Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Funeral of Valeria Solesin - Venice Transcends Terrorism

(Venice, Italy) Today the sun was brilliant in Piazza San Marco for the funeral of Valeria Solesin, the 28-year-old Venetian doctoral student killed in the Paris attacks on Friday the 13th. Valeria's family and friends have exemplified courage, composure and dignity in the way they have handled the tragedy, embodying the highest human qualities -- in direct contrast to the terrorists who committed the atrocity in which Valeria, and the other 129 victims, were murdered.

Alberto, father: Luciana, mother; Dario, brother & Andrea Ravagnani, fiancé Photo: La Republicca
The family wanted a civil ceremony, and invited people of all faiths to attend. The ceremony opened with the Italian national anthem, followed by the French, and was attended by Sergio Mattarella, the President of Italy, as well as Roberta Pinotti, the Italian Minister of Defense, who read a message from French President Francois Hollande. Also present were Agnes Renzi, the wife of Italy's Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, who was here yesterday to pay his respects; Luca Zaia, the President of the Veneto Region; and Luigi Brugnaro, Venice's mayor. Gino Strada, the president of Emergency, the Italian NGO dedicated to helping civilian victims of war, an organization for which Valeria Solesin was a long-time volunteer, also attended, as well as much of Venice.

Body of Valeria Solesin arrives by gondola
Even though the ceremony was not religious, three major faiths were represented -- Christians by Francesco Moraglia, the Patriarch of Venice; Jews by Rabbi David Bohbot, and Muslims by Iman Hamad Mahamed. Also attending on behalf of the Islamic community of Venice was the president, Mohamed Amin Al Ahdab, who spoke very strongly, to much applause. He said, "Valeria was like own our daughter. We are here to say that she was not killed in the name of our God, nor in the name of our religion, nor in our name. Ours is a religion of peace."

Valeria Solesin died in the arms of her boyfriend, Andrea Ravagnani. Alberto Solesin, Valeria's father, said he felt it was a duty owed to all the "Valerias and Andreas of the world who work, study, suffer and never give up" to be an example of composure and dignity.

Parents of Valeria Solesin - Photo: La Republicca
It was a deeply moving ceremony that transformed the darkest energy into something sacred, dignified  and bright; it was as if the angels themselves were present overhead. The Solesin family personifies the best of La Serenissima, exhibiting the highest qualities of civilization in a time of chaos and anxiety.

Valeria Solesin
The ceremony closed with Beethoven's Ode to Joy, the national anthem of the European Union. Valeria Solesin's coffin was carried by the gondoliers. She will rest on the Island of San Michele, next to her grandfather.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Candlelight Vigil for Valeria Solesin - Venice Victim of Paris Terrorist Attacks

Candlelight Vigil for Valeria Solesin in Piazza San Marco
(Venice, Italy) Thousands of people gathered in Piazza San Marco last evening to honor Valeria Solesin, a young, beautiful, intelligent Venetian woman, one of Venice's -- and the world's -- brightest stars, who was senselessly murdered by Daesh aka ISIL in Paris on Friday night; we gathered to remember all the Paris victims, but especially Valeria, a hometown girl. About five to seven thousand residents of Venice, young and old, made the journey to the center of the city to hold aloft twinkling points of light, illuminating the darkness that has descended on the planet. Many Venetians arrived with their children.

Valeria Solesin
Valeria Solesin represented everything good, empowering and compassionate about Europe. She was a brilliant young woman, who believed passionately in peace, not war. Valeria grew up in Venice, graduating in 2006, then got her degree at Trento University. For the last four years she lived in Paris as a PhD candidate at the prestigious Sorbonne University, studying sociology, with an emphasis on family and children. For years, she was a volunteer for Emergency, an Italian NGO that provides assistance to the civilian victims of war -- the extreme opposite of everything ISIL represents. She was killed at the Bataclan concert hall at age 28.

