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Cat Bauer has lived in Venice since 1998. She was a regular contributor to the "International Herald Tribune's" Italian supplement, "Italy Daily," and is the author of the novels "Harley, Like a Person" and "Harley's Ninth," published by Knopf.
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1. Burt Bacharach at La Fenice - Venezia Jazz Festival

Burt Bacharach at La Fenice
(Venice, Italy) Magic Moments was one of Burt Bacharach's very first hits, and that is what he gave the full-house audience at La Fenice on Sunday night, July 20th --- some very Magic Moments. Sung by Perry Como back in 1958, Magic Moments reminds us how long the 86-year-old Bacharach has been providing background music for the highs and lows of our lives. Baby it's You by the Shirelles in 1961, and again by the Beatles in 1963, and again by the Smiths in 1969; Blue on Blue by Bobby Vinton in 1963; Walk on By by Dionne Warwick in 1964; Wishin' and Hopin' by Dusty Springfield in 1964 were the beginnings of the world's love affair with Burt Bacharach, which continues to this day -- after collaborating with Elvis Costello and appearing in the Austin Powers films, Bacharach was embraced by another generation.

Bacharach gazed out at La Fenice and remarked how beautiful the theater was; what a wonderful setting. And La Fenice did look especially beautiful on Sunday, the day of Redentore.The mood was festive and anticipatory -- after all, the man is 86-years-old; how well could he possibly perform? It turned out: very well, indeed. Burt Bacharach exceeded expectations with one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life. Yes, his voice cracked, and he had some difficulty walking, but he played the piano with ease, and his band was tight; he called them a family. In fact, his very young son, Oliver, who looked like he was about 20, had joined him on the tour on keyboards. Bacharach was emotional when he said how much it meant to have his son with him.

Interior of La Fenice
Burt Bacharach and his posse opened the show with What the World needs now is Love, which was first a hit for Jackie DeShannon back in 1965. The audience clapped with joy, everyone from the plateau up to the tiers at the top of the opera house. With so much tension in the world these days, that simple message written by lyricist Hal David, who died in 2012 at the age of 91, was especially poignant: "What the world needs now is love, sweet love, it's the only thing that there's just too little of." Here's a clip from In Performance at the White House after the team won the Library of Contest Gershwin Prize in 2012:



Bacharach remarked that the movies have been very good to him over the years -- it is astonishing how many of his songs were written for soundtracks, such as Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Alfie, Arthur's Theme from Arthur, and who can ever forget Tom Jones belting out What's New Pussycat as frenzied women tossed their panties on the stage. The Look of Love is probably my favorite Bacharach song, full of romance and sensuality; it has been recorded by many artists over the years. Here's the original version by Dusty Springfield from 1967 James Bond film Casino Royale.



There were so many hits, it is not possible to list them all, but you will remember: This Guy's in Love with You by Herb Alpert. I Say a Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin and then Dionne Warwick. I'll Never Fall in Love Again. Close to You by the Carpenters. One Less Bell to Answer by the Fifth Dimension. Walk on By. Only Love Can Break a Heart. Always Something There to Remind Me. A House is Not a Home. And, of course, That's What Friends are For with Dionne Warwick and the whole gang.

Veneto Jazz Festival
Burt Bacharach was here in collaboration with the Venezia Jazz Festival; his early background lies in jazz. In fact, the Venezia Jazz Festival is filling the whole town with excellent music throughout the second half of July. Venezia Jazz Festival is the Venice section of the larger Veneto Jazz Festival, which has been organizing jazz performances throughout the region since 1988 with international stars like Keith Jarret, Bobby McFerrin, Paolo Conte, Norah Jones, Pat Metheny, Wynton Marsalis, Sting with the Symphony Orchestra of Teatro La Fenice, Cesaria Evora , Paco De Lucia, and Gilberto Gil appearing on the scene.

Burt Bacharach ended the evening with an audience sing-along of Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, the entire theater standing on its feet, applauding with genuine appreciation. Bacharach said, very sincerely, that he had really enjoyed himself; that we were a great audience, and that he had a very, very good time. He walked slowly off the stage, the band still playing, as his young son, Oliver, waved at the crowd from behind the keyboards.



Thank you, Burt Bacharach, for all the Magic Moments you have given me in my life. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to have heard the Maestro at the beautiful La Fenice -- and to be reminded that I believe in love, Alfie.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

ALFIE
by Burt Bacharach and Hal David

What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give?
...or are we meant to be kind?


And if only fools are kind, Alfie,
then I guess it is wise to be cruel.
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,
what will you lend on an old golden rule?


As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie,
I know there's something much more --
something even non-believers can believe in...


I believe in love, Alfie.
Without true love we just exist, Alfie.
Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie.
When you walk let your heart lead the way
and you'll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie.

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2. Festa del Redentore 2014 in Venice - Luxurious Things to Do

Redentore Fireworks - watercolor by Alexander Creswell
(Venice, Italy) The Festa del Redentore, or the Feast of the Redeemer, the festival that Venice has been celebrating every year since 1577 to give thanks for deliverance from the plague is coming up on Saturday, July 19 and Sunday, July 20. I have written about the festival many times before; here is an excerpt from last year:

Church of the Redentore
  ...between 1575 and 1577, Venice was ravaged by the plague, which wiped out nearly 50,000 people, almost a third of the population. The Venetians became convinced it was divine punishment for their sins. Desperate, powerless to stop it, in the midst of the desolation, on September 4, 1576, the Venetian Senate voted to ask the Redeemer, or the Redentore, for help, vowing to build a magnificent temple in thanksgiving. They commissioned the great architect, Andrea Palladio, to design the church, and on May 3, 1577 the Patriarch of Venice laid the cornerstone. 

And it worked! Just two months later, on July 13, 1577, the plague was declared officially over. After it was consecrated in 1592, the Church of Redentore was placed in the charge of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Every year the Doge, the Patriarch and the Senate walked across a pontoon bridge to attend Mass on the third Sunday in July, grateful for all the good they had received.

Click to read the entire post: 

Fireworks in Venice - Redentore 2013


This year, Grassi+ Partners, who do marketing for The Luxury Collection, one of my sponsors, sent over a press release describing how their hotels in Venice will celebrate the evening. For me, the best place to be in the entire world on the evening of Redentore is in Venice. Whether you are in a tiny boat with your lover, on the island of Giudecca with the locals or at a 5-star hotel with a group of friends, if you are in the right venue, and with the right people, it is an exceptional experience. Venetians know how to celebrate their own holiday, but for those of you (with money) from out of town who want to watch, here are some suggestions:

Terrace at Club del Doge - Gritti Palace
The Gritti Palace - A Luxury Collection Hotel
Guests can dine on the terrace of the Club del Doge restaurant or Bar Longhi with spectacular views of the lagoon lit by the wonderful fireworks display. Chef Daniel Turco masterfully combines local ingredients in two tasty menus designed specifically for the occasion.
Club del Doge:
Time: 20:45
Price: € 405 per person, includes a welcome Ruinart Bellini cocktail and a 6-course menu (including service charge and VAT). Drinks not included.
Bar Longhi:
Time: 21:30
Price: € 240 per person, includes a welcome Ruinart Bellini cocktail, a selection of snacks, a first dish of lobster, and a bottle of Champagne "R" de Ruinart at the table (tax and service included) 

Private table at La Cusina - Westin Europa & Regina
The Westin Europa & Regina
Guests can dine at Bar Tiepolo or enjoy the menu of the gala dinner at the La Cusina Restaurant, or in the comfort of the private terraces in each suite, watching the amazing fireworks display that lights up the spires, domes and bell towers of the city with kaleidoscope colors and reflections.
Bar Tiepolo:
Time: 19:30
Price: € 210 per person, includes typical Venetian dishes of fish and Champagne (covered, service and 10% VAT included)
Restaurant La Cusina:
Time: 19:30
Price: € 410 per person, includes gala dinner and selected wines (service and 10% VAT included)
Private terraces:
Time: 19:30
Price: € 495 per person, includes gala dinner and selected wines (service and 10% VAT included) 


Restaurant Terrazza Danieli
Hotel Danieli - A Luxury Collection Hotel
Guests can dine at the Restaurant Terrazza Danieli; the gala dinner will be accompanied by spectacular views of the lagoon of Venice, which becomes an open-air theater where you can admire the kaleidoscope of colors, lights and reflections that illuminate the spiers, domes and bell towers of the city. Guests will be delighted by local ingredients superbly combined by Chef Dario Parascandolos in a tasty menu that combines the sophistication of Venetian cuisine and sparkling entertainment.
Restaurant Terrazza Danieli
Time: 20:00
Price: € 590 per person, includes a gala dinner with a 7-course menu and wines selected by our sommelier (tax and service included) 




The St. Regis San Clemente Palace Venice
Guests can entertain themselves starting at 6:00PM in the beautiful gardens of The St. Regis Bar with DJ music, Moët & Chandon tastings and the mixology of Alessandro Carà accompanied by tasty snacks. Afterwards, at 8:00PM at the restaurant Acquerello, Chef Roberto del Seno delights guests with a 5-course menu accompanied by perfectly paired wines selected by our Head Sommelier and live jazz music, ending with the magnificent spectacle of fireworks at starting at 11:30PM until midnight.
For those who wish, the party will continue after midnight until 3:00AM at La Dolce Restaurant with a DJ set at the poolside, Veuve Clicquot Champagn , cocktail mixology and raw and smoked delicacies.
Time: 6:00PM
Price: € 390 per person includes welcome drink at the St. Regis Bar, 5-course dinner with live jazz music and paired wines / € 150 per person includes "late night celebration" at La Dolce Restaurant / € 950 up to 6 people, includes gala dinner at Gazebo Privé with personal butler service; supplement of €150 for each additional guest. 


Redentore - Views on Venice
Of course, you can always do what the Venetians do and make your own food, bring your own boat, and watch the fireworks explode over your head from the waters of the magical Venice lagoon, and give thanks that we aren't all dead from the plague. Yet. 


Ciao from Venezia,
Cat

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3. Digital Venice - Europe Starts Up - The Internet of Things

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Venice
(Venice, Italy) This past week, from July 7 to 12, Venice was the digital capital of Europe as Italy kicked off its turn at the Presidency of the Council of the European Union with Matteo Renzi himself, the Prime Minister of Italy, arriving here in Venice on Tuesday, July 8. From Digital Venice 2014:

“Digital Venice 2014” is a high-level meeting, hosted by the City of Venice and promoted by the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union with the support of European Commission – DG Connect, that will gather policy, industry and innovation leaders from all over Europe to trace the road to a growing, sustainable digital economy.

The event, intended to be held every year, takes place at the start of the Italian Presidency to mark the emphasis placed by the Italian government on digital innovation as the key to sustainable economic development and boost to new employment. A “Venice Declaration” summarizing vision and recommendations will be presented by the Italian Presidency to be tabled at the next Digital Council..."


The European Union is a strange creature, and is still in the process of becoming. The United States began with 13 original states, and those states rebelled against Great Britain for taxation without representation. They declared that they were independent on Independence Day, July 4, 1775, and then created a Constitution in 1781, which we still argue about nearly every day -- in English, the language that everyone in the United States of America is supposed to speak.

The European Union originated under very different circumstances. It was created after World War II to ensure that such killing, devastation and destruction never happens again. According to the European Union website, "Europe Day" is May 9, and celebrates the Schuman Plan presented by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman on May 9, 1950. Then, on April 18, 1951, six different nations, all with their own languages and cultures -- Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg -- agreed to place the coal and steel industries under one common management so that no country could make its own weapons of war and turn against the others. Bitter enemies, who just a few years earlier were massacring each other, decided they were going to become friends. Italy and Germany were on one side, and France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg were on the other. So for Robert Schuman, who was born in Luxembourg, and was a member of the French Resistance and nearly thrown into Dachau, to decide to become friends with Germany just five years after the Nazis were defeated, shows what a civilized, forward-thinking a man he was.

EU flag
The European Union was built on a foundation of peace. There are now 28 countries that belong to the EU, many of which used to be part of the Soviet Union. Absorbing these Eastern European counties into the West has not been simple. To use Latvia as an example, in recent history, it was an independent republic, then forced into the Soviet Union in 1940, then invaded by Nazi Germany in 1941, then went back into the Soviet Union until that collapsed in 1991. It became part of the European Union on May 1, 2004, together with Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Malta. 

When I first moved to Italy in 1998, there were still border controls in Europe, which meant each time you drove into another country you had to stop and show your documents. It would be as if each of the 50 states had their own border patrols, with their own attitudes. Imagine driving from New York to Florida, and getting harassed when you reached South Carolina or Georgia because you were a Yankee. We can imagine that an army composed of Californians would be very different than an army composed of Texans. It is sometimes difficult to understand the people from Louisiana if you are from Connecticut; imagine if each state had its own language. Europe was like that once; now there are no borders, but each country still maintains its own language and culture. There is a joke:
Heaven is where the police are British, the lovers French, the mechanics German, the chefs Italian, and it is all organized by the Swiss.

Hell is where the police are German, the lovers Swiss, the mechanics French, the chefs British, and it is all organized by the Italians.

Member states of the EU
Just as Americans fiercely believe in the individual rights written in the Constitution, so do Europeans believe they have certain rights. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union lists those rights, some of which might surprise Americans. There is no right to bear arms, for example, but there is a right to life, and no death penalty. "No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed."

No one is allowed to be tortured: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

As in America, everyone has the right to freedom of expression, but Europe goes even further, protecting the arts, academics and sciences in particular -- fields which oppressive governments like to restrict: "The arts and scientific research shall be free from constraint. Academic freedom shall be respected."

There is a right to education, a right to unionize, and a right to medical care. There is a right to freedom of peaceful assembly. One right that interests me personally is the right to property: "No one may be deprived of his or her possessions, except in the public interest and in the cases and under the conditions provided for by law, subject to fair compensation being paid in good time for their loss."

Importantly, there is a right to protection of personal data and "such data must be processed fairly for specified purposes and on the basis of the person concerned or some other legitimate basis laid down by law. Everyone has the right of access to data which has been collected concerning him or her, and the right to have it rectified."

In terms of history, the United States is an adolescent, only 238 years old, and often behaves like one. Europe has been around for millennia, and understands well the horrors of war, and the extreme dangers of spying on innocent civilians and the attempt to control a population by fear and intimidation, which is one reason why its Fundamental Rights differ from the United States -- Europe lived through the Nazi invasion.

Cisco
Which brings us to the Internet of Everything, the conference I attended on July 8 as part of Digital Venice 2014, which was presented by Roberto Masiero, Co-Founder of The Innovation Group, and by. Cisco, which was represented by Agostino Santoni, CEO of Cisco Italia. Cisco is really pushing the Internet of Everything, or the IoE, and says that it is a $19 trillion global opportunity. Since Italy is still in a recession with 12.6% unemployment, and a whopping 45% youth unemployment rate, the idea of a new arena for growth is particularly exciting.

Apparently there is an Internet of Things (IoT) and an Internet of Everything (IoE). Cisco says that the IoE is not its trademark, or its architecture, but if you google the Internet of Everything, you get Cisco, whereas if you google the Internet of Things, you get... everything. The sector does, indeed, seem to be exploding. Huge investments are being made; Forbes says that "influential conversations" about the Internet of Things have increased 70% between late March and early July of this year.

Forbes
First -- what IS the Internet of Things? It will connect everything in the world, including people, to the Internet. Billions and billions of things. From Forbes:

The new rule for the future is going to be, “anything that can be connected, will be connected.” But why on earth would you want so many connected devices talking to each other?  There are many examples for what this might look like or what the potential value might be.  Say for example you are on your way to a meeting, your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take, if the traffic is heavy your car might send a text to the other party notifying them that you will be late.  What if your alarm clock wakes up you at 6 am and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you? What if your office equipment knew when it was running low on supplies and automatically re-ordered more? What if the wearable device you used in the workplace could tell you when and where you were most active and productive and shared that information with other devices that you used while working?

That sounds a bit too much like Big Brother for my taste, though when applied to a "Smart City," it makes more sense. Traffic lights would be connected so you wouldn't have to wait unnecessarily for a green light at 2:00 in the morning. Trash cans run on solar energy would alert their collectors when they are full. Self-driving cars mean no more accidents, though how it will prevent a tractor tailor from jackknifing on the LA freeway, I have yet to understand.

Under 30 CEO
The problem, of course, is security and privacy, and someone who was not a techie, Gerard de Graaf from the European Commission, brought that up in his keynote speech. He said a lot of politicians don't get it, and that tech scares them. They need to be shown: HOW CAN THEY ACHIEVE THEIR AGENDA? He said that we could not build a 90% bridge; it must be a 100% bridge, and that all the pieces of the puzzle must be put in place -- he compared it to doing a jigsaw puzzle with your kids, to complete the entire thing only to discover that three pieces are missing. He said that his home is his castle, and that the IoT will know everything about our lives. We will be connected but incredibly vulnerable, and it could easily disrupt our societies.

Since Google and Facebook and other American giants are attempting to gain the lead on the Internet of Things, and since we have already seen how the United States government has abused its data, to me, the top priority must be security and privacy. 

With headlines like these:

A Year After Snowden, U.S. Tech Losing Trust Overseas

you would think the US government would put a brake on it, but no. Just a few days ago Germany kicked out the head of the CIA. According to the Voice of America: "Analyst Pawel Swidlicki of the Open Europe research organization says that could get worse unless the United States stops spying on Germany. 'German public opinion will only continue to harden against the U.S., which would have very negative implications for quite crucial issues, like the EU-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, currently under negotiation,' Swidlicki said."

