Regatta Cantata (Uomo in mare! Terra in vista!)

Humberto Velez / Artwayofthinking, regatta and parade, Venice, 2005.

In 2004, I was invited by Artwayofthinking (a Venetian, community-based, public art group, formed by Stefania Mantovani e Federica Thiene) to participate and propose ideas for a public art project that took place during the World Maritime Day celebration in Venice in 2005. The project was mainly sponsored by Stella Maris’ friends association for the welfare of seafarers in the port of Venice.
Artwayofthinking had participated two years before in “ciudadMULTIPLEcity”, the international urban art event that took place in Panama City in 2003, and for which I created surprise parades in mayor public landmarks. Mantovani and Thiene asked me to be a “co-author” in the conception and execution of a project that would symbolically link the Panamanian and Venetian canals.

The concept of my proposal followed the line of performance developed in Panama: to work together with the people who live in the city and have no connection to the art world; in this case, with sailor associations, groups from the international port of Venice, and the locals from the city of Venice, in order to make them visible to the Venetian citizens. I wanted to create a project for the inhabitants of Venice who somehow felt neglected vis-à-vis the great international events, such as the Biennale or the film festival.

I wrote in my proposal:

“The idea is to create a Regatta formed by sailors from the port of Venice and other people linked to them and the city. The Regatta will cross the canals of Venice, singing and playing cantatas and songs related to life in the sea. Since the project will occur during the Mostra di Venezia, they may land and take over San Marco and Il Lido, while singing and playing their musical instruments. From there, they will sail to an island to celebrate together with other friends.”

A special song will be composed to honour this communion of sailors, Venetians, and the art event. A banner, or a flag, will be created with the image of San Nicola, Patron Saint of Mariners and Fishermen”.

During the development of the performance we decided to change the order of actions for practical reasons. The day of the event started with the parade lead by San Erasmo Island’s brass band and by Mezen, a hip-hop group from Mestre. (I had worked together intensively with both groups to compose a special song for the performance.) Artwayofthinkg incorporated to the project the participation of a contemporary dancer, art students group with small actions during the route of the procession. A banner was designed with by the renowned Italian artist Pistoletto.
The parade began in the Piazzale Roma and traversed the bridges of Venice, up to Santa Maria del Giglio, close to the Accademia Bridge, where we embarked all together on a small flotilla of gondolas from the Società remiere e canoistiche di Venezia e Mestre, with international and local sailors singing old Venetian songs all the way to the island of Giudecca, where we celebrated with a fiesta.