The Venezia Mall in Istanbul

by David Wagner

The better America (Issue IV/2020)

The Venezia-Mall -

Photo: Aytunc Akad for Kulturaustausch

Anyone who enters the huge Venezia-mega-outlet mall in Istanbul can sense that Walter Benjamin was probably right when he claimed that every place of culture is at the same time a place of barbarism: there are canals, black gondolas, a mini campanile that is already crumbling and something like a doge's palace which contains clothing stores.

Whoever strolls here ends up asking themselves where the hell they have landed. It is also ironic that Venice was rebuilt in the former Constantinople of all places. After all the Venetians plundered the city during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, shipping almost everything, even rivets and nails, to Venice - and also taking piles of marble for the facade and Quadriga of San Marco. The Venetians later tended to hush up the raid, which provided enough booty to lend a byzantine look to their city. And yet this forced cultural exchange had a positive side: Venice now showcases aspects of Constantinople, long after its demise. Still, if Venice itself sinks one day - something that rising sea levels makes almost inevitable - a feint reminder of city will remain in the form of Istanbul's mega outlet mall. The belated but sweet revenge of the plundered Constantinople.

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