July 13, 2015

In 2021, the city-state of Bienalia was established as a result of political fractures in the Venetian republic. The political radicals, led by the Biennale organizing committee, staged a coup at Venezia city hall on the 14 March 2021. Flanked by militiamen, the Venetian counsillors were forced to hand over power to the Biennale organizing commitee. Once in power, the commitee immediately announced a state of emergency. This effectively meant an indefinite suspension of the normal democratic process and the institution of a single party state.

To understand the force behind this movement, we must backtrack to 2018. Although, it had long been known theat there was some long-term danger to the islands of Venezia due to sediment erosion and the consequent gradual sinking of the city, scientists became aware of a new possible threat to the city. Specifically, they had noticed that, as well as increasing, the patterns of pedestrian traffic had shifted dramatically. The distribution had become more fat-tailed. In layman’s terms, this is equivalent to soldier’s marching over a bridge. When they break step, there is no danger, but when they march in unison, the resulting vibrations may be strong enough to destroy the bridge entirely. The scientists feared similar vibrational effects could be eroding the structural integrity of the Venetian islands.

To find out what was going on, the city of Venezia commissioned a 2 year study into the phenomenon. This issue was considered highly politically sensitive and damaging to the public image of the city, and so all the participants were compelled to silence. Only those in city hall were to have the full picture.

When, after 2 years, the results /did come back from the scientists, they were not encouraging. The scientists had found evidence of an existential threat posed to the island, and had even identified a cause. They found that it was the profiliferation of selfie sticks in recent years which had caused the patterns of pedestrian flow to change. The constrictions they produced at natural bottlenecks around the island caused the phase of the pedestrian flow to switch from a predictable laminar flow to a chaotic, fat-tailed, turbulent flow. As a result, immense and ever increasing vibrational forces were being felt around the island.

The only solution: to ban selfie-sticks. However, the politicians balked at this. In the preceding decade, the ease of selfie-taking had become one of the main criterions tourists used to decide on their holiday destination, and Venezia had profited greatly from this. With this in mind, the subcommittee in charge of investigation decided to shelve the study and continue looking for solutions in secret.

This was a decision that would come back to haunt the council. Frank Gehry, starchitect, Vice-Chair of the Biennale organizing committee and city counsillor, was one man who knew of these plans and was not at all happy with the decision to ignore the scientific recommendations. He was able to convince his fellow members of the Biennale organizing committee that action was urgently needed to save the city - and not by democratic campaigning, by a coup d’etat.

Their plan was simple - use their financial muscle to hire real muscle and take power by force. Once in power, they would go on to establish the state of Bienalia, in which selfie sticks would be banned. The rest of the venetian islands would be relegated to subordinate governorships, although citizens and visitors alike would retain the right to possess selfie sticks.

In the event, there was little opposition to the putsch. The few die-hard conservatives who stood against them were quickly rounded up and shipped off into exile in Murano. However, as history now shows, the Biennale organizing committee was not satisfied by this initial success, and began to develop even more ambitious plans.