Stars and Stripes
The reminders of World War II still permeate the air in Europe today. Less than three months ago, on April 25, 2014, nearly 30,000 residents of nearby Vicenza here in Italy were evacuated due to the discovery of a humongous "Blockbuster" bomb dropped during WWII by the British, found, ironically, in the Peace Park next to the recently-expanded US military base -- expanded to the outrage of the residents, who created Peace Park to block further expansion. How the citizens of Vicenza feel about the USA in their midst:

Peace Park... today continues to be a social laboratory of participation that combines anti-militarism with an affirmation of common goods. But the park is not the only result. Vicenza is no longer the same, and the United States has to reckon with a city ever less hospitable, so much so that holidays once important for friendly encounters with the local community—such as the Fourth of July or Halloween—are now occasions when the sites under the Stars and Stripes close up, forced to guard themselves against the antagonistic citizenry.

The damage that has been done by the United States must be repaired immediately before moving toward the future. As has been illustrated time and again, the USA has infuriated the entire world with its disrespect and interference. We have learned the USA has tortured, assassinated, used extraordinary rendition, droned women and children, killed innocent civilians and is spying on completely innocent people going about their everyday lives. I, myself, have been targeted on a personal level, and I can attest that the USA has trampled on my rights to an outrageous extent. Like an alcoholic in denial, the USA seems incapable of realizing the damage it is inflicting on the rest of the human race. That is the reality of the situation, and it must be addressed, not covered-up and avoided. It is dysfunctional behavior, and it needs drastic intervention.

Even before Germany kicked out the CIA station chief, Angela Merkel kicked out Verizon.

Snowden Asylum in Germany? Support Grows for NSA Whistleblower After Merkel Cancels Verizon Contract

Support is growing to grant Edward Snowden asylum in Germany. Perhaps that is the solution that is needed. He seems to know a bit about technology:), and has proven that he has integrity and great concerns about security and privacy. If the United States refuses to grant him asylum, it is a waste of talent to keep him in Russia when he has knowledge that could help create a solid foundation for a technological future in Europe. If Europe wants an edge, offering a safe haven to the rest of the world where innocent data and innocent personal lives are free from governmental interference would be a way to start.

The Internet of Things
If we are seriously talking about a new $19 trillion "global opportunity," that opportunity must be founded on sound moral principles, trust, transparency and integrity, otherwise it will be a world in which no one wants to live, no matter how perfectly toasted our bread is.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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4. Perfect Evening in Venice - A Venetian Affair at Venice Music Project

Andrea di Robilant with Venice Music Project at Church of San Giovanni Evangelista
(Venice, Italy) If you have ever been in Venice when the spirits of the past make an appearance in the present, you know how wondrous it can be. On Friday, June 27, all the elements came together to create a magical evening when Andrea di Robilant, author of A Venetian Affair, told the story of his ancestor, Andrea Memmo (1729-1793) and his clandestine love affair with the alluring Giustiniana Wynne (1737-1791). The Church of San Giovanni Evangelista where the Venice Music Project is based was the venue. Interspersed perfectly between the story were Baroque melodies played by the Venetia Antiqua Ensemble on original instruments, with soprano Liesl Odenweller bringing alive arias that were composed during the same era.

Andrea di Robilant - Venice Music Project
Andrea Memmo was the oldest son of one of Venice's wealthiest and most powerful families -- he was Andrea di Robilant's great-great-great-great-great grandfather. In 1919, the author's grandfather, also named Andrea di Robilant, inherited Palazzo Mocenigo, one of Venice's most magnificent palaces. Andrea's father, Alvise, found a carton of letters up in the attic, and they turned out to be be love letters written by Andrea Memmo to Giustiniana Wynne -- in secret code. Father and son worked together and broke the code, but Andrea's father was murdered during the project, and Andrea carried on alone, resulting in the New York Times notable book,  A Venetian Affair - A True Tale of Forbidden Love in the 18th Century.

Giustiniana Wynne was the illegitimate daughter (her parents later married) of a British father, Sir Richard Wynne, and Greek-born Venetian mother, Anna Gazini. Giustiniana was the oldest of their five children, and was raised solely by Anna after the death of Sir Richard.

Giustiniana met Andrea Memmo at Palazzo Balbi, the home of Joseph Smith, the British Consul and Canaletto patron, and the two fell passionately in love; she was not quite 18; he was 24. (Giustiniana called him Memmo, and I will, too, since there are an abundance of Andreas in this story.) When Giustiniana's mother, Anna, learned of the affair, she forbade it, wanting to preserve her daughter's reputation. Venetian society at the time dictated that the oldest son of a patrician family must marry into Venetian nobility. But Memmo was head-over-heels in love, as was Giustiniana, as their letters reveal. To communicate, the young couple developed a written secret code, as well as a sign language, and bombarded each other with love letters delivered by a boy named Alvisetto. They dashed all over town, hoping for a glimpse of one another. Anyone familiar with Venice can picture the scene depicted in one of Memmo's letters:

Yesterday I tried desperately to see you. Before lunch the gondoliers could not serve me. After lunch I went looking for you in Campo Santo Stefano. Nothing. So I walked toward Piazza San Marco, and when I arrived at the bridge of San Moisè I ran into Lucrezia Pisani! I gave her my hand on the bridge, and then I saw you. I left her immediately and went looking for you everywhere. Finally I found you in the Piazza. I sent Alvisetto ahead to find out whether you were on your way to the opera or to the new play at the Teatro Sant'Angelo so that I could rush to get a box in time. Then I forged ahead and waited for you, filled with desire. Finally you arrived and I went up to my box so that I could contemplate you -- not only for the sheer pleasure I take in admiring you, but also in the hope of receiving a sign of acknowledgment as a form of consolation. But you did nothing of the sort. Instead you laughed continuously, made loud noises until the end of the show, for which I was both sorry and angry -- as you can well imagine. 

Venetia Antiqua Ensemble www.lieslodenweller.com
The music performed between the intervals in the story moved the action along seamlessly. Pieces composed by Vivaldi, J.A. Hasse and Benedetto and Alessandro Marcello provided the soundtrack to the love story. Memmo desperately wanted to be with Giustiana, and tried several schemes to make that happen. When the elderly John Smith's wife died, Memmo directed Giustiana to seduce the old man in the hopes of making a marriage, thereby opening up the possibility for Giustiana to be seen in the company of gentlemen -- since she would be a properly married woman. At first Giustiana was outraged, then saw Memmo's logic, and made the attempt. She writes:

I've never seen Smith so sprightly. He made me walk with him all morning and climbed the stairs, skipping the steps to show his agility and strenth. [The children] were playing in the garden at who could throw stones the furthest. And Memmo, would you believe it? Smith turned to me and said, "Do you want to see me throw a stone further than anyone else?" I thought he was kidding, but no: he asked [the children] to hand him two rocks and threw them toward the target. He didn't even reach it, so he blamed the stones, saying they were too light. He then threw more stones. By that time I was bursting with laughter and kept biting my lip.

 My favorite letter was the young Memmo's sexual fantasy about his beloved:

As I lay in bed alone for so long I thought of the days when we will be together, comforting each other at night. This idea led to another and then to another and soon I was so fired up I could see you in bed with me. You wore that nightcap of yours I like so much, and a certain ribbon I gave you adorned your face so sweetly. You were so near to me and so seductive I took in your tender fragrance and felt your breath. You were in a deep sleep -- you even snored at times. You had kept me company all evening long with such grace that I really didn't have the heart to wake you up... but then a most fortunate little accident occurred just as my discretion was exhausting itself. You turned to me at the very moment in which you dreamed of being in my arms. Nature, perhaps encourage by habit, led you to embrace me. So there we were, next to each other, face to face and mouth to mouth! Your right leg was leaning on my left leg. Little by little the beak of the baby dove began to prick you so forcefully that in your sleep you moved your hand in such a way the thirsty little creature found the door wide open. Trembling from both fear and delight, it entered oh so gently into that little cage and after quenching its thirst it began to have som fun, flying about those spaces and trying to penetrate them as far as it could. It was so eager and made such a fuss that in the end you woke up.

It was not long before Memmo's scheme was found out -- Venice being the gossipy town that it is -- and Smith, furious, banished him from Palazzo Balbi. Undeterred, Memmo then plotted to marry Giustiana secretly in the church, and the church was happy to oblige, eager to capture such a notable young nobleman. But when Memmo seriously considered what he would lose -- his entire life and career -- he reconsidered.

He next decided that he would marry Giustiana legally, in front of the entire world -- all he needed to do was to change the law itself. He was not the only young man who wanted to move the oligarchy into modern times; there were other aristocrats in the same spot, and Memmo had the wealth and power to do it. He came very close to persuading enough nobility to join his cause until a document was found in the Archives revealing that Giustiana's mother, Anna, had been deflowered by a Greek in her youth, and that was the end of that.

Andrea di Robilant and Liesl Odenweller
In the end, both Memmo and Giustiana married others, but remained lifelong friends; Giustiana even went to Memmo's daughter's wedding. Memmo became governor of Padua and Ambassador to Constantinople; Giustiana married Count Orsini-Rosenberg, the Austrian Ambassador to Venice, and then became a writer. Although they have been gone for more than 200 hundred years, their great love story lives on.

Titian's Assumption at the Frari
As we left San Giovanni Evangelista and headed toward dinner, a chorus of angels filled the night air. The door to the Frari was wide open, and Titian's Assumption of the Virgin glowed as if it were lit by heaven itself. We entered the enormous basilica and learned it was a free concert -- a perfect coda to a perfect evening in mystical, magical Venice.

Click for Venice Music Project
Click for Andrea di Robilant
Click for Liesl Odenweller

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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5. ART NIGHT VENEZIA - Venice Celebrates Summer Solstice with Free Art

“Art or Sound”- Fondazione Prada
Photo: Attilio Maranzano - Courtesy Fondazione Prada

(Venice, Italy) Art Night Venezia, the night Venice throws opens her doors and invites the public to view her treasures for free, is now in its fourth edition, and it gave me the chance to revisit some of the city's hippest happenings, plus take in a few I hadn't had the chance to see. This year, Art Night Venezia fell on June 21, the summer solstice, and it was invigorating to see masses of people strolling about the city until all hours, making the rounds to museums, galleries, foundations and other notable venues, clambering up and down the steps of ancient palaces to feast on a boundless supply of contemporary creativity.

“Art or Sound”- Fondazione Prada
 Singing Bird Cage With Clock, circa 1785 by Pierre Jaquet-Droz
Orchestrion Accordeo Jazz, circa 1920 by Amelotti
Photo: Attilio Maranzano - Courtesy Fondazione Prada 
I was at the cocktail reception for "Art or Sound" over at the Prada Foundation on June 4th, and it seemed like everyone in town for the opening of the architecture exhibition was there, too, so I welcomed the opportunity to visit under calmer circumstances.

In June 2011, the Fondazione Prada reopened part of Ca' Corner della Regina, the 18th-century palazzo that was built on the ruins of the palace where Catherine Cornaro (1454-1510), the Queen of Cyprus (and one of Venice's most fascinating historical figures) was born, after an impressive restoration. With "Art or Sound," the public finally has access to the stately second floor.

Curated by Germano Celant, the exhibition is like wandering into grownup fairytale with two floors of the palace packed with more than 180 artifacts based on sound -- paintings and sculptures, musical clocks and birdcages, a fairground organ and music machines, real and imaginary musical instruments that date back to the 1500s, and up through today. The craftsmanship of a stunning white marble with guitar with intricate black marble-paste inlays (1680) by Michele Antonio Grandi made me marvel at the capacity of human beings to create such exquisite objects.

The exhibition examines the influence of sound on art for the past 500 years or so; particular attention is paid to artists of the 20th century. Ulf Linde's 1963 replica of Marcel Duchamp's ball of twine With a Hidden Noise (1916) is there; Man Ray's photograph of a metronome Indestructible Object (1923) is there, as is Salvador Dali's chalk-on-paper Métronome (1944); John Page's musical score for Variations I (1958) is there; one of the coolest objects is Laurie Anderson's phone booth, Numbers Runners (1979) where a line of visitors wait their turn to pick up the phone and listen to what's on the other end of the line.

"Art or Sound" runs through November 3, 2014 and is a MUST SEE. Click for more information.

Island of San Giorgio Maggiore
I didn't have time to visit my favorite island, the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, during Art Night Venezia, but I had practically been living there during the opening of the architectural exhibition; the superb exhibition The Santilanas at the Stanze del Vetro is always free. Hiroshi Sugimoto's The Glass Tea House Mondrian is located in front of the Rooms of Glass; both were open late during Art Night Venezia.

Glass Tea House Mondrian by Hiroshi Sugimoto
During the press conference on June 4th, Pasquale Gagliardi, the Secretary General of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini emphasized that the mission of the foundation was to be a bridge between the East and the West, and The Glass Tea House does just that, bringing the ancient Japanese tea ritual to Europe. Sugimoto, who lives in New York, said that the Japanese were very different from Americans, who put all their wealth in their house. When invited into a Japanese tea house, only a very few select art objects are on display, precisely selected by the host for the guest. There is no talking; it is a graceful, silent ballet performed on one's knees as the tea is prepared and then drank.

Hiroshi Sugimoto
According to Sen no Rikyu, the Buddhist monk who established the tea ceremony rules in the sixteenth century, the basic principles are harmony, seen as proportion and relation; respect, seen as dignity and communion; purity, seen as openness and willingness to welcome and serenity, seen as meeting and sharing.

Sugimoto designed a limited edition glass tea bowl specifically for the exhibition, which was blown by the Murano maestro Simone Cenedese. Sugimoto has agreed to return to Venice in the fall to work with the Murano glass blowers.

Click to go to the Stanze del Vetro for more information.



The Goldoni Experience
I finished up Art Night Venezia over at the Teatro Goldoni for the free 10:00PM performance of The Goldoni Experience, which I previously wrote about here.  Carlo Goldoni, the famous Venetian playwright, specialized in poking fun at his fellow citizens. The play is set on the last evening of Carnival, and the last night before the playwright, in the form of one of his own characters, the merchant Anzoletto, leaves for Paris. For anyone interested in Venetian culture and commedia dell'arte, it is a MUST SEE. The show is in the Venetian language, but it has English subtitles -- actually super-titles, as the translation is projected above, not below, the action -- which makes viewing the production a bit of a challenge, but opera fans should have no problem.

I really enjoyed watching all the Venetian machinations that don't seem to have changed much to the present day; it is in the Venetian character to conspire and manipulate; I think they are born that way. Servants plot against themselves and their masters; aristocrats cheat on their wives; wives plot revenge. After all the comical exploitations, the show ends on a dramatic note as the fourth wall breaks down and the 21st Century bursts onto the stage. It is a heartbreaking love letter from the Venetians to the world.

Click to go to the Teatro Goldoni for more information, or read my previous post:

Venetians Put on a Show(s) - Ancient Designer Sunglasses, a Playwright and a War Hero 

 

Art Night Venezia
Art Night Venezia 2014 included more than 400 free events, with about 100 cultural institutions opening their doors for free, and was organized by Ca' Foscari University and the City of Venice. With strong solidarity, the cultural institutions of Venice united and gave everyone in town a night to remember. The website of Art Night Venezia is in Italian, but if you click the word sedi at the top, that will take you to the venues or locations, and if you click the word eventi... well, that is the same word in English -- events -- except that the male plural in Italian uses an "i" instead of an "s."

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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6. Venetians Put on a Show(s) - Ancient Designer Sunglasses, a Playwright and a War Hero

18th Century Goldoni-type Sunglasses with Mocenigo Coat of Arms (Vascellari Collection, Italy)
(Venice, Italy) Two hundred years before John Lennon made wearing round lenses all the rage, Venice was busy setting a fashion trend all its own. Long before the rest of the world discovered the danger of ultra-violet rays in 1870, Venetian opticians were 120 years ahead of the curve, producing emerald-colored sunglasses to protect the eyes of the nobility and Commanders da Mar (of the sea) from the harmful glare of reflected light as they navigated the waters that surrounded them.

For the first time in the history of spectacles, the exhibition "Spectacles Fit for a Doge" at the majestic Sale Monumentale in the Marciana Library gathers together glasses from museums and private collections to examine a vital point in the history of eyewear.

The Doge was the ruler of the Venetian Republic, and a pair of sunglasses, complete with carrying case, which bear the Coat of Arms of the aristocratic Mocenigo family are featured in the exhibition, dating back to the time when Doge Alvise Giovanni Mocenigo was the leader from 1763 until his death on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1778.

Goldoni-type horn-rimmed spectacles with eyelet-shaped temple pieces and silk sunguards. Venice, 1760. (Vascellari Collection, Italy)
Venetian opticians were the first in Italy to produce eyeglasses with temple pieces that reached to the ear, holding the lenses more comfortably on the nose. To offer more protection, pieces of silk were attached to guard against the sun. No one knows for sure why they were called "Goldoni" glasses, but it is assumed that Carlo Goldoni, the famous Venetian playwright, was known for sporting a pair of the hip glasses as he tooled about town, much like John Lennon did two centuries later.

Oval lady’s-glass painted in Venetian lacquer colors using decoupage technique already fashionable among Venetian carpenters at the end of the 17th century. (Ingrid and Werner Weismueller, Germany)

The vetri da gondola or da dama (for ladies) were mounted in a frame similar to a hand-held mirror, and probably evolved from a monocle; they were modified to be used by wealthy women and children to protect their eyes while on outings in a gondola. The exhibition also features glasses created solely for entertainment, such as the vetri da avari (glasses for misers) with a kaleidoscope effect that turns one coin into many,  and the "Parisian," scissor-type lorgnettes named after Parisian dandies that stopped people on the street and blatantly gave them the once-over through a pair of comical lenses.

"Spectacles Fit for a Doge" is curated by Roberto Vascellari.

Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana Sale Monumentali
SPECTACLES FIT FOR A DOGE
Sunglasses in Eighteenth-Century Venice
June 14 to July 13, 2014
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, "Sale Monumentali"
Click for more information

Promoters and Organizers
Comitato Venezia
Museo dell’Occhiale
Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana
Stazione Sperimentale del Vetro


Teatro Goldoni
Meanwhile, over at the Carlo Goldoni Theatre, another all-Venetian production is getting underway. The "Goldini Experience" is an homage to the great Venetian playwright, Carlo Goldoni. Set on the last night before the scribe left for Paris, and the last night of Carnival, Giuseppe Emiliani, who directs the show, has taken chunks of Goldoni's own text and compiled the prose into a collage of comical encounters between Goldoni and people who stumble into his orb. Using the original Venetian language, the show will also have English subtitles, making it accessible to both locals and tourists alike.

The Goldoni Experience opens on June 21, Art Night Venezia, (when most of Venice's museums, churches, galleries and foundations will stay open until 11pm or midnight with free entrance!), with two shows at 7:30 and 10:00PM, and runs throughout the summer, with additional shows in October and November. Full price tickets are €35, with sizable reductions for residents, students and families and may be purchased at Teatro Goldoni and Hellovenezia.

Press conference for the GOLDONI EXPERIENCE
Schedule
June 21 - 7:30pm and 10pm
June 24 - 7:00pm
June 27 - 8:00pm

July 1, 8, 15, 22 at 7:00pm
July 4, 11, 12, 18 at 8:00pm

August 5, 12, 19, 26 at 7:00pm
August 1, 8, 15, 16, 22, 29, 30 at 8:00pm

Sept. 2 at 7:00pm
Sept. 5, 6 at 8:00pm
Sept. 7 to be announced

Oct. 31 at 8:00pm
Nov. 2 to be announced

THE GOLDONI EXPERIENCE
Fresco of Venice
Scenes of Daily Venetian Life in the 18th Century
Teatro Stabile del Veneto Carlo Goldoni
Click for more information

Bust of Sebastiano Venier by Alessandro Vittoria
"Many small things make many great things."

Sebastiano Venier (1496-1578) is one of Venice's most beloved historical figures. After defeating the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto, he became Doge. They say he died of a broken heart when a fire heavily damaged the Doge's Palace. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Venice Club of the International Inner Wheel, one of the world's largest women's organizations, the marble bust of the Venetian hero has been restored and stands proudly once again inside Palazzo Ducale over the Staircase of the Censors, in front of the door of the Armory. Manuela Savoia Rizzoli, the President of the Venice Club expressed the desire that Venetians return to their heritage and said, " It's a small thing, but, for us, it's a big thing."

Palazzo Ducale - Doge's Palace
Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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7. 2014 Venice International Architecture Festival - Rem Koolhaas Resets the World

The Sky Over Nine Columns by Heinz Mack
(Venice, Italy) Giorgio Orsoni, the Mayor of Venice, was arrested for corruption on June 4th, the same morning I was arrested by the golden grandeur of The Sky Over Nine Columns by Heinz Mack on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, one day before the preview of the 14th Venice International Architecture Festival. The divine beauty of the monumental columns was an enlightened contrast to the dark forces that constantly seek to debase Venice, the most beautiful city in the modern world. When asked to comment about the mayor's arrest during the opening press conference, Rem Koolhaas, the Director of the Architecture Exhibition, said, "It is an incident that fits perfectly in the overall picture."

Winner GOLDEN LION for Nat. Participation  - Republic of Korea Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia
This year, for the first time, the 65 nations that participated were asked to focus on a common theme: Absorbing Modernity. Koolhaas said that he wanted to take the liberty to look at subjects that are not normally examined. Each nation had complete freedom within the theme. As the research progressed, it became clear that every single nation had been destroyed and rebuilt at least once, and that absorbing modernity was more like absorbing the blows of an opponent.

South Africa Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia
I've grown to love the architecture exhibition -- over the years it has developed into something wondrous. As a lay person living in Venice who knows next to nothing about architecture, it is fascinating to take a glimpse into that world. Every other year, when the architects descend upon Venice, they breathe fresh, creative life into the city: businesses stay open late, hotels and restaurants are packed with interesting and exciting energy, the streets are filled with zippy conversations -- even the vaporetto driver popped open the front window and started singing as he zoomed across the lagoon. From yachts to backpackers, wizened wise ones to the mini-skirted chic, the joint is jumping with openings, cocktails and parties. It is a stark contrast to the armies of zombies dumped off by the monstrous cruise ships who follow mindlessly behind a guide holding a contrivance-on-a-stick.

Winner SILVER LION for National Participation - Chile Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia
How to create an architecture exhibition that appeals to both the professional and the general public has always been a challenge. It's not like film, music, theater or dance, mediums where an audience is used to being entertained. By incorporating those elements of La Biennale -- theater, film, music and dance -- plus focusing on research and a common theme, Koolhaas and La Biennale have found a genius solution to create an exhibition that appeals to all.

Special Mention: Canada Pavilion Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15
Koolhaas made an interesting remark during the press conference -- that the nations found working together on the same theme a "relief," and that it became an orchestra of different voices. After wandering around the exhibition, I began to understand what he meant. Each nation found a way to tell their own story about the events that had occurred in the past 100 years that shaped them into what they are today, and which is reflected in the architecture -- dreams that were never completed, compromises that were built, and the occasional creation that fulfilled the original idea. Subjects that have been taboo for decades were openly addressed. The heavy hand of war and politics upon existing cultures that, in turn, affect architecture was emphasized. I was struck by how much influence governments and their policies had upon architecture, something I've never really thought about before.

Special Mention - France Pavilion. Modernity: promise or menace?  Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia
The Russians were hilarious, all decked out in hot pink, mimicking an international trade show called "Fair Enough," with sales people and stalls that showcased 20 different Russian companies, such as a travel agency that organizes international tours which focus on the influence of Russia around the globe, or a company that specializes in contemporary "neo-Russian" architecture. I loved the "Dacha Co-op," a company that believes "that all people deserve storage space that they can live in that's customizable to their own tastes and located in a relaxing atmosphere outside the city." In other words, a tiny second home. I spoke to an architect from New York, and she said she thought Russia was the best exhibition she'd seen; in fact, everyone seemed to appreciate the sense of humor -- because, really, with Russia's critical situation in the world today, a little humor goes a long way. The jury seemed to agree, and gave Russia a Special Mention "for showcasing the contemporary language of commercialization of architecture."

Special Mention - Russian Pavilion Fair Enough: Russia’s past our Present
As as American, I was riveted by the US pavilion, OfficeUS. Its mission is to "critically reflect on the production of US architectural firms abroad, while simultaneously projecting a new model for global architectural practice open to all of us." The pavilion is set up like an office, in fact, is an operating office, its walls lined with hundreds of folders in chronological order detailing US projects abroad during the last 100 years. The curators say it is “an active, global, experimental architecture office that researches, studies, and remakes projects from an onsite archive of 1,000 buildings and the 200 U.S. based architecture offices engaged in their construction.” 

US Pavilion. Image © Nico Saieh
I was born in 1955, so I opened a folder and began to read an article from the January 1955 edition of Architectural Forum, a publication now defunct (1892-1974):

"The year 1955 finds the US building industry hard at work in almost every country of the free world. Our architects and planners are creating whole new towns from teeming India to tiny El Salvador. Our engineers and contractors are building new dams and power plants in Turkey and Afghanistan, new refineries in Sumatra and Ceylon, new highways in Columbia, new hospitals in Iran and Peru. We have opened gleaming new embassies and consulates in a dozen capitals, big luxury hotels in a dozen more. 

What is the significance of this tremendous activity?

First, it means we are building up the basic welfare of other nations, creating climates unfavorable to communism, readying countries for industrialization and democratic independence, making them prosperous enough to buy more of our products.

Second, our industry and commerce are expanding in search of new sources of raw materials, new markets for finished products. To serve increased travel and trade, hotels and stores are springing up along the new commercial routes.

Third, we are helping build defenses for ourselves and our allies.

And fourth, we are keeping up strong governmental and public relations through our official missions: new embassies, consulates, libraries, information services."

WHOA.  I could not believe that I was reading about a scheme in a publication written nearly 60 years ago that clearly and precisely outlined what the United States was doing abroad -- it seems like it would have "Confidential" marked all over it today. The sections called ECONOMIC AID and POINT FOUR were especially pertinent to current affairs in Afghanistan:

"By late 1948, thanks to the Marshall Plan, Europe fairly crawled with members of the US construction industry. Architects went abroad to advise on the planning of industrial plants and housing to give the benefit of their experience in expanding the US wartime industrial machine.

... In some instances, the various US aid programs overlap. For example, in Afghanistan, a $75 million project calling for construction of two dams was largely funded with Export-Import loans while Point Four financial assistance to the same country has been showing previously nomadic Afghans how to use the 400,000 newly irrigated acres that dams will create. 

This project, begun in 1947 by Morrison-Knudsen, is just winding up and is typical of the kind of situations that US firms find themselves in when they work on aid project. Examples: 1) M.K. used 60 local workers for every US national employed and had some unusual problems to contend with as a result. For instance, the Afghan version of the coffee break consists of two prayer periods each day on company time in addition to three prayer sessions on the workers' own time. 2) The transportation difficulties were enormous and getting 17,000 tons of equipment into the middle of this backward Asian nation accounted for about 25% of the project's cost. 3) Despite Point Four work in Afghanistan, M.K, found it necessary to start its own model farm in one area just to show local farmers how to use the new land -- certainly an unusual venture for a construction crew."


Which particular businesses were booming abroad?

"...In the field of manufacturing and assembly plants, General Motors is probably the leader of all US investors abroad with its 27 plants in 17 nations and its $191 million expansion plan for Europe alone. Other fields marked by other blue-chip investors: Pan American (through Intercontinental Hotels) with its 15 foreign hotels, Readers Digest with its publishing plants in 14 countries, E.B. Squibb (today Bristol-Myers Squibb) with 17 factories around the world and (my personal favorite) Coca Cola with its ubiquitous bottling plants."

HOW BIG THE FUTURE? pretty much sums up the Foreign Policy of the United States of America back in 1955 -- not much seems to have changed:

"Although the scope of our private operations abroad seems large, it is actually small when measured against the undeveloped state of most of the world and the prewar investments made by Britain when she occupied our present position as leader of the Western Alliance."

The curators say, “We are setting a stage for the architects and visitors to address and respond to the most pressing architectural anxieties of the last one hundred years," and I found their attitude refreshing. Looking at the policies of the United States abroad in terms of history really gave me a new perspective on why our country is in the position that it is in today.

Sonnets in Babylon by Daniel Libeskind - Venice Comune
Despite the mayor's arrest, the opening of the Venice Pavilion, Sonnets in Babylon by Daniel Libeskind went smoothly. Libeskind is a Polish Jewish architect and artist, who holds both US and Israel citizenship, and is the master plan architect for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. "Some never-before-exhibited drawings by Libeskind, created by hand from pen and sepia-toned washes of coffee, comprise the principal element of the pavilion." Libeskind said his exhibition was dedicated to the citizens of Venice, "the most fantastic city in the world," and emphasized that "cities are made out of people."

Fundamentals, the Venice Biennale 14th International Architecture Festival directed by the brilliant Rem Koolhaas runs from June 7 to November 23, 2014. Click here for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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8. From Rauschenberg to Jeff Koons - The Eye of Ileana Sonnabend at Ca' Pesaro, Venice

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Nine Jackies by Andy Warhol (1964)
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc., by SIAE 2014 
© Sonnabend Collection, New York
(Venice, Italy) The visionary gallerist and art collector Ileana Sonnabend left behind a treasure trove of art when she died in 2007, eight days shy of her 93rd birthday, and a good chunk of her collection has found a "European Home" here in Venice. From today, May 31, 2014 through January 4, 2015, seventy pieces from the hundreds of works on long-term loan from the Sonnabend Collection that have been housed here in Venice since 2013 are now on show on the entire second floor at Ca' Pesaro, Venice's International Gallery for Modern Art.

Eat Death by Bruce Nauman (1972)
Ileana had a daring eye, and many artists are now household names thanks to her championship. Together with her former husband, Leo Castelli, she shaped post-war art both in Europe and North America. From Neo-Dada to Pop Art, Minimal Art to Arte Povera, Conceptual to Neo-expressionism, and up to contemporary photography, artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, and Jim Dine achieved an international level of recognition due to her efforts.

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Little Aloha by Roy Lichtenstein(1962)
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, by SIAE 2014 
© Sonnabend Collection, New York
Ileana was born into luxury in Bucharest, Romania; her Jewish  father, Mihail Schapira, was financial adviser to the king; her mother, Marianne State-Felber was a refined, intellectual Viennese. As a child, Ileana was dropped off at museums to look at art while her mother and older sister, Eve, shopped for clothes. When Ileana was 17-years-old, she met Leo Castelli, who was born Leo Krausz in Trieste, Italy to a Hungarian-Jewish banker; his mother was the Italian heiress Bianca Castelli. Leo was a voracious reader who spoke many languages, who, at the time of their meeting, reluctantly worked for an insurance company, positioned there by his father. Ileana married him a year later. Ileana remarked:

"Since I found my life rather stifling, I had only one wish: to get married. As a child, I always knew that someone would take me away. I met Leo. He wasn't like everyone else. He was going somewhere. He was going to leave Romania, and as I wanted to get out of Romania at any cost, I married him."

The young couple moved to Paris in 1935, Leo getting a job, again through his father, in banking, which he found as boring as insurance. He began womanizing, and Ileana tried to keep an open mind, taking a lover of her own -- their new daughter's pediatrician. Ironically, Ileana would spend her days shopping at Elsa Schiaparelli, designer to the elite on Place Vendôme. Thanks to Ileana's father, who loaned Leo the money, he, without Ileana, opened a gallery in 1939 with his friend and partner René Drouin located in between the Hotel Ritz and Schiaparelli's boutique. The Surrealists flooded in -- as did the war. The Castellis fled to New York, where Ileana's father had bought a townhouse, and where, years later, Leo would open his first gallery in his and Ileana's apartment. 

During the war, thanks to his many languages, Leo was employed by the OSS, the US intelligence agency, and stationed back in Bucharest, while Ileana enrolled in a French literature class at Columbia University. There, while studying Proust, she met the only other person who could speak French: Michael Sonnabend. 

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Figure 8 by Jasper Johns (1959)
© Jasper Johns, by SIAE 2014

© Sonnabend Collection, New York
Leo's war contribution made him a US citizen, and he returned to New York, becoming a partner in a knitwear firm -- again, thanks to his father --and  dealing art privately on the side, while continuing his womanizing, leaving Ileana depressed. But they shared a strong bond when it came to contemporary art. Together they went to visit Robert Rauschenberg's studio on Pearl Street. Rauschenberg went downstairs to get ice from a refrigerator he shared with Jasper Johns; the Castellis met Johns, and Leo exclaimed he wanted to give Johns a one-man show. Johns' show opened at the Castelli Gallery in January, 1958 and transformed contemporary art; Rauschenberg's show opened two months later. The Castellis divorced in 1959.

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Interior by Robert Rauschenberg (1956)
© Estate of Robert Rauschenberg, by SIAE 2014

© Sonnabend Collection, New York
In 1960, Ileana married Michael Sonnabend. They moved to Paris and opened a gallery, the first show again by Jasper Johns, introducing Europe to the new American art. The shows were well-attended, but the critics and dealers were harsh, resentful at having the center of the art scene moved from Paris to New York. Leo often supplied Ileana with artists, but she also had her own eye, with strong encouragement by Michael, and showed artists such as Jim Dine and Claes Oldenburg. Andy Warhol's first European show opened at Gallerie Ileana Sonnabend in January, 1964.  
 
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Del Monte Boxes by Andy Warhol(1964)
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc., by SIAE 2014

© Sonnabend Collection, New York

When Robert Rauschenberg won the International Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1964 -- the first American to do such a thing -- all hell broke lose. Leo Castelli was accused of manipulating the jury. The week before the opening, he had been holding court at Caffè Florian with his second wife; Ileana and Michael Sonnabend were only tables away. The United States of America had thundered into the world of contemporary art. 

Then, in the late 1960s, the Sonnabends hired Antonio Homem, a Portuguese student, as gallery director, who was said to be a kind of alter-ego to Ileana. In the early '80s, they adopted him -- something unusual as he was then in his 40s and had a son of his own, but looking toward future, it would legally make things easier to transfer.


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Per Purificare le Parole by Gilberto Zorio(1969)
© Gilberto Zorio, by SIAE 2014

© Sonnabend Collection, New York
Ileana's Paris gallery stayed in operation until the mid-80s, but in 1970s, the Sonnabends made their presence known once again in New York. Ileana reversed the trend she had started in Europe, introducing Americans to Arte Povera, European artists such as Gilberto Zorio, who used throw-away materials to create their work. After she opened a gallery on Madison Avenue, Leo convinced Ileana to move down to SoHo at 420 West Broadway back when it was a wasteland of empty industrial space inhabited by artists who valued the high ceilings and natural light. On September 25, 1971, four galleries opened at 420 West Broadway, Ileana one floor above Leo, starting another revolution in the World of Art.

The art scene next moved to Chelsea, and in 2000, Ileana opened a gallery there with her adopted son, Antonio Homem, who is co-curator of this current exhibition, Da Rauscenberg a Jeff Koons Lo sguardo di Ileana Sonnabend, along with Gabriella Belli, Director of Venice's Musei Civici.

Wild Boy and Puppy by Jeff Koons (1988)
© Jeff Koons

© Sonnabend Collection, New York
Even though they would divorce and marry others, Eleana Sonnabend and Leo Castelli would remain lifelong friends, their respective galleries promoting American art in Europe, and European art in North America. Ileana had her own distinct eye and her own specific taste, and is gently coming into her own after living in the shadow of her flamboyant ex-husband. Ileana gathered together an immense collection of precious art, while Leo was more about the deal. Together with Peggy Guggenheim, these distinct individuals helped to transform the World of Art after the Second World War.

