We had a good reason to visit Venice some years ago. Our friend’s, Maaria Wirkkala’s work was chosen to represent Finland in Venice Biennale.
The work occupied whole Finnish Pavilion. The floor of pavilion was filled with shards of Murano glass. In the middle of the broken glass there was a sandolo.
Sandolo is a traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat, ideal in shallow canals and lagoon but not seaworthy at all. It’s lighter and simpler and more practical than gondola, it lacks for example a high ferro prow of gondola. Gondola is for tourists, sandolo is used by Venetian people themselves.
The name of Maaria’s art work was “Vietato Lo Sbarco – Landing Prohibited”.
Almost sixty thousand irregular migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees from Northern Africa managed to make it to European shores over Mediterranean sea illegally during last year 2011. Most of them came over in poor weather by rubber dinghies or by unseaworthy leaking boats. 56 000 of them landed in Italy. About two thousand are certainly known to be drowned on their journey to paradise just in 2011. In fact the real amount of the drowned is much bigger, the sea is deep and keeps its mouth shut.
Despite the glittering beauty of multicoloured glass shards you should look at Maaria’s Murano glass sea as a sea of broken dreams. The sandolo is filled with water.
Maaria’s father Tapio Wirkkala was one of the most internationally famous Finnish designers, his work ranged from glass to ceramics, from plywood to metalware. During many years he came to work in Murano glass furnaces, Venice. One of top Murano glass makers, Venini, has his art glass in their collection (for example set of five Bolle bottles costs about nine thousand dollars, they are not exactly made for beer).
Maaria went to Venini glass furnace and asked them to donate dozens of his father’s art work to her own work in Finnish pavilion. She then smashed the precious bottles and vases one by one at the pavilion floor herself. Sometimes she had to stop to cry, then she continued.
She loved her deceased father very much. Those glass works were the most important objects for her, not because of their monetary value but because they were unique pieces of his father’s soul. She broke her own paradise to create the sea of hope and drowned dreams for immigrants.
That’s real dedication to your work, I think. To break your own heart for bigger reason.