Remembering Valeria Solesin in Piazza San Marco
All monsters who use terror as a weapon must be held accountable. Because, what is ISIL? Who created it? ISIL is a Frankenstein demon out of control, a twisted conglomeration of failed policies in the Middle East, created by extreme greed, outrageous abuse of power, and astonishing stupidity by schemers in different governments and "intelligence" agencies. By turning directionless young people into militants, and deliberately targeting successful young people at a rock concert, ISIL is a mirror that reflects the dark state the world is in today.

Remembering Valeria Solesin in Piazza San Marco
Luigi Brugnaro, Venice's mayor, made a poignant statement. I do hope that he is sincere, and that the death of Valeria has shaken him as much as it has all of Venice, all of Italy, all of Europe. He said, "Tonight, let our city be the basis and example for a new European policy. A melting pot, a crossroads of different cultures, as it always was -- we have to start from here... from this piazza finally full of Venetians. We would like it if the whole city could, once again, become a bridge to the intersection of cultures. In fact, from this evening, we could start building a new political Europe, with and for young people."

Now, that statement is nothing new. There are many residents of Venice who have been working for years to do exactly that -- make Venice the crossroads of civilization and cultures, as it always was. But one does not accomplish that by banning books about tolerance immediately after taking office, as Brugnaro did, or by canceling art exhibitions, or by declaring there will never be a gay pride parade in town, or by publicly insulting individuals with whom he disagrees. A future working for the cruise ship industry, which Brugnaro supports, or for massive tourism, does not appeal to Venice's finest, brightest youth, causing them to search elsewhere for opportunities.

If one wants to be a shining example for a new Europe -- which Venice does have the capacity to do -- one must start by building a dignified bridge within one's own community, not take actions that divide it.

Remembering Valeria Solesin in Piazzo San Marco
Let us hope that the harsh reality of Valeria Solesin's murder acts as a catalyst for change, and that we can all work together to bring about hopeful a world for our youth. Rest with the angels, Valeria.

Il Gazzettino
Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Potrebbe interessarti:https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&rurl=translate.google.it&sl=it&tl=en&u=http://www.veneziatoday.it/cronaca/candela-valeria-solesin-venezia-san-marco-18-novembre-2015.html&usg=ALkJrhjpBX7HQTh6UON8wUhQ16hTa1IK1A
Seguici su Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/pages/VeneziaToday/252463908142196

Monday, November 9, 2015

From Venice to Treviso - Escher at the Santa Caterina Museum & Re-Opening of the Bailo Museum

Relativity by Escher (1953)

(Venice, Italy) M.C. Escher, the extraordinary Dutch graphic artist, saw the world with a geometric eye, creating impossible objects like staircases with different gravity sources in the same space. Escher was fascinated by nature and crystals, and enchanted by the Italian landscape, which inspired him to invent worlds where reptiles and birds morphed into the Italian coastal town of Atrani, which linked to a tower in the water, which was actually a rook on a chess board. Escher flipped reality on its head.

Metamorphosis II by Escher (1939-40)

An Escher exhibition is currently running in Treviso, a charming town only about 35 minutes from Venice by train, and is definitely worth the trip. The world of Escher is a fantastic playground for both grownups and children. In addition to three floors of Escher's works, there are interactive games and optical illusions sprinkled throughout the exhibition, as well as clips from movies and commericals inspired by Escher. Even album covers like Mott The Hoople were zapped by Escher.

The curators of the exhibition, Marco Bussagli and Federico Giudiceandrea, are not your typical museum types. Federico Giudiceandrea is the CEO of Microtec, a company that specializes in imaging and machine vision, the ability of a computer to "see." Giudiceandrea is from South Tyrol, and uses artificial vision to inspect wood, important to the local timber industry. Marco Bussagli is an art history professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, and has written a lot about angels, nudes, and Michelangelo, in addition to Escher. This unique partnership has added a dash of magic to mathematics, and has captured the soul of Escher.

Hand with Reflecting Sphere by Escher (1935)

Traveling to Treviso is simple, quick and inexpensive (€3.30 each way). The stroll to the Santa Caterina Museum is about 15 minutes -- longer if you pause along the way to enjoy the delightful specialty shops and eateries that line the cobbled streets and Renaissance squares. The town is full of people who actually live there, and would like it if some of Venice's millions of tourists headed their way.