From Rauschenberg to Jeff Koons
The Ileana Sonnabend Collection

From May 31, 2014 to January 4, 2015
Ca’ Pesaro – International Gallery of Modern Art, Venice

CLICK FOR MORE INFORMATION

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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9. Miroslav Kraljević, the Artist of the Soul at Ca' Pesaro, Venice International Gallery of Modern Art

Self-portrait with Dog by Miroslav Kraljević (1910)
(Venice, Italy) Croatian artist Miroslav Kraljević was called "The Artist of the Soul." Perhaps because he lived on the edge of death, struggling with tuberculous, and died so young, at age 27, he developed a profound vision that allowed him to capture the essence of things. Through June 15th over at Ca' Pesaro, Venice's International Gallery of Modern Art, this small jewel of an exhibition, Un autoritratto di Miroslav Kraljevic, modernista croato, is on display.

Ziva Kraus
Miroslav Kraljević's arrival at Ca' Pesaro is considered to be the cultural event of the year in Croatia, and many dignitaries were on hand during the opening ceremony on April 18th. Thanks to a project by Živa Kraus, the prominent Croatian artist and owner of the Ikona Gallery in the Ghetto here in Venice, Miroslav Kraljević will finally get the recognition he deserves on the European stage.

Kraljević was born on December 14, 1885 in Gospić, Croatia, a small town that would become notorious a century later for the Gospić Massacre, when 100-120 Serbian civilians were killed during the Croatian War of Independence in 1991. Kraljević grew up in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, then finished high school back in Gospić.

Kraljević moved to Vienna in 1904 to study law as well as art, but like all great artists, after two years he dropped out of the legal world and moved firmly into the World of Art. At the beginning of the last century, the World of Art for a young Croatian was Vienna and Munich, so in 1906, Kraljević went to Munich, considered an important hub of the European art scene, and enrolled in the Academy of Fine Art, studying under Hugo von Habermann, another former law student who had turned to the arts. There Kraljević met fellow Croatians Joseph Račić, Vladimir Becić and Oscar Herman, who would later be dubbed the "Munich Circle." After his studies, he moved back to Croatia in 1910 and stayed with his family, who had moved to Požega.

Three Graces by Miroslav Kraljevic (1911)
 In 1911, Kraljević did something extraordinary that would earn him the designation, "the First Croatian Modernist Painter Art" -- he received a state grant to study in Paris, and off to Gay Paree he went, where a cultural revolution was under way. It is this period on which A Self-Portrait by Miroslav Kraljević, Croatian Modernist focuses, when Kraljevic became a flâneur, "someone who saunters around the city observing society" and painted what he saw -- as his tuberculosis consumed him. He was a dying man living at full speed in Paris during one of the most important times in the story of art, and he captured the souls of those around him, including his own. The twenty works on display at Ca' Pesaro are full of dark humor and insight -- street and cafe scenes, erotic sketches, theater and dance -- as well as his haunting self-portrait, smoking a pipe. 


Self-portrait with Pipe by Miroslav Kraljevic (1912)
Kraljević returned to Croatia after a year in Paris, staying again with his family. In the autumn of 1912, he went to Zagreb, where he organized his first solo exhibition, rented a studio, and painted. But his tuberculosis was unrelenting, and he died in Zagreb on April 16, 1913 at age 27. He is buried in the family grave in Požega.

Bonvivant by Miroslav Kraljevic (1912)
After his death, modern Croatian art would undergo a complex transformation, the foundations laid by the brilliant young Miroslav Kraljević, The Artist of the Soul.

Un autoritratto di Miroslav Kraljević, modernista croato
A Self-Portrait by Miroslav Kraljević, Croatian Modernist

Curated by Gabriella Belli, Biserka Rauter Plančić e Cristiano Sant
In collaboration with Moderna Galerija di Zagabria
Supported by Privredna Banka Zagreb

Ca' Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art
THROUGH JUNE 15, 2014

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Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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10. More Venetians than Tourists in Piazza San Marco and Open Arsenale

Human Rose in Piazza San Marco, April 25, 2014
(Venice, Italy) April 25th is Italian Liberation Day, which commemorates the end of the Second World War. But in Venice, long before there was a united Italy, April 25th was the Feast of Saint Mark, Venice's patron saint. On that day, during the Festa del Bocolo, or "Festival of the Rose Blossom," men give a single rose to the women they love -- their wives, girlfriends, friends, mothers, aunts -- any woman they care about. And behind that tradition is a wonderful Venetian legend.

This year, to celebrate the day, about 1,000 residents took to Piazza San Marco to create a human rose. It was part of an ongoing project by the Venetian artist Elena Tagliapietra and the Venetian author, Alberto Toso Fei to bring alive stories and traditions of Venice's past in 13 different venues -- the rose was the sixth event. Toso Fei read the legend of the rose in three languages -- Italian, English and Venetian -- while volunteers, including yours truly, formed a magnificent rose in the center of the square after having the red rose painted on our faces.

Cat Bauer & The Rose Tattoo
Here is the story:

A noblewoman, Maria Partecipazio, and a troubadour, Tancredi, fell in love. But Maria was the daughter of the Doge, and marriage to a troubadour would never have her father's approval. In order to overcome the social class differences, Tancredi went off to war to find glory and raise himself to the higher social level of his beloved. He served as a valiant soldier under Charles the Great in the war against the Moors, but, unfortunately, was mortally wounded. As he lay dying in a pool of blood by a bed of red roses, he plucked a rose for Maria Partecipazio and asked his comrade, Orlando, to take the blossom to his beloved Lady in Venice, stained with his blood. Orlando kept his vow, and arrived in Venice the day before the Feast of Saint Mark. He gave the rose to Maria Partecipazio as the last message of love from the dying Tancredi. The next morning, Maria Partecipazio herself was found dead, the red rose lying on her heart, finally joined with her beloved in the celestial world. Since that time, Venetian lovers use the symbol of the red rose blossom to pledge their love. 



So, creating the human rose in Piazza San Marco is a symbol to remind the world how much Venetians deeply love their city. After we took the photo the people in the bell tower waved to us on the ground, and the rose people waved back. We waved and waved until everyone broke into spontaneous applause; then we clapped and clapped, and it really was an emotional, beautiful moment.



Later that afternoon, Venetians from all over the Veneto defied an order not to gather in Piazza San Marco and arrived waving their flags. On March 16th, the same day that Crimea voted to secede from the Ukraine, the Veneto had symbolically voted to secede from Italy, sending a strong message to Rome that they felt overtaxed and unappreciated. Luca Zaia, the President of the Veneto Region, gave his full support to the demonstration, saying that it was not political but a manifestation of identity. "Seeking to ban the party of the Veneto from the heart of the Veneto -- Piazza San Marco -- on the feast day of Saint Mark, is not only incomprehensible, but offensive and insensitive."


Lucio Chiavegato, a secessionist who had been released from prison last Friday for allegedly plotting to take over Piazza San Marco with a homemade tank (click to read the story in The Local), arrived with his wife to attend mass in the Basilica of San Marco with Patriarch Francis Moraglia, saying "we have invoked the protection of Saint Mark, which makes us free from the occupying State."

View from Austrian tower
Meanwhile, down at Arsenale, Rome meets Venice halfway. On February 6, 2013, Italy gave Venice back a chunk of Arsenale, the enormous area where the Venetian Republic once was able to whip out up to two ships per day. For the past three days, April 25 to 27, much of Arsenale has been open to the public. Called Arsenale Aperto alla Città or "Arsenal Open to the City," the different entities that are now based in the Arsenale decided it would be a good idea to let the residents know what was going on down there. A collaboration between the City of Venice, ACTV (the vaporetto and bus system), VELA (part of ACTV, which distributes tickets to Venice's cultural organizations through HELLO VENEZIA) Consorzio Venezia Nuova (the State Concessionary for the protection of Venice and its Lagoon, whose head ended up imprisoned for corruption), La Biennale (Venice's international artistic organization) Magistrato alle Acque (Venice's water authority), Instituto di Studi Militari Marittimi (the Maritime Military Institute) and Thetis (a consultancy and system integrator company, controlled by Consorzio Venezia Nuova), the event included conferences, boat rides, rowing lessons, history lessons, pottery lessons for the kids, a spectacular view from the old tower built by the Austrians when they occupied Venice -- I even got to sit inside the MOSES CONTROL ROOM, headquarters for the moveable dams that are supposed to rise up and protect Venice from acqua alta, or high water, then disappear under water again when the danger has passed.

The folks who make wine out on San Michele, the cemetery island, were there; the Afghans who make food from the Orient were there; the anti-cruise ship people were there, as well as a bunch of other creative folks, including live music.

Pottery lessons a big hit with the younger set
Today, a hodgepodge of different interests call the Arsenale their base. And now Venetians get to play down there, too. Let's hope there's no fighting!

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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11. People in Glass Houses Should Drink Tea - Hiroshi Sugimoto's First Architectural Project in Venice



(Venice, Italy) Le Stanze del Vetro, or The Rooms of Glass, sent over this press release about Hiroshi Sugimoto, the renowned Japanese photographer -- who also designs architecture -- and his project that will open during this year's International Architecture Exhibition. As usual, it is so clearly written that I will let them speak for themselves -- I have added the images except for the one at the top. It sounds like an impressive event!

A joint project of Fondazione Giorgio Cini
and Pentagram Stiftung


Le Stanze del Vetro

Venice, Island of San Giorgio Maggiore

 

Glass Tea House Mondrian
by Hiroshi Sugimoto


Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto's first architectural project in Venice, designed for Le Stanze del Vetro on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore.


On June 6th, the “Glass Tea House Mondrian” will open to the public on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. The “Glass Tea House” is a temporary pavilion designed by the Japanese artist and photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto as part of the activities of Le Stanze del Vetro. Hiroshi Sugimoto is known worldwide for his black-and-white photographs, and for the first time ever he is to design an architectural building in Venice.

The “Glass Tea House Mondrian” is a project by Le Stanze del Vetro which was made possible thanks to the support of Sumitomo Forestry Co. Ltd., and Fondazione Bisazza, in collaboration with Asahi Building-Wall Co. Ltd. Special thanks to Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia for lending archaeological artefacts and to Cattaruzza Millosevich Associated Architects for having overseen each phase of the design and construction of the pavilion.

Appropriate Proportion by Hiroshi Sugimoto
Concurrent with the opening of the “Glass Tea House Mondrian”, the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa will host  an unprecedented retrospective exhibition of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s architectural photographs at the Palazzetto Tito: this exhibition, together with the "Glass Tea House Mondrian” at Le Stanze del Vetro, will place this world-famous artist and his commitment towards the built environment at the center of the Venice art scene this season, befitting the new expanded format of the Architecture Biennale.  

The “Glass Tea House Mondrian” is a new initiative from those organized so far by Le Stanze del Vetro, broadening its horizons, and involving internationally renowned artists to plan and design an architectural pavilion in the area in front of Le Stanze del Vetro, following the example of the “Pavilion Series” of the Serpentine Gallery in London.

The “Glass Tea House Mondrian” by Hiroshi Sugimoto is inspired by pre-modern abstraction, as perfected by Sen no Rikyû, in the Japanese tradition of the tea ceremony. The Pavilion consists of two main elements, an open-air landscape and an enclosedglass cube. The landscape (approximately 40 meters long and 12.5 meters wide) follows a path along a reflecting pool leading the visitor to a glass cube (2.5 x 2.5 meters), inside which the traditional Japanese tea ceremony will be performed regularly.


The glass cube will host two visitors at a time together with the tea master, while spectators can watch the ceremony from outside the glass cube. Original tea utensils for the “Glass Tea House Mondrian” were designed by Hiroshi Sugimoto and fabricated by traditional artisans in Kyoto.

Lightning Fields by Hiroshi Sugimoto

Useful information
Production:
Le Stanze del Vetro – Fondazione Giorgio Cini and Pentagram Stiftung
Title
Glass Tea House Mondrian
Date
Opening on June 6, 2014
Times
10 am – 7 pm, closed on Wednesday
Location
gardens in front of Le Stanze del Vetro
Address
Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
Tickets
free admission
Original tea utensils for the “Glass Tea House Mondrian” were designed by Hiroshi Sugimoto and fabricated by traditional artisans in Kyoto:
Shuji Nakagawa / Nakagawa Mokkougei Shiga Studio
Takahiro Yagi / Kaikado
Supervised by So’oku Sen/Mushakoji-Senke Tea School
In cooperation with Kyoto University of Art & Design
Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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12. New Sponsor! Venice Haute Couture - Fashion by Emma Gaggio & Romi Loch Davis

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher

(Venice, Italy) For centuries, Venice has been known for its lush textiles. Today, an exciting new collaboration has arrived in town. The combined talents of Venetian Emma Gaggio and South African Romi Loch Davis add a fresh element to the ancient fashions: Venice Haute Couture

Here is the story:

 "The silk craft is a very noble art, worthy of being plied by any true gentleman..."
---16th Century writer

Sumptuous to touch and impressive to behold, velvet is traditionally associated with nobility. As far back as the 800s, Venetians in Constantinople excelled at producing the exquisite cloth. Originating in the East, textiles made of silk and velvet were prized by the European elite as an expression of power, wealth and culture.

Today, Venetian textile diva Emma Gaggio and South African fashion designer Romi Loch Davis have joined forces to bring the ancient Venetian fabrics into the contemporary world of fashion.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
Centuries ago, the fabrics traveled along the Silk Road, where the Venetians had strategic bases located in the Byzantine, Persia and the Middle East. Venice itself became a center where skilled craftsmen began to produce the valuable fabrics, achieving such excellence that the trend was reversed -- instead of importing the lush textiles, Venice exported the fine cloth to the markets of Constantinople and beyond. During the Renaissance, significant families incorporated their coat-of-arms and other motifs into bespoke patterns, displaying their importance on their clothing and the furnishings of their homes. By the 15th century, Venice had become one of the world's most renowned centers of the fabric industry.


The Gaggio family has been at the pinnacle of luxurious Venetian fabrics for four generations, adorning official residences, private jets, private villas -- even the La Fenice opera house -- with exquisite brushed velvets and brocades.Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and Givenchy are some of the couture clients of Gaggio.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
Emma Gaggio grew up surrounded by the lush Venetian tapestries that her relatives upholstered onto furniture and stretched across the walls of the finest houses. While only in her twenties, Emma took the family business a step further, creating her own hand-printed wooden block motifs for the hand-dyed velvet. Her designs are inspired by periods in history, dating back to when Venice was part of the Byzantium Empire, through Art Deco, and up until today. The unique patterns and meticulous workmanship have earned Emma Gaggio international acclaim, and the patronage of a sophisticated, trend-setting clientele.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
These days, Emma has taken the business in a new direction. After a 2012 fire in her Venetian shop, like a phoenix she rose from the ashes, restored, redecorated and added a new branch to the family business -- a collaboration with the Paris-based South African fashion designer, Romi Loch Davis. The restored shop is like a bustling theatrical set, with Emma's fabrics providing a luxurious backdrop for Romi's wood-nymph-with-an-attitude fashion. Then, together, they have developed a line of clothes, accessories, cushions, bags and scarves that combine the hand-printed designs and fabrics of Emma Gaggio with the creative vision of Romi Loch Davis. Designed with elegance and a sense of fun, anyone from grande dames to rock stars can feel comfortable wearing the fashions.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
Years ago, Romi Loch Davis fell in love with Venice and the Gaggio fabrics during a family trip for her 25th birthday. She remembers how the shimmering green fabric of a jacket in the Gaggio shop window stopped her in the middle of Calle delle Botteghe -- where today, thanks to synchronicity, her own dazzling fashions stop the passersby.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
Romi's line of apparel combines whimsy with sophistication, and is brought to life by the clever hands of  Elizabeth Lutz. Romi often highlights her clothing with intricate Zulu beads from her native South Africa, the handmade jewelry adding an exotic flair. Now, by using Venetian fabrics as the material to spin her magic, Romi adds another element to her repertoire.

CLICK TO CONTINUE READING Venice Haute Couture and view the gorgeous images by Paolo Utimpergher

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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13. Venice Literary Festival - Crossroads of Civilization - Incroci di Civiltà 2014


(Venice, Italy) Crossroads of Civilization, Incroci di Civiltà, Venice's international literary festival wrapped up its seventh edition on Saturday, April 5, 2014. Once again, the writers spoke about how we need good literature more than ever. Caryl Phillips from Great Britain nailed it when he said, "Google is not knowledge. Google is information. ...Our brains are becoming increasingly narcissistic. Literature is needed as a counter-balance."

Reading good literature encourages our brains to process information and transform it into real knowledge. Good writers impart knowledge gathered from deep within themselves, transforming it into a feast that humanity can savor. As the world twitters away, those of us who still make time to read good literature dine on satisfying sentences and sumptuous words, a meal that leaves a lasting impression.

Unfortunately, because of schedule conflicts, I was not able to see all the writers I wanted to -- especially Raja Alem from Saudi Arabia, whom I had met back in 2011, but the conversations I was able to attend left me encouraged that Venice's literary festival continues to thrive. Especially heartening was the large number of students in attendance -- the University of Ca' Foscari here in Venice is a valuable contributor to Incroci di Civiltà.


Here are the writers who attended and their countries, stimulating diverse, international conversations about how the world looks from his or her unique point of view:

Naomi Alderman - Great Britain
Raja Alem - Saudi Arabia
Salwa Al-Neimi - Syria
Massimo Carlotto - Italy
Patrizia Cavalli - Italy
Arne Dahl - Sweden
Rita Dove - United States
Abilio Estévez - Cuba
Ge Fei - China
Rhea Galanaki - Greece
Peter Greenaway - Great Britain
Jhumpa Lahiri - United States
Abdolah Kader - Iran/Holland
Daniel Mendelsohn - United States
Carlo Petrini - Italy
Caryl Phillips - Great Britain
Marc Scialom - Tunisia/Italy/France
Sergej Stratanovskij - Russia
Noémi Szécsi - Hungary
Uwe Timm - Germany
Olivier Truc - France/Sweden
Varujan Vosganian - Romania
Binyavanga Wainaina - Kenya (unable to attend)


I did manage to see David Mendelsohn over at the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi (and bumped into Martin Bethenod, Director of the Francois Pinault Foundation, for the second time that day -- earlier in the morning he was at Le Stanze del Vetro on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore presenting I Santillana - Works by Laura de Santillana and Alessandro Diaz de Santillana, the outstanding exhibition he conceived; everyone is talking about it; it is a MUST SEE). Mendelsohn was interviewed by Pietro Del Soldà, of Radio Rai 3, who spoke in Italian while Mendelsohn responded in English.

