Sisters: Guest Blog 2 by Andi Arnovitz
“At times the mirror increases a thing’s value, at times denies it. Not everything that seems valuable above the mirror maintains its force when mirrored. The twin cities are not equal, because nothing that exists or happens is symmetrical: every face and gesture is answered from the mirror, by a face and a gesture inverted, point-by-point. The two (cities) live for each other, their eyes interlocked; but there is no love between them”.
Italo Calvino: Cities and Eyes 1 from ‘Invisible Cities’ 1972 Pub: Einaudi.
One city slowly sinking,
One city crumbling to dust.
Over and over during my stay in Venice I found echoes of Jerusalem, my city.
Both places are ancient: gilded layers of history, the conquering and the conquered lying in an eternal embrace. Buildings whispering of intrigue and power.
My new pen’s ink was not waterproof and so my watercolors ran and stained and remarkably the result was closer to what my eyes saw: color running, water wearing away edges, definition bleeding and fading.
Venice rises out of the water like a mirage. Her tiara of spires and domes, heaving horses, golden edges, stars and fanciful gates. Dead ends, bridges leading nowhere. Musty churches with tired saints and dripping candles. Palazzos of air with ballrooms full of sighs. Crusty edges where man’s attempts at permanence meet water. Venetian glass, drippy and pastel, silly anywhere else but there.
Jerusalem is like this. Rising up out the desert, a verdant mountain on the edge of a moonscape. Golden domes and stones so big it took generations to move them. High walls and hidden gardens. More tired saints, although their fatigue is from being spectators to endless bloodshed. Stained glass and once proud mansions divided and distributed to new tenants. Everyone in the world has made a claim here. And the dust. Seeping under doorways, falling from the sky, settling into your shoes.
As dusk falls, in Venice, in any given campo, there are more windows dark than light. A city of tourists and foreigners. Like Jerusalem, where my neighbours are empty apartments… populated rarely by wealthy people who do not recognise me.
In Venice it is necessary to get good and lost- it is a rite of passage and the only way you start to understand the place. If you stay close to the main thoroughfares you only see yourself reflected in the shop windows… to know Venice you must get lost.
In Jerusalem getting lost is also the only way to discover the secrets of this ancient place. Avoiding the tourist sights, finding strange little windows in narrow alleys, the neglected well with hand painted tiles in the courtyard, the spice store deep in the old Arab souk. This is the Jerusalem I know.
A cook squats in a narrow alley and lights a cigarette, having made dinners for tourists who rave about the local cuisine. He is recognisable in both cities, at the same time, the same posture, the same bottled up loneliness.
My time in Venice was like listening to two old sisters…
Venice and Jerusalem.
Wearing their histories sadly, proudly.
One of water and one of dust.
Text: Andi Arnovitz
Photographs: Alan Rogers