Détournement Venise

Peter Briggs

Venice, Archivio di Stato, Sala di Paleografia, where the show was supposed to happen. Entitled ‘Détournement Venise’, a show that never got on the road. A non-event in Venice. Following are the notes and ideas that led to the final pro- ject. Les restes du récit, my side of the picture. The idea, a optico-tactical dispositif using the existing contents of the Archive reworked and arranged, together with a series of specifically-made pieces and a projected moving video image on the ceiling.

The space, an old classroom with two worn octagonal brick pillars, a modern glass box enclo- sing the steps leading down to the canal on one side, a piazza, Campo dei Frari and a small street at the back. The church next door, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, with the tomb in which Canova’s heart is buried.

Drapery on the vase-bearing figure, Drappeggio morbido e pesante. Obturation, sealing. The hands on the urn.


Make the glass box into a sealed unit, cover the glass with matt-black adhesive vinyl and leave a small peep-hole. Mask the other windows and cupboard doors with metal foil. Blacked out. Inside the Indian skin piece, made from patent leather, cuir verni

Block all the exits but one.


Move out the modern furniture Carefully pile the remaining tables into a pyramid between the two pillars, top one upside down, feet up, cover them each individually with a black latex sheet, morbido, pesante. Set each table foot on hand-made porcelain domes of silence.

Note: Work through the separations, interior/exterior, light and shade, the tactile from the optical. Set up the optical part of the dispositif, find the fields, place the convex mirror

‘Possessions and having are allied to the tactile and stand in a certain opposition to the optical.’

The image of the draped mourner, stone hands coldly holding the stone vase.

Stone and drapery

Note: As in Gibellina a bag of sand holding vertical a silvered blown glass fiasco. Rubberize the canvas for a firmer grip.

The pressure of the glass-blowers lungs, pushing out the form, a remote control of shape.

Heat and breath,

Cold hands, cold heart.

Touch transferred. A part to have and to hold, a part I have on hand

Note: Set the blown glass piece on the corner of a ta- ble, the fold draws in and ties in the reflected space, the surface can be touched but the reflection lies underneath, protected by the thickness of the material. ‘Le contenant serait aussi le contenu’

Liquid latex makes pools on the worksurface and in gently drying, turns into irregularly lobed and rounded sheets, blocking out and mapping the surface simultaneously. Like a liquid retina pouring out of the eye onto the table.

Note: Project a Indian video of a ceiling fan vertically upwards, the image will slowly turn and be visible in the mirrored piece, a point de fixation floating on the silvered surface. Make it negative, ghostly and silent, turning like a bird of prey high in the sky.

Fin de partie, endgame; the pieces were coming together, working even though strewn en vrac around the studio space, the rubber sheets made, the glass slumped, cut out, and silvered, the video edited, the patent leather creamed and polished, even the packing case made. The dispositif was engaged and ready to go.

Then the telephone conversations became shorter, then ceased completely and a strange silence descended on the Venice office: the project went kaputt, offline. Their inert website still showing the futile announcement ‘on line soon’.

The pieces will go safely into storage, but the overall construct is definitively thrown out of gear, disengaged: the archive space allowed the optico-tactical construct to exist, gave the individual elements a reason to mesh, making possible a feeling of spatial elasticity and believable a sense of consubstantiality. Of the dispositif, this is all that is left.