes, and in particular the travels of Marco Polo, and will then examine the impact of silk in Europe through four main themes: textile activity, from craftsmanship to industry (innovations, technologies, world of work); silkworm breeding and its social, economic, agricultural and landscape impact; silk in painting, fashion and design; and research and development in silk production.

For centuries, the Silk Road was one of the most important trade routes on which cultures, precious goods and ideas circulated. Today, Silk Road shipping retraces the ancient routes, starting again from Venice.
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Role and importance of Thetis

The Thetis Garden is significant for the project thanks to its ancient history, location and the re-development of the area. It is linked to sustainability, Arts, Navy and MOSE system. 

Climate change and overtourism impact on the ecosystem and sea level 

The Arsenale was operative from the 12th century to the beginning of the 1900s and covered up to 46 hectares. The centre dedicated to maritime technology was established in the north of the Arsenale in 1997. It was called “Thetis” after the name of the Greek goddess of water and Achille’s mother. 
Over the last decades, it has been home to some of the Italian Navy’s activities, and Biennale exhibitions which started using the Corderie section already in 1980. Also, recently, the technical headquarters of the MOSE system has been located in this area.
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It can seem surprising and unexpected to find a “green” zone in the Arsenale Novissimo, within the red brick area, but it corresponds to the strategy of the direction of the Thetis Garden to make the area sustainable by introducing and giving space to ´green approaches and solutions,´ including art creations reflecting the idea of sustainability. The garden hosts also a bee farm, paying attention to environmental sustainability and the dialogue between art, nature and technology. Over the past years, Spazio Thetis has hosted a collection made up of over one hundred works by artists, curators and galleries, donated during twenty years of activity. It is a collection of paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations created by young emerging as well as senior experienced artists. These works are exposed in the spaces of Thetis thanks to the commitment and foresight of this engineering company. Through constant dialogue with art and its many forms, Thetis has sought to broaden its vision, often collaborating with important institutions. It is in this context that the work “Bricole” created by young artists within the European Union funded project is found next to the works of outstanding artists Joseph Beuys and Michelangelo Pistoletto in the Thetis Garden.
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Measures against climate change consequences

In the past 5 years, Venice experienced two of the biggest high tides ever, 189 m in 2019 and 180 cm in 2021, to be noted, that tides around 150 cm are considered quite common and frequent. The studies conducted by CNR Ismar or the results of COP 21, found the high tides are also consequences of climate change and global warming.

 In Venice, with its seat in Thetis area, the MOSE system – Mobile Barriers for the Defense of Floods - has been operating since 2020, when it was activated for the first time after 30 years of work. Management and maintenance of the mobile barriers are based in the North Arsenal, in the Thetis area. Thanks to the MOSE, pioneering skills, instruments and technologies in sea defence and environmental protection will be concentrated in this area which for centuries expressed the great sea-going tradition of Venice until its decline in the 1900s. For North Arsenale, the new activities represent a real opportunity for development in connection with the MOSE and sea defense and environmental protection in general.
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The artwork exposed in the Thetis Garden

Team of authors: Aneta Filipová (CZ), Gabriele Provenzano (IT), Francesca Stoppani (IS/IT), Magdaléna Biščová (SK)

By the artwork, the young artists refer to the Venetian “Bricole” the surface and structure reveal the signs of pollution from waste and algae. The structure contains plates of heated “Greek pitch” with tickets for boats, exhibitions and events in the city, pieces of plastic, algae and other waste materials that witness the pollution.
The material chosen for the three pillars of the work evokes specific sensations and aesthetics as well as logical connections that form a whole with the rest of the garden. 
The intrinsic transparency of “Greek pitch” brings out the amber shades that recall the organic nature similar to an ancient resin that trapped our waste over the centuries. The sun, filtering through the slabs, creates multi-layered colour overlays.

The “bricolas” , now transfigured into an element no longer able to guide us through the waters of the lagoon, are positioned to be surrounded by the nearby flora that will modify and encompass its structure over time, the natural malleability and modifiability of the resin will be exploited to detect the changes of nature on it. 
In addition, in the project design, the works already present in the garden (made by wellknown artists), were taken into consideration. It has been analysed that each sculpture already present has a dialogue with nature and plants: similarly, resin is derived from the Pinaceae. This family of evergreen plants, metaphorically, fits in the form of a work of art in a garden already rich in vegetation... In this way, harmony with the whole has been pursued.