Mendelsohn is an American critic, author, essayist and classics professor. His 2006 memoir has a notable title -- The Lost: A Search for Six Among Six Million. With a background in Euripidean tragedy, he applied his talents to search for the phantoms that were haunting his family: six of his relatives that disappeared during the Holocaust.

Mendelsohn said his problem was how to tell a story that everyone already knew. He was a critic sitting in his pajamas, writing reviews, when he decided to delve into his family's history. He kept reminding himself to keep a narrow focus and stick to the story: "There's never been a story about my family before." His six relatives were representative of the six million Jews who disappeared during the Holocaust. Since his background was in Hellenic studies, he called upon his old friends Herodotus and Homer for help, and used Ring Composition for his structure. This fascinated me, and I knew I had to have his book. But Daniel Mendelsohn is such a riveting speaker that his book was sold out both in English and in Italian. (I will have to get my hands on a copy by other means:)


This incredibly educated, well-traveled, enlightened American man said something that struck me as an American who has lived in Europe for sixteen years. While doing his research, Mendelsohn realized how remote Europe was to the United States; that Americans are oblique to Europe. I have noticed the same thing. He said every American is haunted by another history... growing up in a small town in New York State, who visited his relatives in Miami for a couple weeks every year, he kept hearing about "the Old Country," "the Old Country." He said, "Even educated Americans like myself don't understand it." Now he is an American who finally has discovered what the Old Country is.

While traveling in Eastern Europe, every town he visited had a mass grave. It was a question he was repeatedly asked: "Do you want to see the mass grave?" Mendelsohn remarked, "Your whole country is a cemetery!" His relatives were from a small town called Bolekhiv in the Ukraine. In 1890, there were over 4,000 Jews living there; only 48 survived World War II.

Mendelsohn's brother, Matt, who did the photography, wanted to see Auschwitz; he did not. He was amazed when they were driving along the highway and saw the signs for "Auschwitz." "Imagine growing up in a country where the names are places of genocide!" His brother responded: "You grew up the same way." Mendolsohn said that where he grew up in New York State, everything was named after Native American tribes. When I processed that thought, I was stunned. That is also how I grew up, surrounded by Native American names -- Pompton Lakes, my little hometown in New Jersey, was named after the Pompton tribe. Although the Indians left a deep impression on my childhood, it was a romanticized version of history -- wearing moccasins, walking toe-heel, toe-heel, gathering berries in the forest. But, in reality, it was genocide. An entire people were wiped out.

Mendelsohn said that 9/11 was the first chance America had to feel like Europe. If you are a regular reader of Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog, you will know I just wrote the same thing last week when I commented on the book The Hôtel on Place Vendôme:

"Here in Europe, you can still feel the echoes of the World Wars, something that only a handful of today's Americans understand. The wars touched the lives of everyone in Europe, many of whom are still alive today. The pain of 9/11 shook the world, Americans in particular, but the event itself was isolated to a section of New York. The World Wars were anguish ramped up to the umpteenth power as country after country fell under the control of the Nazis and Fascists. It is almost unimaginable that such a short time ago France was under German rule; the Nazis were bombing Great Britain, and the US and the Soviet Union were allies -- the Soviets were the first to liberate the Jews from Auschwitz."

Daniel Mendelsohn said that the ancient Greeks were alert to the terror in the world, and that Americans have an infantile desire for closure, packaging everything to feel good. He said that there is not always a redemption, and instead we should ask, "How can we heal? What if there is healing?"

Mendelsohn was inspired by Marcel Proust, and closed with these thoughts: "Without pain, life is tasteless. Pain is the salt that gives life flavor. Pain is a necessary ingredient in the soup of life."

Click for The Lost by Daniel Mandelsohn on Amazon

Click for Incroci di Civiltà on Facebook.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog



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14. Books! The Hotel on Place Vendôme, Arrigo Cipriani's latest, and The Garden of Eden in Venice Revealed


(Venice, Italy) The Hotel Ritz is in the heart of Paris, but when Harper Collins offered me a review copy of The Hôtel on Place Vendôme by Tilar J. Mazzeo, I readily agreed. If you are a longtime reader of Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog, you will know that I have written about many of the fascinating denizens of the Hotel Ritz, who also made Venice part of their theatrical production. The Ritz was the glamorous setting for many of the major players of the time, who lived, loved and betrayed one another during the Second World War.

Ernest Hemingway and a couple of his wives, journalist Mary Welsh and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn were there; Gellhorn's rival, Marlene Dietrich, was there, peeved when another star, Ingrid Bergman, entered the scene and fell in love with Hemingway's friend and rival, Robert Capa -- whom Gellhorn considered to be "her real brother." Pablo Picasso and his surrealist lover, Dora Maar, Coco Chanel and her younger German lover, Hans von Dincklage, and an abundance of glitterati and literati made the Ritz their living room. Aristocrats and politicians, movie stars and celebrity writers played a deadly game of intrigue while carrying on illicit affairs under the eyes of the hotel staff, who added a deeper dimension to the schemes

Before delving into WWII, Mazzeo starts with a pivotal event before the First World War: The Dreyfus Affair. Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish artillery officer, had been falsely charged with passing secrets to the German embassy in Paris. The Hotel Ritz opened its doors on June 1, 1898, a week after Emile Zola went on trial for writing his scathing letter-to-the-editor in support of Alfred Dreyfus, directed to President of France. Zola accused the French government of framing an innocent man, forcing them to put Zola on trial for libel "...literary and intellectual France broke ranks with the aristocracy, and came to the aid of Alfred Dreyfus." The story is told from Marcel Proust's point of view, touching upon how Sarah Bernhardt, the longtime lover of Aguste Escoffier, legendary chef and one of the partners in the Hotel Ritz enterprise, dined together every year on her birthday.

Ritz regular, Luisa, the Marquise Casati "a living work of art" then makes an appearance -- when Picasso attended a party at her palazzo on the Grand Canal here in Venice (the next grande dame to move in would be Peggy Guggenheim) he was astonished, and we can imagine he was not easily surprised. Luisa wore a drugged, gold-painted snake around her neck as a living necklace, and dyed her hair the color of flames. Her naked, gilded footmen tossed copper filings into the fires so they burned green and blue while the guests smoked opium, as she openly carried on with her lover, Gabriele D'Annunzio. (The 2014 Autumn at Palazzo Fortuny exhibition will be devoted to Luisa and the atmosphere of fin-de-siècle Venice, so mark your calendars -- October 3, 2014 to March 8, 2015.)

I devoured the book in two days, and think it is an excellent history lesson told in terms of giant personalities and the personal relationships they had under one roof during one of the most devastating challenges this planet has ever faced. Told in a series of vignettes with gossipy titles -- "The French Actress and Her Nazi Lover," "The Jewish Bartender and the German Resistance," "The American Wife and the Swiss Director," "Coco's War and Other Dirty Linen," "The Blond Bombshell and the Nuclear Scientists" -- Mazzeo uses a format that indulges the reader's thirst for scandal while imparting well-researched information that has been suppressed for too many years. 

During World War II, when the Germans occupied Paris, many high-ranking officers, such as Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, Adolf Hitler's second-in-command, made the Ritz their home, causing many of the famous residents -- like Coco Chanel -- to change their suites.The image of Chanel dramatically descending into an air raid shelter, a servant trailing behind, carrying her gas mask on a satin pillow, is priceless. When challenged about her German lover, Hans von Dincklage, Chanel quipped, "at my age you don't ask to see the gentleman's passport."

As in life, Ernest Hemingway and his outrageous antics dominate the story as he races to be the first writer to "liberate" the Ritz -- and its wine cellar -- from the occupation. He leaves a immense imprint -- as he did here in Venice when he lived at the Hotel Gritti Palace and frequented Harry's Bar; the bar in the Ritz is now named Bar Hemingway.

In the prologue, Mazzeo writes that "we live in the long shadow of this history," and I agree. Here in Europe, you can still feel the echoes of the World Wars, something that only a handful of today's Americans understand. The wars touched the lives of everyone in Europe, many whom are still alive today. The pain of 9/11 shook the world, Americans in particular, but the event itself was isolated to a section of New York. The World Wars were anguish ramped up to the umpteenth power as country after country fell under the control of the Nazis and Fascists. It is almost unimaginable that such a short time ago France was under German rule, and the Nazis were bombing Great Britain. A fascinating bit of history, not in the book, is that Hitler and Mussolini first met each other in Venice

Mazzeo writes: 'On at least one occasion, I was warned that I should not attempt to tell this story. The warning came from an elderly Frenchwoman... she said, ..."The truth you are looking for, it was lost to history the moment the war ended. Perhaps it was lost even before that. The questions you are asking are more treacherous than you think. This book about the Hotel Ritz and the story of the occupation, you should not write it. I am sorry."'

Thankfully, Mazzeo ignored that advice, and wrote The Hôtel on Place Vendôme. Read it, and bring yourself up to speed.

Review from the New York Journal of Books

Review from The Toronto Star

Review from Book Reporter

The Hôtel on Place Vendôme at Amazon



Arrigo Cipriani, the owner of Harry's Bar in Venice and many other exclusive properties around the globe, has written a new book -- not about Ernest Hemingway -- called Stupdt. O l'arte di rialzarsi da terra, which translates to Stupdt. Or the Art of Getting up off the Ground. It is the third of a trilogy, where Cirpriani, a man with a vivid and wonderful imagination, leaves the world of Harry's Bar and brings us to a whimsical universe where a sleep-walking wife has sex with her neighbor, returns to bed, and complains about her husband's snoring, and God argues with Buddha, takes it out on Adam, who, in turn, takes it out on Cain. The always-entertaining Marino Folin, who has gone back to his long-haired style, presented Arrigo's novel.

For those of you who are wondering what happened to the book launches that were formerly on the top floor of Mondadori bookstore by Piazza San Marco -- which is now Louis Vuitton -- you can find them at the Casinò in the elegant piano nobile on Wednesdays at 6:00 PM, still hosted by the delightful
Giovanni Pelizzato. 

If you're in Venice, you can find the Italian edition at Giovanni's bookstore La Toletta over in Dorsoduro. And I'm sure they have some copies over at Harry's Bar:)

Stupdt. O l'arte di rialzarsi da terra at Amazon


Completely closed to the public, everybody in Venice wants to know what is behind the immense walls of the Garden of Eden on the island of Giudecca, and Annemette Fogh finally takes us behind the that solitary gate. Bought by an English couple, Frederic and Caroline Eden in 1884, the nine-acre garden was the hub for some of the international elite that we will find later at the Hotel Ritz in Paris. Marcel Proust was there in the garden, as were Rilke, Henry James, John Singer Sargent, Robert Browning and Claude Monet, along with members of the Anglo-American colony living in Venice. During the presentation at the Bauer Hotel, Fogh spoke about the secrecy surrounding the Eden family, and how difficult it had been to gather information.

Frederic Eden, a great-uncle of Sir Anthony Eden, the future prime minister, and Caroline, the elder sister of the well-known garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll, lived in Venice for 50 years. After wearying of life on the Grand Canal, Eden purchased the huge plot of land on the Giudecca, and created an English garden complete with milk cow. "What scope for planting," Eden declared when he first saw the plot, "what an escape from constant idleness, what a relief from my lately loved mistress the lagoon, from whom my soul now turned in the ungrateful satiety of too long possession."

In 1928 the garden was sold to Major James Horlick, who gave it to Aspasia Manos, the ex-Princess of Greece and Denmark. For the rest of her life she lived in the small palazzina in the garden, often together with her daughter, Alexandra, the former Queen of Yugoslavia. 

In 1979 Friedensreich Hundertwasser, one of the best-know contemporary Austrian artists, took over the garden. During WWII, he and his Jewish mother posed as Christians; he went so far as to join the Hitler Youth. His experience under the Nazi regime made him yearn for rule by a constitutional monarchy: 

"...While the rationalist way of thinking has given us in this century an ephemeral, higher American standard of living at the expense of nature and creation, which has now come to an end, but our heart, our quality of life destroyed, our desires, without which an Austrian does not want to live. It is outrageous that Austria has an emperor who did no evil to anyone, but is still treated like a leper. Austria needs a crown! Long live Austria! Long live the constitutional monarchy! Long live Otto von Habsburg!"

Hundertwasser had his own ideas about gardening, which was to let nature take its course. The Garden of Eden is now owned by the Hundertwasser Foundation in Vienna and is completely closed to the public. Hundertwasser's possessions are just as he left them when he died at sea in 2000, and the Garden of Eden is growing wild, as nature, true to his wishes, takes its course. 

In May 2012, the Danish author, Annemette Fogh, was granted exclusive admission to the garden to take photos with the help of Mimmo Fabrizi. Her pricey paperback (€45) is the only opportunity we have to get a glimpse into this garden where phantoms of the past still roam.

If you're in Venice, you can find the book at the new Wellington Books English-language bookshop over by the new Rossini cinema complex.

The Garden of Eden at Saxo.com

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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15. Venice International ARTE LAGUNA ARTE PRIZE - 2014 - The Winners

Interior Arsenale Novissimo
(Venice, Italy) The Arte Laguna Art Prize, now in its eighth year, continues to evolve, growing more international and prestigious every year. With strong support from Veneto Region, the Provinces of Venice and Treviso, as well as the Comune of Venice, the Arte Laguna Art Prize has built a network of collaborations with foundations, museums, galleries, art residencies and private companies all over the world to invest in emerging contemporary artists, helping to launch their professional careers.

PAINTING - The Four Seasons by Bianca De Gier (Netherlands)
The exhibition space for Arte Laguna is the immense Arsenale Novissimo. It is a fun adventure to go down there -- the vaporetto stop is at Celestia -- and see a part of Venice way off the beaten track. Last night at the opening reception, the space was lit with a very cool light show, with very cool music playing in the background, and, as usual, the place was packed. I've known Beatrice Susa, co-founder of the Prize, along with Laura Gallon, since the beginning, and these two ladies continue to impress.

SCULPTURE: Raum by Elaine Byrne (Ireland)
The works of the 105 finalists selected among thousands of entries in Painting, Sculpture & Installation, Photographic Art, Video Art, and Performance are on display through April 6, 2014. The finalists come from all over the planet, from the United States, Brazil, Mexico and all of Europe to Hong Kong, Israel, Russia and the Republic of Korea. In addition to zipping to the top of the heap in terms of international recognition, each winner receives €7,000, a nice bit of change that can really make a difference in an emerging artist's life.

The winners of the five Insitutional Prizes are:

Section: Painting
Overall winner prize: 7.000,00 Euros

Selected artist: Bianca De Gier
Gouda | Netherlands 1966

Selected Artwork:
The Four Seasons (nr.56), 2013
Mixed media on canvas


VIDEO ART & PERFORMANCE - Not Swiss Made by Apiyo Amolo (Kenya)
Sezione: Video Arte e Performance
Premio Vincitore Assoluto: 7.000,00 Euros
 
Selected artist: Apiyo Amolo
Kenya, 1978

Selected Artwork:
Not Swiss Made, 2012
SONY HVR-Z5E HDV and Adobe Premium Pro, 3'


Section: Sculpture and Installation
Overall winner prize: 7.000,00 Euros

Selected artist: Elaine Byrne
Dublin | Ireland 1970

Selected Artwork:
Raum, 2013
Wooden construction bolted together, sound, text and found objects


PHOTOGRAPHY - Gardens by Victoria Campillo (Spain)
Section: Photographic Art
Overall winner prize: 7.000,00 Euros
Selected artist: Victoria Campillo
Barcelona | Spain 1957

Selected Artwork:
Gardens, 2013
Lambda print on aluminium




VIRTURAL ART - Dérives by Emilie Brout & Maxime Marion (France)
Section: Virtual Art - iFOPE
Overall winner prize: 7.000,00 Euros

Selected artist: Émilie Brout & Maxime Marion
Nancy | France 1984 – Forbach | France 1982

Selected artwork:
Dérives, 2011-2013
Algorithmic cinema installation


It's interesting that all five winners happen to be women this year. There are all sorts of other prizes, such as artist residencies and collaborations with galleries, and different categories, including under-25, so please visit the Arte Laguna Art Prize for all the details.

Congratulation to all the finalists and winners!

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog 


ARTE LAGUNA ART PRIZE
March 22 to April 6, 2014
Arsenale Novissimo
Vaporetto: Celestia (Line 52)
Daily 10AM to 6PM
Entrance: free
 

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16. FUNDAMENTALS - Rem Koolhaas Transforms Architecture by Going Back to Basics

Paolo Baratta & Rem Koolhaas - Photo: La Biennale
(Venice, Italy) Rem Koolhaas, the dynamic Director of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition has come up with a scheme to rattle architecture on a global scale by going back to the fundamentals, the theme of the 2014 program, and a subject that Paolo Baratta, the President of La Biennale, is passionate about. With esteemed Rolex as the exclusive partner, and a list of prestigious donors, this year's exhibition promises to be exciting, educational and innovative on a premier level.

Yesterday, March 10th, more details about the project were presented in a conference held in the elegant Sala delle Colonne at Ca' Giustinian, La Biennale headquaters. Koolhaas said that when he was approached to head the exhibition, he would do it under two conditions: first, he wanted to take more time, and second, he wanted it to be based on research, rather than display.