Dario Franceschini and Cat Bauer

I initially went out to Treviso on October 29 for the re-opening of one of their civic museums, the Bailo, a 15th century monastery building which had been closed for 12 years, which now hosts the town's 20th-century art collection. After an extensive restoration, the museum re-opened with much pomp and ceremony: throngs of residents, a baroque orchestra, the mayor -- even Dario Franceschini, the Italian Minister of Culture and Tourism -- appeared. The works of the Treviso-born artist, Arturo Martini (1889-1947) are featured in the beautifully refurbished structure, which also got a new facade and a skylight, transforming the ancient monastery into a contemporary work of art.

Bond of Union by Escher (1956)

The M.C. Escher exhibition came to Treviso by way of Rome and Bologna, and can be seen at the Santa Caterina Museum until April 3, 2015.

October 31, 2015 to April 3, 2016
Museo di Santa Caterina
Tuesday - Sunday 10am - 8pm
Monday - 2:30pm - 8pm
Tickets: €13.00
Info: +39 0422 184 7103
Directions: Take the train to Treviso, walk out the front, and ask how to get to Santa Caterina
More Info (in Italian)

Borgo Cavour, 24

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Island of the Dead - San Michele, Venice - All the Saints and All the Souls

Mary de Rachewiltz at the tomb of Ezra Pound & Olga Rudge - Photo: Cat Bauer

(Venice, Blog) It is uncanny how often I run into Mary de Rachewiltz on All Saints Day on the Isola di San Michele, Venice's cemetery island. This year, I was far away from the tomb of her famous parents, Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, when Mary arrived in the afternoon -- usually I get there earlier, and so does she. I was in a completely different section of the cemetery at the tomb of my Venetian nonni trying to light a candle that the wind kept blowing out. After about ten attempts, I decided to go to the florist at the front of the island and buy a wind-resistant candle. I literally almost ran into Mary as she was heading in.

"Mary!" I cried. "I'm so happy to see you!"

"Cat Bauer!" she exclaimed. "I'm running into everybody today."

Tomb of Ezra Pound, November 1, 2015 - Photo: Cat Bauer

I told Mary there had been rumors that she was dead, which I had not believed, since I thought I would have heard about it. I had googled her, and saw she was most certainly alive, still going strong at 90 years of age.

We decided to take a photo to document that she was, indeed, alive -- not only alive, but I can attest that she is as witty, feisty and delightful as ever. When I made a remark about her father, she jousted me, jokingly using her cane as a sword.

Tomb of Olga Rudge, November 1, 2015 - Photo: Cat Bauer

I thought it would be appropriate to shoot the photo in front of her parents' tomb, and off we went; I can also attest she is as spry as ever. Every year Mary comes down from Schloss Brunnenburg, her 13th-century castle up in South Tyrol, to pay respects to her parents: her father, the influential poet Ezra Pound, who died on All Saints Day here in Venice 43 years ago today, two days after his 87th birthday, and her mother, the concert violinist, Olga Rudge, who died at age 101 up at Brunnenburg Castle.

Brunnenburg Castle

I have written about Halloween, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day often in the past, because it is a time that holds great personal significance. They say that the dead return to earth at this time, and this I believe. Before my father died, we made an agreement to explore life after death. We agreed on a code word that he would communicate to me if there were life after death. On November 2, 2006, ten years after my father had died, I was about to take an afternoon nap. In that hazy period between wake and sleep, I heard the code word! I said, "Pop! Is that you?" He had been cremated, and apparently there was a problem with the location of his ashes.... which turned out to be true.

