Performing Venice's stones: vedute manoeuvre redux

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‘Venice excels in blackness and whiteness; water makes commerce between them’. So writes Adrian Stokes, in his 1947 study of the city, its architectures, and its art. This very sentence performs a problem of Venice that has vexed those who have made art, literature, and other writing of the city, in the city, from the city: Venice asks us to take its measure, its shadows and light, its water and stones—but this is even more complex than a chiaroscuro, ‘commerce’, aesthetic and economic, plays with what is clear and what is not, tipping us between registers we fail to fully comprehend. And thus we are brought too often to perform and replicate such confusion and inability to ‘account for’ the polytropic, polymaterial, and polytemporal registers the city simultaneously operates upon, or ‘makes commerce between’. And yet there is an artistic method that can account for the strange and often highly problematic spoliate economies of Venice, a method which also bridges walking practice as political performance art, and situated performance as art historical practice. This is a poetic-performance method that is provided by the artist Tim Brennan’s Vedute Manoeuvre, first performed in the Venice Biennale 2011, and re-performed as part of the research work documented here. Vedute Manoeuvre, I claim, is a method whose polyvocalic polyvisual modes, whose art-act as common experience and experience of the complexity of the artistic and architectural commons and commerce of Venice, is perhaps the only way of ‘giving voice to’ the polytropic, polymaterial, and polytemporal problems we encounter when we encounter Venice, its water, and its stones. We thus re-orientate the multiple other ways that spoliate, colonial, archipelagic Venice has been found difficult in previous attempts to perform an accounting of (and, indeed, of artistic commerce with) this vexed and vexing city, with Vedute Manoeuvre as invitation toward a performance ‘redux’, as crux and as solution. The work presented here—an essay in the truest sense—is also a mode of performance which demonstrates in its own attitudes to the question of the manoeuvre the act and art of manoeuvre itself.
Original languageEnglish
Article number127
Number of pages18
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2022


  • Spolia
  • Venice
  • Artists Books
  • Performance
  • redux
  • manoeuvre

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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