His wishes were granted. This year, instead of opening at the end of August or in September, the Architecture Exhibition will open on June 7th (previews June 5 & 6) and run through November 23, 2014. There will be 65 nations participating, 11 countries for the first time. Normally, the curator decides a theme and creates "his own" exhibition, leaving the individual nations to follow his lead or not. This year, a specific topic -- Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014 -- has been offered to all of them.

Koolhaas states: "Fundamentals consists of three interlocking exhibitions - Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014, Elements of Architecture and Monditalia - that together illuminate the past, present and future of our discipline. After several architecture Biennales dedicated to the celebration of the contemporary, Fundamentals will look at histories, attempt to reconstruct how architecture finds itself in its current situation, and speculate on its future." It sounds like an enormous lesson for all of us, not only architects, about how the planet arrived at its present state, and what the outlook is for the future.

In 1914 -Photo: courtesy La Biennale
In Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014, the 65 different nations contribute to tell a single story about architecture in the last century. Koolhaas asked: "Is the lens of a nation-state appropriate?" His research showed an enormous and critical relationship between architecture and the turbulence of history, wars and politics, and that most nations have abandoned their national identity. Each country is invited to show, in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in architecture in favor of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language.

In 2014 -Photo: courtesy La Biennale
Here are the titles of the offerings by the nations of the G8:

CANADA - Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15
FRANCE - Modernity: promise or menace?
GERMANY - Bungalow Germania
GREAT BRITAIN - A Clockwork Jerusalem
ITALY - (details below)
JAPAN - In the real world
RUSSIA - Fair Enough
USA - OFFICEUS


Stair - Models at the Friedrich Mielke Institute of Scalology
The Elements of Architecture will be in the Central Pavilion, and will pay close attention to the fundamentals of our buildings, used by any architect, anywhere, anytime: the floor, wall, ceiling, roof, door, window, façade, corridor, fireplace, toilet, stairs, escalator, elevator, ramp... the balcony... Koolhaas said history would be entirely different if not for balconies, and he became fascinated about how people use them. (I could offer my own input about the creative use of balconies...) He hopes the public will be drawn by the topic. For instance, he learned that during the last fifteen years the elements have become more comfortable. We are not as robust, and steps have become flatter. Windows used to have aesthetic value, now they are all the same. President Baratta said, "With great courage and ambition, after having traced the history of modernity over the past 100 years to the present, [Koolhaas] identifies and presents the elements that should act as references for a generated relationship between us and architecture."

Corderie Map - Arsenale
Monditalia will be dedicated to Italy, which is emblematic for what is happening in the world, and it will take over the enormous Corderie inside Arsenale, where Venice once made its naval rope. We will look at Italy as a "fundamental" country, completely unique but showing certain features -- particularly the coexistence of immense riches, creativity, competences and potential combine with political turbulence -- that also make it a prototype of the current moment. From south to north, all of Italy will be examined. In addition, all the other festivals of La Biennale will be involved -- Film, Dance, Music, Theater -- to collectively represent a comprehensive portrait of the host country.

Arnaud Boetsch from Rolex announced the major new partnership, becoming exclusive Partner and Official Timepiece of "the world's premier architectural forum." The sponsorship will run over the next three editions of the Biennale Architettura, from 2014 to 2018. Boetsch said, "Rolex is immensely proud to be lead sponsor of the Biennale Architettura. This reflects the brand's long-standing commitment to world-class architecture.Whether it is through the architecture of our own buildings or supporting the work of great architects, Rolex will continue its dedication to technological and aesthetic innovation -- a clear refection of the spirit that guides our approach to our watches."

Koolhaas writes:

Architecture, not architects...
An umbrella theme for the national pavilions from national to universal...
The Arsenale as performance space...

For more information, please go to La Biennale.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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17. Dora Maar - DESPITE PICASSO - Women Artists Welcome Spring at Palazzo Fortuny

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Dora Maar 
Picasso debout travaillant à Guernica dans son atelier des Grands-Augustins, 1937
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
© Dora Maar, by SIAE 2013
photo credit: Archivo Fotografico Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
(Venice, Italy) Only Dora Maar, the beautiful, enigmatic photographer, was allowed to document the progression of Pablo Picasso's masterpiece, Guernica, which he painted in response to the bombing of the Basque village during the Spanish Civil war in 1937. Maar was 28-years-old and established as an artist in her own right when she met the 54-year-old Picasso in 1936, and became his lover, muse, confidante and artistic companion. When their nine-year relationship ended, the sensitive soul underwent years of intense psychotherapy, recovered and lived to the age of 89, always haunted by the memory of Picasso.

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Assia by Dora Maar, 1934 
Parigi, Centre Pompidou,
Musée national d'art moderne/Centre de création industrielle
© Dora Maar by SIAE 2014
Dora Maar - Despite Picasso at the Fortuny Museum spotlights the work of the extraordinary artist who captured images of the poor in Paris, endowing them with dignity, and whose mystical Surrealistic photographs earned her a special place among the artists in Paris at the time.

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Dora Maar 
Vendeuses et vendeur riant derrière leur étal de charcuterie, 1933
© Dora Maar, by SIAE 2014
© Joan Marques
Henriette Theodora Markovitch, who shortened her name to Dora Maar, was born in Paris on November 22, 1907, and grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her father was a well-known Croatian architect, and her mother was French. She returned to Paris with her family at the age of 19, and joined the Academy of André Lhoteein Paris in 1927, where she met and formed a friendship with Henri Cartier-Bresson. She studied at the École de Photographie de la Ville de Paris, but it was the photographer Emmanuel Sougez who taught her the technical aspects of the medium. She earned her first commissioned works in 1928 at the age of 20, and worked as assistant to Harry Ossip Meerson in 1930.

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Dora Maar 
No Dole, Work wanted (Pas d´aumône. Je veux du travail), Londres, 1934
Parigi, collezione privata
© Dora Maar, by SIAE 2014
Photo credit: Xavier GRANDSART
Maar was deeply moved by the Great Depression of 1929, and the effect it had on the poor. Her gaze is sometimes compassionate, and sometimes ironic, as in the photo of an impeccable gentleman selling matches and holding a card that reads: "I lost everything in business."

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Dora Maar 
29, rue d´Astorg, 1936 circa
Parigi, Centre Pompidou,
Musée national d'art moderne/Centre de création industrielle
© Dora Maar by SIAE 2014
Daar's political involvement coincided with her joining the Surrealist group; in addition to taking the side of the deprived, she was fascinated by the magical and the supernatural, and attracted by the Surrealists' focus on automatic thinking, folly, children's art, the primitive world and eroticism. Her talent was "revealing the strangeness of everyday life." Maar alternated experimental photography with commercial work, producing portraits, nudes, landscapes, fashion and advertising photographs, and street scenes in Paris, Barcelona and London.

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Man Ray 
Ady Fidelin, Marie Cuttoli et son mari, Man Ray, Picasso et Dora Maar assis sur les marches d'un parc, 1937
© Man Ray Trust/ Adagp, Paris
© RMN – Grand Palais / Franck Raux
Maar was stunning, passionate and intensely intelligent; in the intellectual and artistic circles she traveled in Paris, it was inevitable that her path would cross with Pablo Picasso's. They had friends in common, including Man Ray, who photographed her, Andre Bréton, the founder of the Surrealist Movement, and Paul Eluard, the poet.

On January 7, 1936 Paul Eluard introduced Dora Maar to to the legendary Pablo Picasso at the Café les Deux Magots. Picasso was married, but estranged from his wife, the Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova, and had a new-born daughter with his mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, who would later hang herself four years after his death.

Portrait de Dora Maar aux petites mains, by Man Ray, 1936
New York, Collezione Debra e Jean Bensadoun
Photo credit: Alister Alexander /Camerarts
Picasso was fascinated by Maar, who was not only a brilliant photographer, a creative thinker and a beautiful woman, her Argentinian youth also made her fluent in Spanish. In 1935 and 1936, her work appeared in a succession of exhibitions: at the Surrealist exhibition of Tenerife, the Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism exhibition in New York, the Objets Surréalistes exhibition at the Charles Ratton gallery and the International Surrealist exhibition in London. Maar's photography and the experimental techniques she used were a source of inspiration to Picasso. They began an artistic collaboration and passionate love affair that would last until 1945.

The Weeping Woman by Picasso, 1937, Tate Collection
In addition to working with Picasso as he began Guernica and through its completion -- Maar's step-by-step photographic documentation of the masterpiece is part of the current exhibition -- Dora Maar was the model for Picasso's renowned Weeping Woman, an image which he obsessed over; it would appear in about 60 drawings, prints and paintings throughout 1937. (That image above is not part of the exhibition; I am including it for illustrative purposes.) Picasso said:

"For me she's the weeping woman. For years I've painted her in tortured forms, not through sadism, and not with pleasure, either; just obeying a vision that forced itself on me. It was the deep reality, not the superficial one."
 
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Tête de Femme (Dora Maar) by Pablo Picasso,1939
Artemundi Group, courtesy of Javier Lumbreras
Photo credit: Jorge Parra
© Pablo Picasso by SIAE 2014

Dora Maar had a nervous breakdown when the relationship ended, and became a recluse who delved into the Catholic religion. In 1958, she traveled to Venice in the company of the American author, James Lord. She died in 1997 at the age of 89. According to the National Gallery of Victoria, after her death:

"... it was discovered that Dora Maar had kept everything connected to her relationship with Picasso, such as her Rolleiflex camera that was central to her commercial photographic practice, and therefore instrumental in Picasso's dynamic experiments with photography. Other objects included a fragment of stained paper labelled Picasso's blood, a magical sculpture of her beloved terrier torn from a napkin by her lover, and a copy of L'Humanite from 5 October 1944 announcing Picasso's allegiance to the French Communist Party. The personalised nature of these precious objects provided new and intriguing insights into Picasso's inventive art practice, as well as one of the most artistically inspiring relationships of the 20th century."

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Ritsue Mishima, 
Argo, 2013
Photo credit: Francesco Barasciutti
In addition to the Dora Maar exhibition, included in this year's Spring at Palazzo Fortuny are three other female artists, as well as the all-woman Amazons of photography from the collection of Mario Trevisan.

The works of the Japanese glass artist, Ritsue Mishima, are scattered throughout the Dora Maar - Despite Picasso exhibition, which, itself, is on the first floor, and entwined with the permanent Fortuny pieces on display, creating an exciting environment. Tras Forma presents Ritsue Mishima's latest creations based on the thousand-year-old tradition of making glass in Venice, and after a careful analysis of the modus operandi of Mariano Fortuny.

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Barbara Paganin 
Spilla n.12, 2011 – 2013
Argento ossidato, ritratto smaltato su rame, vetro, porcellana, quarzo di luna, oro
Fotografia di Alice Pavesi Fiori
Also on the first floor, inside the long glass cabinet near the back, is Open Memory by Barbara Paganin, an exhibition that presents "brooches" which draw their inspiration from the past. After searching through the antique shops of Venice to find whimsical objects such as good luck charms, 19th-century miniatures, ivory elephants and other tiny treasures, Paganin then arranged the memorabilia to create 25 different stories.

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Anne-Karin Furunes 
Crystal Images VII, 2013
Archivio Fortuny, 1910 ca.
tela dipinta e perforata
With Shadows, the Norwegian artist, Anne-Karin Furunes, has the second floor all to herself, spotlighting the enormous painted-canvas-and-perforated images of anonymous faces she found in archival photos that are her inspiration. From a distance, the images are almost solid, but as you approach, the faces dissolve into a mass of pointillistic dots. At Palazzo Fortuny, Furunes had the opportunity to dig through the photo archives stored in the palace, and became fascinated by Fortuny's interest in the effect of light. 

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Diane Arbu
Patriotic Young Man with a Flag, N.Y.C., N.Y.C. 1967
Mart, Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto
Collezione M. Trevisan
The Amazons of photography from the collection of Mario Trevisan claims the ground floor of Palazzo Fortuny, showcasing some of the top female photographers the world has known. If women have excelled in one artistic medium in particular, it is photography. Their unique vision captures an image in startling contrast to the traditional male approach. Italo Zannier, the curator of the show, writes: 

"...photography has also liberated [women] from some difficult manual aspects that for a long time were considered the prerogative of men, offering itself above all as an abstract, conceptual poetic language."

The Venetian Mario Trevisan has collected many of the great gals, from the contemporary Diane Arbus, Nan Golden and Cindy Sherman, to Julia Margaret Cameron working in the 1870s. Also on display are photographs by Lisette Model, a Jewish Austrian who moved to the United States at the outbreak of the Second World War where she opened her famous school of photography, and whose best known pupil was Diane Arbus.

Spring at Palazzo Fortuny opened today, International Women's Day, and is a MUST SEE.

SPRING AT PALAZZO FORTUNY

Doro Maar
DESPITE PICASSO

Anne-Karin Furunes
SHADOWS

Ritsue Mishima
TRAS FORMA

Barbara Paganin
OPEN MEMORY

From the Collection of Mario Trevisan
THE AMAZONS OF PHOTOGRAPHY

March 8 to July 14, 2014

Please click Palazzo Fortuny for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog


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18. TOP WINNERS! FIRST INTERNATIONAL MASK CONTEST - VENICE CARNIVAL 2014

Princess for a Day by Enzo Sindoca - Photo: nuovovenezia
(Venice, Italy) The three top winners of the FIRST INTERNATIONAL MASK CONTEST during the Venice Carnival were announced on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014. The winners were inspired by this year's Carnevale theme, La Natura Fantastica or The Fantasy of Nature, reminding us of the times when mankind stood in awe of nature's power and transformed their wonder into fairy tales and myths.

Please read the prior Venetian Cat - Venice Blog posts for the rest of the story:

First International Mask Contest - Venice Carnival 2014 - DEADLINE JANUARY 15, 2014


Strut Your Stuff in Piazza San Marco - Venice International Mask Contest - UPDATE


The top prize went to Enzo Sindoca for his mask, Principessa per un giorno, or Princess for a Day. Sindoca is a professional mask-maker from Mira, a town outside Venice. The mask was created from one unique piece of leather.

Flowers of Ice by Nicola Gasparini - Photo: nuovavenezia
One of the two Special Mentions went to Nicola Gasparini for her mask, Fiori di ghiaccio or Flowers of Ice. Gasparini is from Spinea, another town in the Province of Venice. She created her mask using recycled materials such as plastic, paper and tin.

Grain as a Collective Hallucination by Ahmad Jafari - Photo: nuovavenezia
The other Special Mention went to Ahmad Jafari for his mask La Grana come allucinazione collettiva or Grain as a Collective Hallucination. Jafari is originally from Iran and now lives in Tuscany.

The word "grana" or "grain" is slang for money in Italian, and the mask is a social commentary on how mankind has become more awed by the power of money than by the power of nature that feeds us.

Congratulations to all!

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

0 Comments on TOP WINNERS! FIRST INTERNATIONAL MASK CONTEST - VENICE CARNIVAL 2014 as of 3/5/2014 12:24:00 PM
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19. The ARMSTRONG Lie and the RUMSFELD Lies - Venice Film Festival

The Armstrong Lie by Alex Gibney
(Venice, Italy) Yesterday, I saw The ARMSTRONG Lie, Alex Gibney's documentary about Lance Armstrong, and started writing this post. Then I saw The UNKNOWN KNOWN, Errol Morris' documentary about Donald Rumsfeld. Armstrong and Rumsfeld have so much in common, it was riveting to watch. They are not only trying to manipulate everyone around them, THEY ARE LYING TO THEMSELVES and don't seem to have the slightest clue they are doing it. Both are arrogant, both are bullies, and both keep trying to rewrite their own narratives. Just the fact that both were willing to go on camera and allow the world to see their profound character flaws illustrates how deeply in denial they continue to live.

Now, of course, human beings must live in denial because we are all going to die, and if we really thought about that, we would all just jump in the lagoon. But these two public figures (and there are many, many lesser creatures I have encountered who are of a similar ilk) take Livin' da Lie to new heights. These two want to ramrod their lies on the rest of the world.

The Unknown Known by Errol Morris
But what really struck me is that neither of them would have been able to get away with the immensity of their lies if they didn't have enormous, powerful organizations behind them, and a whole bunch of people who profited from their lies. Both men are the public faces of organized crime.

And now both men are the subject of documentaries by Academy Award-winning filmmakers.

The ARMSTRONG Lie
 "I didn't live a lot of lies, but I lived one big one." In 2008, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney set out to make a documentary about Lance Armstrong's comeback to the world of competitive cycling.

Personally, the sport held no interest for me, but in May of 2009, the Giro d'Italia was held in Venice -- out here on the Lido where I sit right now, typing, as a matter of fact. A fellow I was dating was one of the timekeepers, so I came out to the race. The entire scene was surreal. Much of the crowd was made up of off-duty American military, who were peeved that they were not allowed behind the scenes. As the day went on, I found myself standing directly behind Lance Armstrong. I wrote about the experience here:

Lance Armstrong in Venice

 
Alex Gibney
Gibney said he made two films -- the one about Armstrong's comeback that was never released, and this one. The original agreement was that he would have unprecedented access to Lance -- who would take a cut of the movie's "back end" in exchange -- as Armstrong set out to prove that he was still the best cyclist in the world.

Gibney said he had heard and seen so much that the only way to get the information across was to put himself in the story, and that so much was Lance Armstrong "lying to my face." He said he was naive, but not stupid, and knew about the doping charges, but really believed that Armstrong was clean in 2009. Gibney said that when you're close to someone, you start to root for them, and he was rooting for Armstrong in 2009. When he found out the truth, there was a disappointment, and "I was pissed off."

The ARMSTRONG Lie
 From Variety:

“This is not a story about doping; it’s a story about power,” one interviewee shrewdly notes, and “The Armstrong Lie” zeroes in on the cynical realities of a sport where victory falls to those with the best medical and financial resources, and where the lure of sponsorships, massive publicity and millions of dollars in cancer-fighting research can encourage even the head of the Intl. Cycling Union to look the other way. The film also taps into the warped mentality of a professional sport where everyone of consequence is assumed to be doping under a code of collective silence, making it easy enough for a cheater to convince himself he isn’t gaining an unfair advantage so much as staying competitive.

