Saturday, 5 October 2013

San Francesco del Deserto

One of the more remote installations at the Biennale is on the tiny island of San Francesco del Deserto. It's not the easiest place to reach. You need to arrange a transfer from Burano, in advance, following which a boat will pick you up and take you to the island, where one of the frati will show you around. And no, they're not monks : as it was explained to us, monks are self-sufficient, and live an ascetic life cloistered away from the world. Friars belong to mendicant orders and live an evangelical lifestyle in which they move around on a regular basis.

They say the convent was founded in 1220, following a visit by St Francis after his return from the Holy Land; making this the northernmost Franciscan outpost in Italy. It's a lovely place, extremely peaceful. The convent itself underwent restoration in the mid 20th century, removing previous work that was not felt to be in keeping with the Franciscan ethos. There is no great art to be discovered here, but that's not the point. It doesn't distract from its simple, meditative beauty.

The main Biennale work had finished by the end of August, but there was one quite jolly piece that still remained (as the artist hadn't got round to removing it) :-

- entitled "Soft Carnivorous Machines", it consists of a number of fragile, crab-like claws of Murano glass emerging from the lagoon. In her statement, the artist claims that "St Francis would have liked these animals". I'm sure he would!

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