Modernity in Venice too can only be a desire for the future and therefore an expression of vital energy. These vital energies can find a starting and reference point in historic Venice, and especially if these energies be involved in the field of cultural activities, in research or fields of knowledge.
In its recent history, the Biennale has amply demonstrated that the city of Venice is a place where activities that have the outside world as a point of reference can be developed, projected not only towards the future, but in dialogue with the rest of the world.
Venice has its own very specific character, but it also has difficulty in realising and imagining “ordinary” developments. In “ordinary” activities, Venice has no particular advantages over the other cities that surround it. In extraordinary activities—meaning those that promote dialogue and exchange at the international level—it can be an outpost, and it can therefore host and develop activities projected towards the rest of the world.
For this to happen, Venice must be able to attract these new energies and Italy must be capable of great ambitions, which can be developed using the extraordinary lagoon city as a starting point.
History is not enough but it can be a help; beauty in itself is not enough but it can be of great assistance too and, given the dimensions, the future cannot only be the child of spontaneous local phenomena.
Only if the national community raises the level of its ambitions regarding its relations and the level of dialogue, especially in the cultural field, can the reality of Venice be fully exploited.
If this happens, there can be a fitting and interesting future for the city. The danger is not decadence, but the addiction to and acceptance of developments that are under way as being the only ones possible.
The Biennale continues to testify to the possibility of a path towards a different future. The success of the Biennale confirms that these hypotheses are viable. Pride in past history is not enough: we need pride in what we are today.
Paolo Baratta has been president of La Biennale di Venezia since 2008. He was also president from 1998 to 2001.