After the movie, I asked Gibney if Lance Armstrong still gets a cut of the film's back end. Gibney nodded. "He does."

The Unknown Known
Watching Donald Rumsfeld's mind work was like taking a trip through the Looking Glass. In fact, Danny Elfman wrote the score for The Unknown Known, which made listening to Rummie even more rabbit-holey. Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris focuses on Rumsfeld's "snowflakes," what Rummie calls the tens of thousands of "white paper" memos he wrote throughout his career.

Rumsfeld, Ford, Cheney
As the film went on, I realized that Rumsfeld and his big-business buddies have been influencing the United States government most of my life. At the age of 30, he was elected to Congress in 1962, and hand-picked by Richard Nixon for a Cabinet-level position at age 37. When he was Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1969-70, he brought the 28-year-old Dick Cheney on board. Among his other positions, he was Secretary of Defense under both Ford and George W. Bush. The documentary makes it clear how Rumsfeld controlled the Ford White House, and had presidential ambitions himself.

And for nearly 50 years, Rumsfeld wrote thousands and thousands of memos -- snowflakes -- and whipped them off to everybody -- his staff, his colleagues, even the president. When he was forced out of the government in 2006, he wrote a snowflake for everyone -- including those who may never have gotten a memo before -- informing them that the blizzard had stopped. Morris uses these memos to delve into Rumsfeld's mind. When asked if he had been manipulated by Rumsfeld, Morris said that the documentary was a portrait of a person, and he much preferred to let Rumsfeld contradict himself, which he does endlessly. He becomes lost in a sea of words. "I do not think that Rumsfeld has been left off the hook."

The snowflakes are freaky, as is Rumsfeld's obsession with the dictionary definition of words, his dictionary of preference being the Pentagon Dictionary, not Websters. (Why does it not surprise me to learn that the Pentagon has its own dictionary?) To make the case to invade Iraq, Rumsfeld says, "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

According to Rumsfeld, Pearl Harbor was a "failure of imagination." He seems to believe that the USA has an obligation to imagine every insane thing that every nut job on the planet can imagine, and then act to prevent it. You imagine the worst, and treat it as if it's really going to happen.

Errol Morris
Morris says that what he found fascinating about Rumsfeld was his use of philosophy, and his obsession with words. Not just the way he manipulates other people, but also manipulates himself.  During the press conference, Morris agreed that many politicians say one thing one day and something different the next, but he found Rumsfeld unique: "Within seconds he can say the exact opposite of what he just said. I found it strange."

The film opens with Rumsfeld reading a memo:

"There are known knowns.

There are known unknowns.

There are unknown unknowns.

But there are also unknown knowns -- that is to say, things that you think you know that it turns out you did not."

By the end of the film, Rumsfeld will declare that the memo is backwards, and that the real definition of unknown knowns is: "things that you possibly may know that you don't know you know."

I thought the film was genius. Because it is not only a glimpse into the mind of Donald Rumsfeld, it is a glimpse into the scary apparatus of the United States of America itself.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 Comments on The ARMSTRONG Lie and the RUMSFELD Lies - Venice Film Festival, last added: 9/4/2013
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20. PHILOMENA - A Fabulous Surprise

Judi Dench & Steve Coogan in PHILOMENA
(Venice, Italy) There are few things more delightful than watching a film with no expectations, and slowly realizing that you are witnessing a cinematic triumph. When a theater full of jaded journalists weep together, laugh together, applaud together; when an entire theater shares a deeply moving human experience, you know you've got a hit.

PHILOMENA is the real name of a real Irishwoman, Philomena Lee (played to perfection by Judi Dench), an unwed mother whose son, Antony, was sold by Catholic nuns to wealthy Americans back in the 1950s, a secret she kept from even her own daughter until what would have been Antony's 50th birthday. It is the story of Philomena's quest to find Antony with the help of real-life journalist, Martin Sixsmith, played by Steve Coogan, who also co-wrote the screenplay.


From Indiewire:

If you were seeking a guaranteed recipe for box-office success, casting Judi Dench as a sweet little old Irish lady trying to track down the son she was forced into giving up for adoption decades earlier sounds like the winning ingredient. Add in Steve Coogan as an acerbic British journalist enlisted in her search, helping to steer the story away from the swamp of sentiment, and the fact that it's based on a true story, and you have Stephen Frears' triumphant, warm-hearted crowd-pleaser "Philomena". The Weinstein Company will undoubtedly feel they have a potential hit on their hands with the emotive, funny "Philomena", and Coogan, Frears and, in particular, Dench all look destined for oodles of awards-season love.

Judi Dench & Steve Coogan
What a bunch of wise old pros. Could the Brits actually be waking up, ready to take the lead? Stephen Frears, the director, Judi Dench, the actress, Steve Coogan, the actor and co-writer, and Jeff Pope, co-writer, were all here in Venice. Judi Dench had met Philomena, who is now 80-years-old, several times and said they shared a similar sense of humor -- which is important because what really makes the movie work is Philomena's amusing observations of life. Wondering what her son might look like now, she says: "What if he's obese? A lot of Americans are."


From The Guardian:

As for Dench, she's purely wonderful. Surely nobody else could have taken Philomena's rambling preçis of a romantic novel and turned it into such a masterpiece of comic timing - a spluttering, absurdist pastoral that's all the more impressive for being delivered at speed while travelling backwards through the airport aboard an electric cart.

Throughout the press conference, Stephen Frears expressed his desire that the Pope see the film. "He seems rather a good bloke, the Pope."

Pope Francis' Twitter Selfie
PHILOMENA. Coming soon to a theater near you.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 Comments on PHILOMENA - A Fabulous Surprise, last added: 9/4/2013
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21. 70th Venice Film Festival Wrap-up

Maserati at the Venice Film Festival
(Venice, Italy) SACRO GRA (Italy, France), a documentary by Gianfranco Rosi, won the Golden Lion for Best Film last night at the 70th Venice International Film Festival. It's been 15 years since an Italian film won the top prize, and the first time ever for a documentary.

Bernardo Bertolucci, the President of the jury, quipped that there had been some discussion about whether to give the Volpi Cup for Best Actor to Donald Rumsfeld for his performance in the documentary THE UNKNOWN KNOWN. Instead, that prize went to Themis Panou for MISS VIOLENCE, a Greek film, which also won the Silver Lion for Best Director for Alexandros Avranas. It was unusual for a film to win more than one prize -- in fact, everyone is always arguing about it. But last year THE MASTER (USA) won the Silver for Paul Thomas Anderson and Best Actor(s) for Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, so, perhaps, it is a new trend.

I hadn't seen either winning film, so I went to the screenings after the awards. SACRO GRA is about the real life characters that live around Rome's Ring Road highway. I would have given it three stars, not the top prize. MISS VIOLENCE starts with a girl committing suicide by jumping off the balcony on her 11th birthday, and then slowly peels away the layers of dysfunction in which the other members of family have wrapped themselves. It was skillfully insidious. 

CLICK TO GO TO THE LOCAL FOR COMPLETE LIST

BEST NEW SPONSOR: MASERATI

Maserati was the main sponsor of the festival this year, and it was a thrill to see all the Quattroporte (Four Door) luxury sedans lined up outside the Excelsior Hotel, ready to whisk the celebrities off to the Red Carpet. The engines sounded like lions purring. It's been a while since a car turned me on, but this one has got it all: style, class, elegance, beauty and it's sexy.

"Maserati begins its relationship with the 70th Venice Film Festival as main sponsor of the event, cementing the relationship between the prestigious film festival and the Fiat Group." 

Excelsior Hotel Terrace 1932
 BEST INNOVATION: SHOWING VINTAGE CLIPS BEFORE THE SCREENINGS

The Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival on the planet, created by Count Giuseppi Volpi in 1932. In the archives area are all sorts of nifty news clips such as Winston Churchill taking a dip in the sea, Marilyn Monroe arriving on the Lido, George Cukor and other classics. This year, the press got to see some vintage clips before the screenings, much to everyone's delight.

BEST MOVIE I MISSED AND WISH THAT I SAW: KILL YOUR DARLINGS

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) caused a pedestrian traffic girl-jam when he showed up at Coin Department Store in Venice to promote Kill Your Darlings, a movie about Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation.

The Guardian: "Kill Your Darlings... is the real deal, a genuine attempt to source the beginning of America's first true literary counterculture of the 20th century."


MOVIES THAT I SAW and MY RATINGS:

****GRAVITY by Alfonso Cuaron (USA) - There is nothing like starting off a film festival with a good old fashioned Hollywood blockbuster set in outer space. 

***WOLKFSKINDER (WOLF CHILDREN) by Rick Ostermann (Germany) Proving that no one group of people have a monopoly on suffering, after World War II had ended, Russian soldiers hunted down and murdered German children orphaned by the war just because they were German. A little-known piece of history finally gets explored. (Part of Orrizzonti competition.)

***1/2 JOE by David Gordon Green (USA) - Prediction: Nicholas Cage will be nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. Last night, Tye Sheridan did win the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress. The two of them had great chemistry.

From the Hollywood Reporter: "Powered by raw yet expertly measured performances from Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan as an ex-con fumbling for atonement and a luckless boy reaching out for a father figure, respectively, the film captures both the grit and the compassion for its characters’ pain that are hallmarks of the writing of novelist Larry Brown."

** The Canyons by Paul Schrader (USA) - I wrote a post about it HERE.

**Night Moves by Kelly Reichardt (USA) - I never got emotionally involved in this story about three radical environmentalists who blow up a damn to make their point. 

From Variety: "...this tale of three environmental activists planning a dangerous act of eco-terrorism has a quietly gripping first hour that builds to a suspenseful peak, then yields faintly diminishing returns thereafter as the doubts and implications set in."

****1/2 Philomena by Stephen Frears (UK) - I loved it; I thought it should have won the Golden Lion; I wrote about it HERE. It did win Best Screenplay here in Venice.

**Child of God by James Franco (USA) - I'm sorry, but, to me, there is nothing interesting about watching a serial killer defecate in the woods unless he does it differently from the rest of us.

From Variety: "Descending into the cavernous lower depths of human depravity inhabited by Lester Ballard, modern literature’s most famous necrophile, Franco has emerged with an extremely faithful, suitably raw but still relatively hemmed-in adaptation that compares favorably with his earlier films, yet falls short of achieving a truly galvanizing portrait of social and sexual deviance."

***1/2 Parkland by Peter Landesman (USA) It is always difficult to watch John Kennedy get assassinated. The State of Texas does not come off well in this version.

From The Guardian: "...if the film finally doesn't tell us anything we did not already know, the approach makes a worn-out old tragedy feel supple and urgent."

***The Armstrong Lie by Alex Gibney (USA) - I wrote about it HERE.

The Zero Theorem by Terry Gilliam
***The Zero Theorem by Terry Gilliam (UK; USA) Wacky, wonderful and worth-seeing, it seemed to really appeal to 21-year-old guys. From The Guardian: "...the film has a ragged charm, a Tiggerish bounce, and a certain sweet melancholy that bubbles up near the end. It is a wilfully iconoclastic film from a wilfully iconoclastic man. And it shows, for better or worse, that Gilliam is still in the game and eyeing the prize, despite his spectacularly ill-starred recent career."

**1/2 Locke by Steven Knight (UK) Interesting because it's in real time, but since the only action is a man driving while talking on the phone, it belongs on television -- or in the theater. Only Tom Hardy's performance makes it worth watching. 

From The Guardian: " Locke is played by Tom Hardy, who affects a rich Welsh delivery that I could listen to all day. After sitting through the entirety of this bold, well-acted yet ultimately exasperating movie, I almost feel I have."

**Disney Mickey Mouse "O Sole Minnie" by Paul Rudish (USA) Venice looked more like Las Vegas, Mickey wasn't charming and Minnie had no motivation.

****The Unknown Known by Errol Morris (USA) - I thought it was brilliant. I wrote about it HERE.

**1/2 Harlock: Space Pirate [3D] by Shinji Aramaki (Japan) Great for tweenage boys. 

From Variety: "...this is a glorious marshaling of state-of-the-art technical expertise that boasts topnotch stereoscopy, but the portentous script is too nerdy to cross over to the mainstream" 

*Under The Skin by Jonathan Glazer (UK) - I have not so disliked a movie in many years. Except for Scarlett Johansson's body, it was utterly boring.

From The Independent: "Even Scarlett Johansson can't save Jonathan Glazer's laughably bad alien hitchhiker movie" 

***1/2 Une Promesse (A Promise) by Patrice Leconte (France, Belgium) Restrained performances and a romantic script make this a French film worth seeing -- especially because it's in English and it stars Alan Rickman. Nobody else seemed to like it but me -- and the New York Times: "It is a pity that this artfully directed and subtly acted drama is not eligible for these awards, for which it would have been a worthy candidate." (Ha! I just read the entire article and mumbled to myself: "I have the same taste as this writer" -- and then saw it was Roderick Conway Morris, who is based here in Venice and whom I've know for years.)

Another p.o.v., from Variety: "Led by a trio of lackluster performances from Alan Rickman, Rebecca Hall and “Game of Thrones” thesp Richard Madden, this awkward, passionless drama conveys neither the sensuality nor the drawn-out sense of longing required by its period tale of a young secretary who falls in love with his employer’s wife."

***1/2 Walesa. Man of Hope by Andrzej Wajda (Poland) An enjoyable history lesson about Lech Walesa, one of the world's most dynamic and unlikely leaders -- proof that even an electrician can become the president of a country. 

***1/2 Amazonia [3D] by Thierry Ragobert (France, Brazil) - if a monkey could win best actor, it should go to this adorable creature who plays a domesticated capuchin monkey that lands in the Amazon rain forest after a plane crash. The film will leave you wondering how they ever shot it.

From Variety: "Kids and adults mature enough to handle mild animal peril will be duly enchanted by this universally distributable picture."

The Ukraine is Not a Brothel Photocall
 ***Ukraine is Not a Brothel by Kitty Green Australian filmmaker Kitty Green followed Femen, the radical Ukrainian "feminists" who bared their breasts to protest a patriarchal society, and discovered there was a man behind the scenes. 

Venezia Salva by Serena Nono (Venice) - is a film with non-professional actors who are guests in one of Venice's homeless shelters. Loosely based on Simone Weil's unfinished play, "Venice Saved," Serena takes us behind the facades of Venice as only a local girl can. I wrote about the filming of the story last year HERE

Whew.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat

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22. It's Carnival in Venice!!! 2014


(Venice, Italy) There is something liberating about walking around in a mask, dressed as a phantom from the past, yet with a new millennium twist.


People flock from all over the world to stroll around Venice -- Piazza San Marco in particular -- in elaborate costumes while hordes of visitors swarm to take their photo.


If you ever have yearned to pose as a movie star, Venice will be happy to accommodate you.



If your costume is creative enough, you won't be able to walk two steps without being mobbed by cameras.

Photo: Cat Bauer
 Or you can find a quiet place under the Campanile and let the photographers come to you.

Photo: Cat Bauer
As long as you are in costume, you even have the opportunity to promenade on the Grand Stage itself, right in Piazza San Marco, the world's most beautiful drawing room.

Photo: Official Venice Carnival site
I am like a Native American when it comes to strangers snapping my photo. If I put on my war paint ...er.. a costume and a mask, I have made a decision to go public and you are welcome to snap away -- I think most people are like this. But if someone takes my photo without my permission during a private moment -- and that has happened to me on more than one occasion -- that is such an invasion of privacy... it is like stealing a little piece of my soul. However, it's a lot of fun to pose intentionally to have your photo snapped; all those clicks and flashes can zap you full of energy. 

Carnival in Venice is an opportunity to indulge -- for just a brief moment -- the natural human desire for fame.


Carnival is a chance for ordinary people to flip things on its head -- it has always been that way in Venice. This cannot be stressed enough: it is part of Venetian culture to don a mask and move around town incognito. Wearing a mask in Venice came about organically -- in a city this small, where everyone knows everything about everyone; where gossip is used as a weapon; in a city where enormous wealth was concentrated into a tiny area; where your worst enemy lived next door... or even inside your own house... the only way to survive was to put on a mask.

Despite being cutthroat merchants, Venetians ultimately maintained a sense of humor, which was one of their very important secrets of success. During the Republic, servants dressed as masters, and masters dressed as servants.

Photo: Cat Bauer
 I have written about this many, many, many times before:

Venetian Masks

"Mask making in Venice can be documented back to the 13th century, though it probably existed much earlier. On April 10, 1436, the ancient profession of mascareri was founded under the jurisdiction of the Painter's Guild. Over the years, masks were used for a variety of reasons -- in the government, the theater, and as a means of disguise. Masks provided the Venetians a degree of anonymity.

The wearing of a mask put everyone on the same level: rich and poor, nobleman and citizen, beautiful and ordinary, old and young. It permitted confidences to be exchanged anonymously -- everything from accusations before State Inquisitors, to a potpourri of sexual indiscretions. Prostitutes practiced their trade without fear of retribution; homosexuals hid their illicit lifestyle. In 1458, it was decreed that men were forbidden to dress up as women and enter convents to commit indecent acts.


Not all masks were used for indelicacies, however. The bauta was worn by both men and women, and was not considered a costume but a form of dress -- required wearing if a woman wanted to go to the theater. Il medico della peste had a long beak-like nose stuffed with disinfectants, and, as its name implies, was used to protect doctors from the plague."

So, I am happy that all these international people still put on a mask and get elaborately dressed and come to Venice for Carnival in the year 2014. Even if today they are doing it for an entirely different reason.

CLICK TO GO TO OFFICIAL VENEZIA CARNEVALE WEBSITE


Meanwhile, down at Giardini, it's La Biennale's 5th International Carnival for Kids. This year's theme is the Cookie Cottage.


