If you climb to the top of the bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice (there's a lift so this is not a traumatic adventure, don't worry...), you will see a wonderful view. If you look towards Le Stanze del vetro, you will discover a giant translucent snake that shines under the sun.
You will have to get downstairs and turn around the corner of San Giorgio to discover what it is - the snake is indeed Pae White's "Qwalala" installation, sitting just outside the main building of Le Stanze del vetro.
The artwork was actually installed last year on the occasion of the 57th International Art Exhibition and will be on until November 2018 (while "A Furnace in Marseille. Cirva" also continues at Le Stanze del vetro until 29th June).
"Qwalala" is a monumental sculpture: the second outdoor installation (following Hiroshi Sugimoto's Glass Tea House Mondrian) to be commissioned by Le Stanze del vetro, it mesmerises for its simplicity. It consists in a sinuous 75 metres long and 2.4 metres high wall of 3,000 solid glass bricks, each hand-cast in the Veneto region by the company Poesia Glass Studio.
The title of the piece - Qwalala - is a word from the Native American Pomo tribe meaning "place where the water gathers" referencing the meandering flow of the Gualala River in Northern California, echoed both in its structure and layout. In the wall there are two openings inspired by the layout of Maya ruins in Mexico that the artist also visited.
Half the bricks are made of clear glass and they look as if they were made with ice, but the other 1,500 come in a palette of 26 colours. Blue, green, browns and pinks prevail, colours that evoke early glass experiments from Roman times.
Even though all the bricks are transparent, they feature a very special core: inside each of them there is a sort of mini storm-like effect of swirling colour that powerfully shines when hit by the sun. The glass bricks represent modules of an ordered chaos.
The wall is the result of a long research carried out by the artist into constructing with glass: while looking simple, the wall is actually rather complex. Before coming up with this piece Pae White studied indeed the location also taking into consideration the view from the bell tower of San Giorgio and from Google Maps.
The layout and colour combinations were chosen by the artist from thousands of random, computer generated alternatives using software developed specifically for the project.
Common materials were therefore combined with cutting-edge technology and traditional craftsmanship with advanced engineering. The sculpture can be filed under the art category, but it has got obvious connections with architecture, while at the same time it hints at social issues and at the fact that walls usually separate people, but they can also unite us and fill our hearts with joy, especially when they are transparent and fragile and made with thousands of mesmerisingly beautiful colourful bricks.