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Venetian Life in Layers
San Pietro Di Castello
The Russian- doll nature of these three things is a wonderful example of the life line of just one spot in Venice. During the Biennale, the stark contrasts between the past and present use of spaces are an interesting embodiment of the city’s changing priorities. Whilst the external architecture of the buildings has, thankfully, remained unchanged for years, every structure in Venice has multiple lives, with what might once have been a warehouse or a boatyard now becoming a place where international artists explore contemporary dilemmas. It’s a hopeful example of where Venice could be headed.
Item:San Pietro Di Castello, is located in the furthest corner of Venice from the station, therefore the more nervous tourists have usually petered out before they get here, which leaves it a peaceful haven in the winter months. Even when the Biennale hits, despite being right in between the Arsenale and the Giardini, it still retains unusual tranquillity.
San Pietro was one of the very first islands to be inhabited by the Venetians as they settled further in the lagoon, coexisting for some time with only the area around Rialto (a stiff row away), for company.
The first church on the island, ca 775, was dedicated to saints Sergio and Becco, whilst a second church, built in exactly the same spot in the C9th was dedicated to St Peter, and remains so to this day. Until 1807 the island and the church served as the seat for the Venetian bishopric and the ecclesiastical leaders of the city of the lagoon. (The Basilica of San Marco was reserved as the private chapel of the sitting Doge). San Pietro might be a backwater today, but one can still feel the the gravitas that this small island would have had once upon a time, the solemn faces and the heavy decisions that were made here.
Item: Docks Cucchini. Found in 1919 by the brothers Cucchini, the space was perfectly located for storing and building boats. Following the market needs of the 20th century, the original squero (dedicated to carpenters and caulkers) gradually transformed into a company specialized in the construction and maintenance of typical Venetian wooden motorboats. Below is a picture of what it was once like- no Fondamenta and a much closer relationship with the lagoon as well as a lot more wood in the construction. Under this photo you see what you will find nowadays, a wonderful space that for the last few years has been home to the Scottish Biennale Pavilion, which this year hosts Scots-Barbadian artist Alberta Whittle.
Whittle was selected this year for her unmatched ability to tell difﬁcult, and often painful, stories with empathy, vulnerability, and an abundance of love. Her work explores “how we can unlearn and be more actively reflective on a personal level as well as collectively”. The exhibition has been described as an opportunity for all who enter to confront the tough realities of police brutality, colonisation, gender and race politics and climate change. In presenting us with these uncomfortable truths, deep dive (pause) uncoiling memory seeks to enable restorative justice and self-healing.
The whole exhibition is designed not only about the three pieces themselves but also the idea that we should sit with this feeling for a while, take a ‘pause’ on the customised seating, shaped into the form of a comma or a bracket.
This evolution of a place struck me as wonderful, the bare bones are the same but the actually livelihood of the place is completely different. Whilst we certainly want squeros and cantiere to have their space and continue to design and manufacture the beautiful boats that make up Venice, it is also really exciting to see the creative work that is coming out of such historic places.
Present, past and future all in one place.
Lisa writes- Anna is also being too modest because alongside Alberta Whittle’s mesmerising show, the Scottish Pavilion also features ANNA’S AMAZING CAFE, a collaboration with Africa Experience, which gives a moment of silence and sustenance to pavilion visitors, along with one of the most unique views in Venice. Anna has also created a Saffron Spritz which knocks the gluey orange version into a stagnant canal…
Here are two recipes that you can make at home- or else come visit us at Docks Cucchini Cafè!
Shortbread Biscuits with Cassava Flour
Now I am aware of the persecution I am inviting on my head for this but honestly, these are delicious. Cassava flour, it may seem like an odd choice but the texture it adds and the slight hint of sourness really makes the whole biscuit more interesting.
Approx: 15 biscuits
75gr regular flour
75gr cassava flour
pinch of salt
Blend the sugar and butter together until just before creamed, sift in both flours and the salt and combine. Don’t over mix though. Roll the dough into balls and let sit for a while, covered. After 20 minutes, roll out each ball on baking paper. About 1/2 cm thickness Is good. Cut the dough into small soldiers, the classic shortbread shape works well but you can do anything you like. Prong them all with a fork and then slide them into the freezer for 20 minutes. Heat the oven to 170c and when ready, separate out the biscuits and bake for 15-18 minutes.
Leave to cool before serving.
The second Recipe is a touch more complicated but interesting and inspired by Alberta Whittles discussion of the Sisterhood of the Good Death, in Bahai, Brazil.
Acarajé with Vatapà
Makes about 10, need to be started 6 hours or the night before.
500gr black eyed peas dried
Acarajé are black-eyed pea fritters, or falafel, very simple to make and great for picnics. They have strong links to both Brazil and west Africa
Start by blitzing the dried black-eyed peas, this helps to remove the husks later. Blitz them with a handheld blender until just broken and then cover with water. Leave this for at least 6 hours. Once the time has passed you will see they have tripled in size. You want to remove as much of the husks as possible otherwise it will be bitter. You can do this now because they will have mostly risen to the surface of the water and you can skim them off. Take care to remove as much as you can at this stage.
Next, you are going to add half a white onion and a pinch of salt, blend this until the mixture is almost smooth. Then you will need to beat it for 5 minutes with a wooden spoon until it has doubled in size, this is crucial for light airy acreage.
Once it has doubled you can take individual balls about the size of a golf ball in very hot oil until they are crispy and brown. They will be more flat than round.
Aabout 10 portions
1 1/2 onions diced
handful of dried shrimp
120gr roasted peanuts
Lots of grated fresh ginger, about 2 tbsp
950ml coconut milk
120gr cassava flour
1/2 tbsp turmeric powder
Roasted the blanched peanuts, removing skin if they have it. In a large bowl blend the first 4 ingredients until well minced then add the last two. Blend until smooth, in a saucepan add palm oil if you have it, but otherwise, olive oil is fine, slowly cook the mixture until it thickens. Stirring constantly, about 10 mins.
To serve, slice your acarajé in half like a sandwich but not all the way through, and add a generous helping of vatapa and fresh chopped cucumber salad, lime and prawns.