The place is jumping with children of all ages emanating raw kid energy.


Germany even sent their Carnival royalty, Prince Pascal II and Princess Louisa I. This is such a clever idea, I think all of Europe should select a Prince and Princess to attend the Venice Kid's Carnival every year.


When I was a kid, the very first book I wrote at age six was entitled, Children of Other Lands. It was inspired by a deck of cards I had that was illustrated with European children wearing traditional clothing. I was fascinated to the point of obsession by that deck of cards... by the exotic children all over the world. If you are growing up in all-white small-town New Jersey, a deck of cards like that can open another universe...

So, seeing Prince Pascal II and Princess Louisa I was sort of like having the deck of cards come to life. And, of all the monarchs, I love Ludwig II, the fairytale King of Bavaria -- who gave us the music of Wagner, among many other things -- the most.


One of the best things about the Kid's Carnival is the free, endless supply of rich hot chocolate and frittelli. Another yum!

CLICK FOR KID'S CARNIVAL INFO

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

0 Comments on It's Carnival in Venice!!! 2014 as of 2/27/2014 9:46:00 PM
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23. Venice Lagoon Bird Strikes "La Fenice" Pose


(Venice, Italy) In the early morning hours, this bird in the Venice lagoon struck a "La Fenice" pose.

As we all know, La Fenice means, "the Phoenix," the bird that is eternally reborn, that burns and then rises from the ashes. The phoenix is a royal bird, associated with the sun.

The name of the opera house here in Venice is called "La Fenice," one of the most famous opera houses in Europe. It has burned and risen from the ashes more times than we can count.


The phoenix is one of my favorite symbols. They say it is a mythical bird, but I like to think that it's real. 

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat

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24. Venice - A VISION OF THE CONTEMPORARY CITY - Fernand Léger at the Correr

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Fernand Léger, Paesaggio Animato, 1924 
Philadelphia Museum of Art © Fernand Léger by SIAE 2014
(Venice, Italy) The exhibition Léger- A vision of the contemporary city 1910-1930 starts with Animated Landscape, which the artist painted in 1924 after visiting Venice with the art dealer Leon Rosenberg. Seen through Léger's eyes, eternally ancient Venice has transformed into a "contemporary" city, perhaps for the first time in centuries. Léger was one of the pioneer Cubists, embracing the new artistic language that began to brew at the beginning of the 20th century.

What is Cubism? In 1912, the artists Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger wrote a book called Du Cubisme, the first major text on Cubism, illustrated with photographs of works by Gleizes, Metzinger, Paul Cézanne -- considered the father of Cubism --  Fernand Léger, Juan Gris, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, André Derain, and Marie Laurencin.

Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 1), 1911
Marcel Duchamp
Philadelphia Museum of Art
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp
 From Wikipedia:

"The concept developed in Du "Cubisme" of observing a subject from different points in space and time simultaneously, i.e., the act of moving around an object to seize it from several successive angles fused into a single image ('multiple viewpoints' or 'mobile perspective'), is now a generally recognized phenomenon of the Cubist style."

 E = mc2
What fascinates me is that around the same time that the artists were looking at life from a new perspective, so were the scientists. In 1905, Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was developing his own thoughts about the nature of reality and the relationship between energy and mass, and Max Planck (1858-1947) was originating quantum theory, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.

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Fernand Léger 
Elemento meccanico, 192
Parigi, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne
© Fernand Léger by SIAE 2014 
© Centre Pompidou, Paris, Musée National d’art moderne/Centre de Création industrielle
Léger - A vision of the contemporary city - 1910-1930 is curated by Anna Vallye, and comes to the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia and the Correr Museum by way of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The star of the show is Le Ville, or The City that Léger painted in 1919 when he came back to Paris after serving in the French army during World War I. The war had a profound effect on Léger and his painting. He nearly died after a mustard gas attack by German troops in September 1916 and went three years without touching a brush. He declared, "I will gobble Paris up if I am ever fortunate enough to go back there."

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Fernand Léger 
La bandiera, 1919
New York, Collection
Mr. e Mrs. Howard e Nancy Marks
© Fernand Léger by SIAE 2014
Léger and his peers witnessed some of the most rapid changes in the history of the world. New inventions created during the second Industrial Revolution radically transformed the lives of humans and shortened the distance needed to travel in space and in time. Trains, cars, the telegraph, the telephone and film caused life to accelerate. Electricity zapped out candles and gas lighting, and assembly lines turned human beings into part of the machinery. Léger and his fellow artists captured the modern world in which they found themselves immersed.

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Juan Gris 
Natura morta davanti alla finestra aperta (Place Ravignan), 1915 
Philadelphia Museum of Art
 In 1914, Léger said:

"If pictorial expression has changed, it is because modern life has required it... The view from the window of a railway carriage and car travelling at speed has altered the customary appearance of things. A modern man registers a hundred times more sensorial impressions than an artist of the 18th century... The compression of a modern painting, its variety, its decomposition of forms, are the result of all this."

Léger was born 133 years ago on February 4, 1881 in the rural town of Argentan, in the north of France, 120 miles outside of Paris; his father raised cattle. Léger initially trained as an architect, and moved to the big city -- Paris -- in 1901 where he worked as an architectural draftsman. Léger applied to the prestigious École des Beux-Arts , but was rejected. In 1903, he began attending the Paris School of Decorative Arts, while also being unofficially mentored by two École des Beux-Arts professors. His early work showed a strong Impressionistic influence; after turning to Cubism, he later destroyed most of those paintings. An exception was My Mother's Garden, a painting that is not in the current show; I am including it here for illustrative purposes.

My mother's garden by Léger, 1905, ©Musée national
Then, in 1907, at the age of 26, he saw the Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d'Automn, and, like many artists of the time, changed his direction. From Wikipedia:

"In 1909 he moved to Montparnasse and met such leaders of the avant-garde as Archipenko, Lipchitz, Chagall, Joseph Csaky and Robert Delaunay. His major painting of this period is Nudes in the Forest (1909–10), in which Léger displays a personal form of Cubism that his critics termed "Tubism" for its emphasis on cylindrical forms.

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Fernand Léger 
Fumo sui tetti, 1911 
Collezione privata
Courtesy of Luxembourg & Dayan 
© Fernand Léger by SIAE 2014
In 1910 he exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in the same room with Jean Metzinger and Henri Le Fauconnier. In 1911 the hanging committee of the Salon des Indépendants placed together the painters that would soon be identified as 'Cubists'. Metzinger, Gleizes, Le Fauconnier, Delaunay and Léger were responsible for revealing Cubism to the general public for the first time as an organized group.

Robert Delaunay
Windows in Three Parts, 1912

Philadelphia Museum of Art. A. E. Gallatin Collection
The following year he again exhibited at the Salon d'Automne and Indépendants with the Cubists, and joined with several artists, including Henri Le Fauconnier, Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Francis Picabia and the Duchamp brothers, Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Marcel Duchamp to form the Puteaux Group—also called the Section d'Or (The Golden Section)."

Léger's masterpiece, La Ville, arrived in the United States years before the man himself thanks to the wealthy and innovative collector, A.E. Gallatin, whose patrician roots stretched back to the beginnings of the USA. He is credited with creating the first contemporary art institution in the United States. His great-grandfather, Albert Gallatin, was one of the founders of NYU and served as Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Jefferson and Madison as well as US Minister to France. From NYU:

"Contrary to popular belief, New York's Museum of Modern Art was not the first institution in the United States exclusively devoted to contemporary art. Between 1927 and 1943, New York University was home to A.E. Gallatin's Gallery of Living Art—renamed the Museum of Living Art in 1936—which was restricted to "fresh and individual" works by living artists. 

Among the best-known works in the collection were Pablo Picasso's Three Musicians (1921), Fernand Léger's The City (1919), Joan Miró's Dog Barking at the Moon (1926), and Piet Mondrian's Composition in Blue and Yellow (1932)."

The new art movement was pioneered by big brains on both sides of the Atlantic who were on the same wavelength. Like Léger, Gallatin would radically change his direction around the time of the First World War. He sold all his Impressionistic and Ash Can paintings, and, by 1922, had acquired two watercolors by Picacsso and an oil by Cézanne.


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Piet Mondrian
N. VI / Composizione n. 11, 1920
Tate, Liverpool © Tate, London 2013 
© 2013 o 2014 Mondrian / Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International Washington, D.C.
"Open to the public free of charge from 8 am to 10 pm every weekday and on Saturdays until 5 pm, and steeped in the informal, comfortable atmosphere of a college study hall, the Gallery of Living Art served contemporary American artists as—in Gallatin's own words—a "laboratory" for "exploration and experimentation" and a forum for intellectual exchange. 

Its greatest contribution lay in spurring the development of the New York School. Hans Hofmann often brought his classes to the Gallery for firsthand discussions in front of the pictures. Other frequent visitors included Arshile Gorky, Philip Guston, David Smith, Robert Motherwell, Adolf Gottlieb, and Elaine and Willem de Kooning, all of whom have testified to the Gallery's vital role in introducing them to the vocabulary of Cubism and biomorphic abstraction."

During the curator Anna Vallye's presentation of Léger, Gabriella Belli, the director of the Museo Civici, reminded us that Futurism was taking place at the same time in Italy as Cubism was in France. To me, it would have enhanced the exhibition if a sample of Futuristic work had been included, especially since Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto was published in France only weeks after its initial publication in Milan on February 5, 1909, a day after Léger's twenty-eighth birthday. The second Industrial Revolution was a phenomenon throughout the Western world.
 
Giacomo Ballo - Abstract Speed + Sound (Velocità astratta + rumore), 1913–14. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553.31 © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

"Futurism is an avant-garde movement founded in Milan in 1909 by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Marinetti launched the movement in his Futurist Manifesto, which he published for the first time on 5 February 1909 in La gazzetta dell'Emilia, an article then reproduced in the French daily newspaper Le Figaro on 20 February 1909. He was soon joined by the painters Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini and the composer Luigi Russolo."

Léger. A vision of the contemporary city 1910-1930 is divided into five sections: The Metropolis Before the Great War, The Painter of the City, Advertising, The Performing Arts, and Space. Léger not only produced paintings, he also explored almost every field of artistic endeavor, from advertising and cinema to graphic design and theater. He worked on paintings, murals, tapestries, mosaics, sculpture and ceramic; he collaborated on sets and costumes for theatrical shows. In 1924 he produced an avant-garde 16 minute film called "Ballet mécanique," which is presently looping inside the Correr.

L'Inhumaine 1924 poster by Georges Bourgeois - Parigi, Collection Cinémathèque Française
One of the coolest things Léger collaborated on was the set for the 1924 experimental silent film L'Inhumaine directed by Marcel L'Herbier, who wanted to use the film to synthesize all the creative arts into one medium. The plot line involves a scientist resurrecting his dead beloved; Léger designed the laboratory. A bit of trivia:

"One evening of location shooting became famous (4 October 1923). For the scene of Claire Lescot's concert L'Herbier hired the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and invited over 2000 people from the film world and fashionable society to attend in evening dress and to play the part of an unruly audience. 

Ten cameras were deployed around the theatre to record their reactions to the concert. This included the American pianist George Antheil performing some of his own dissonant compositions which created a suitably confrontational mood, and when Georgette Leblanc appeared on stage the audience responded with the required tumult of whistles, applause and protests, as well as some scuffles. 

The audience is said to have included Erik Satie, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Léon Blum, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and the Prince of Monaco."

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Fernand Léger 
Progetto di sipario per Skating Rink, 1922
Dansmuseet Stockholm © Dansmuseet – Musée Rolf de Maré Stockholm 
© Fernand Léger by SIAE 2014
Ah, those were the days! After the Great War was over, before the stock market crash of 1929, followed by the Great Depression and the dark, dark days of World War II. The exhibition stops at the year 1930, but Léger would spend the Second World War teaching at Yale and producing a number of huge mural paintings. Léger died on August 7, 1955 in Gif-sur-Yvette, France.

In 2008, Study for the Woman in Blue, a four feet tall Cubist canvas was sold by Sotheby's for $39.2 million, beating the French painter's previous record of $22.4 million set five years before. Last year, pop star Madonna sold her Léger, Trois Femmes à la Table Rouge, for $7.2 million to benefit her charity, the Ray of Light Foundation.

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Didier Barra 
Veduta di Napoli a volo d'uccello, 1647
Napoli, Certosa e Museo Nazionale di San Martino
Also at the Correr during the Léger exhibition, up on the second floor, is another show about cities entitled The image of the European city from Renaissance to Enlightenment, curated by Cesare de Seta.  Starting in Italy, "the visitor will go on a chronological virtual tour of towns that have been completely transformed or which largely no longer exist," but have been preserved on canvas.


After the press presentation, a seagull kindly posed in a window with view of the front of the Museo Correr. In the background, the scene is of several workers taking down the scaffolding for the obtrusive advertising billboard that has been hanging on the front of the Correr Museum for years.


I checked again today, and it's really gone. The stage is going up for Carnival...  Life goes on.

LEGER. 1910-1930 La visione della città contemporanea
Museo Correr
February 8 to June 2, 2014
Curated by Anna Vallye with the scientific direction of Gabriella Belli and Timothy Rub, director of the PMA in Philadelphia and exhibition project by Daniela Ferretti

L'immagine della città europea dal Rinascimento al Secolo dei Lumi
Museo Correr
February 8 to May 18, 2014 

Scientific coordination Gabriella Belli
Curated by Cesare De Seta
Layout by Daniela Ferretti

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog 

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25. Russian Dancers in Venice - FROM SIBERIA WITH...


(Venice, Italy) With Russian aggression in the news, it was exhilarating to see that country's dynamic energy channeled joyfully by the dancers of the Omsk State Russian Folk Choir in Siberia during this year's Carnival.

After living in Venice for nearly sixteen years, I have learned that many of the greatest opportunities for entertainment during Carnevale are not found in Piazza San Marco or at the fabulous balls in Venetian palaces -- though those adventures can certainly be exciting depending on the company you keep -- but in some of Venice's other venues. Last night at the Goldoni Theater, the Russian dancers put on a vibrant show entitled from Siberia with... that had the audience clapping along to the folk songs, and received a standing ovation.


Dancing to the recorded voices of the folk choir and a live accordionist, the male dancers leaped through the air at astonishing heights, and the females spun so quickly, for such a long time, that it made me dizzy -- their skirts flared as they spun, revealing frilly bloomers and legs toned to perfection. The costumes were bold blasts of primary colors. It was fascinating to watch the interaction between the brazen male dancers zapped on testosterone with the coquettish-but-firm female dancers. The men did that Russian squat thing and kicked up their boots, leaping over each other with movement timed to the second -- one false move would have knocked someone out. The women were at times demure and then sassy, provocative and then restraining. The acrobatics performed by both sexes were impressive. The closest I can describe it so Americans can relate would be: it was as if a hip-hop Olympic gymnastic team who had studied ballet choreographed an old-fashioned square dance -- some of the music and the do-si-do moves were very similar to a square dance -- wearing clothing from Jamaica, if Jamaica had winter. One thing was abundantly clear: the Russian folk culture is strong and unique, with both sexes playing differentiated roles that are yet equal and complimentary.


(A long time ago, I was in the Russian Vodka Room in New York City where I met three Russian men who claimed to have been former comrades patrolling in a nuclear sub off the East Coast of the U.S. back in the 1970s. They were having a reunion and invited me to join them. I don't think I've ever drank so much vodka in my life, but they gulped it down like it was water with no visible effect. It was astonishing. In the early morning hours we found ourselves in the apartment of one of their friends, who claimed to be the nephew of Salvador Dali...)

One of the most delightful scenes was between the male and female principal dancers. They tweeted at each other with bird whistles, communicating without words in a language that everyone could understand. Their romance was like an owl ritual, primitive and sexy, flirtatious, yet withholding -- but with a wonderful sense of humor. I laughed out loud. They were both physically beautiful individuals --- in fact, everyone in the company seemed to be beautiful, and perfectly in sync. 

The local Venetians and intelligent tourists who comprised the audience, whistled and whooped after nearly every scenario. There were plenty of children in the audience who seemed riveted by the performance, and I thought about what a profound impression the show was making on their impressionable minds.


I am certainly no expert on foreign policy, but in my completely uneducated opinion, when world leaders boycotted the Winter Olympics, whose roots are grounded in culture like this, because of the Russian stance on homosexuality -- which, by the way, I am strongly against, as is the City of Venice -- and sought to impose its will on Russia, Putin had to react in some way. You can't jam change down someone's throat; you are bound to meet with resistance. Hopefully, he is just demanding a little respect and expressing his dissatisfaction by invading Crimea [click link for Russian POV], and things will soon quiet down.

Thomas Bach himself, the President of the International Olympic Committee, blasted world leaders over the Sochi boycott. From The Telegraph:

"Three days before the opening of Russia's first Winter Games, Mr Bach used a hard-hitting speech to call out politicians for using the Olympics to make an "ostentatious gesture" serving their own agendas. 

Without naming any individuals, Bach's comments appeared directed at David Cameron, US President Barack Obama and other European politicians who have taken stands against Russia's law banning gay "propaganda" among minors. 

The Olympics, Mr Bach said, should not be "used as a stage for political dissent or for trying to score points in internal or external political contests." 

"Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful direct political dialogue and not on the backs of the athletes," he said at a ceremony attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin. "People have a very good understanding of what it really means to single out the Olympic Games to make an ostentatious gesture which allegedly costs nothing but produces international headlines. 

"In the extreme, we had to see a few politicians whose contributions to the fight for a good cause consisted of publicly declining invitations they had not even received.""


The Siberians have a repertoire that includes both Russian folk songs and works by contemporary composers, and have been applauded in France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Australia, USA, China, Israel, Mozambique and other places around the world. 

The symbol of the Omsk State Russian Folk Choir is a large, dancing teddy bear who strums a balalaika, a characteristic Russian folk instrument with a triangular body and three strings. And he can do that Russian squat thing.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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