The shutters rise on a high-end fashion store, the ground in front is liquid, gently rippling as it obscures the entrance.
Cutting to a second window display, the street abandoned, the water held back from the doors by solid metal barriers. Inside a screen displaying a runway-show is directed toward us, a frame within a frame, the water reflects and is reflected on the polished stone floor, the models walk on the liquid ground as the cycle of capitalist desire reflects en-abyme (infinitely recurring).
Filmed in Venice’s designer shopping district, during November 2019, just after the second highest ‘Aqua Granda’ floods which reached 187cm above sea level. Shot on handheld digital cameras, RISE details a sequence of shop window displays, mid-morning, as the flood water is starting to recede. Revealing a slow-motion re-awakening of this exclusive commercial attraction, come hell or high water.
Cleaners and shop workers largely remain behind the glass windows, mopping the flooded floors, polishing the glass, and dusting the displays. Referencing Marry Kelly’s Nightcleaners (1972-75) the film captures behind the scenes daily maintenance, an endless wiping over. The workers encased in designer displays, as a slow chaos ensues just the other side of the glass divide.
This is a performance of maintaining a status quo – which echoes the structural façade of Venice as a floating city, built and maintained as a lucrative trade route where there is no truly stable ground.
Set to a vocalisation of the ‘Aqua-Alta’ siren, which pre-warns Venetian’s of the expected level of flooding across the city. A sliding tonal scale, whereby the higher the note the higher the predicted water level. This is reinterpreted as a pared back vocal hum, internalising the warning to become intimate and human, a haunting siren that raises no alarm, like a pied piper’s call leading us to the inevitable. Our collective hubris wipes away the warnings of the impending threat of climate disaster as we seek refuge in retail therapy.
Rosanna Greaves is a Guest Contributor for Panorama.
Rosanna Greaves is an artist, researcher, and senior lecturer in fine art at Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University. She has been supported by the Art Council England, and AHRC funding for film and curatorial projects, and won multiple awards both nationally and internationally for her work. Rosanna’s art practice is multidisciplinary, working with sound, text, sculpture, and moving image; often working in a site-specific context. Her broader research interests include environmentalism, notions of activism and value, language and the voice, deconstruction, and documentary methodologies.