Remembering the ancestors is something that should be highlighted in every culture, whether the emotions they bring up are good or bad, happy or sad. The celebration here in Venice of those who have gone before us is a tradition I deeply respect.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Google Cultural Institute and Venice Art Biennale Team Up

Google Cultural Institute at Venice Biennale
(Venice, Italy) The Google Cultural Institute and the Venice Biennale believe in sharing knowledge. Launched in 2011, the Google Cultural Institute is google-izing the world of art and culture in order "to make important cultural material available and accessible to everyone and to digitally preserve it to educate and inspire future generations."
Reps from the Google Cultural Institute were here in Venice on October 22 to open their space over by Ca' Giustinian, La Biennale Headquarters on Calle del Ridotto, and to announce that you can enjoy the 2015 Venice Art Biennale, All the World's Futures, by cyberspace.
Those of you who have visited the Venice Art Biennale can see it again; those who are still planning to come can get an idea of what you can expect. And those of you who cannot make it to the Venice will be able to digitally experience the world's oldest Biennale, which was first held in 1895 -- you can watch it even after it's over.

I am posting the press release below, slightly edited, with links you can follow to wander around the exhibitions of 80 different countries -- almost as good as being in Venice!
A peek backstage - Google in Venice
La Biennale di Venezia and the Google Cultural Institute announced that they are making a selection of artworks and pavilions from the Biennale Arte 2015, curated by Okwui Enwezor, available online on the Google Cultural Institute. The collaboration was announced in Rome on October 21, 2015 at the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, in the presence of the Minister Dario Franceschini, by the President of La Biennale di Venezia Paolo Baratta and the Director of the Google Cultural Institute, Amit Sood.

The project, thanks to the cutting edge technology developed by the Google Cultural Institute, is a first experiment aimed at expanding the possibilities of bringing people closer to the Biennale Arte 2015. On the one hand, it will encourage those who want to explore the exhibition before setting off for Venice, while on the other, it will allow to capture highlight of the exhibition so people can experience the artworks online after the closure of the Biennale Arte on November 22, 2015.
A peek backstage - Google in Venice
Starting from October 21, in the final month of the Biennale Arte, the International Exhibition and the exhibits of 80 Countries in 70 National Pavilions will be accessible online on g.co/biennalearte2015 and www.labiennale.org/en/art/online-2015exhibition/. Viewers will be able to browse a diverse collection of more than 4,000 artworks and photos in multiple digital exhibitions. Users will also be able to see 360 degree panoramic views of the internal and external exhibitions at Giardini and the Arsenale thanks to more than 80 sites photographed with Street View technology.
The Google Cultural Institute, alongside La Biennale di Venezia, has also created an app for mobile devices which can be downloaded from the Google Play store which grants access to the digital exhibition and allows users to explore two virtual tours using Google Cardboard, a simple virtual reality viewer.
"The collaboration between La Biennale di Venezia and the Google Cultural Institute confirms just how much of a great ally technology can be in appreciating our cultural heritage," said the Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, who also underlined "the importance of technical innovation in broadening cultural communication, in creating new ways of use and overcoming distances, as well as encouraging greater dialogue."
A peek backstage - Google in Venice
“This collaboration with Google is the first and a very important experiment, which I believe can be further developed in the future in a variety of possible, if yet still unknown ways,” said Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale di Venezia. “We’ll do our best! With more technological abilities we’ll be able to better link them with a stronger editorial ability, making better use of technology both for our documentation as well as to support the public. This bet on using modern technologies is most definitely not aimed to substitute the experience in person with virtual viewing, but, on the contrary, to compliment and enrich the direct viewing experience.
A peek backstage - Google in Venice

“We are proud to work with La Biennale di Venezia, a world-leading exhibition that brings many countries, cultures and their approaches to art to the center of the cultural debate" said Amit Sood, Director of the Google Cultural Institute. "The Internet is a powerful tool for the democratization of art and culture, a force that helps cultural institutions to extend their impact. It empowers cultural institutions to make their artworks and treasures accessible to a greater number of people in the world and preserve them for the future”.
A peek backstage - Google in Venice
La Biennale di Venezia, founded in 1865, stands at the forefront of research and promotion of new contemporary art trends and organizes exhibitions and researches in all its specific sectors: Art (1895), Architecture (1980), Cinema (1932), Dance (1999), Music (1930), and Theatre (1934). Its activities are documented at the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts (ASAC) that recently has been completely renovated.
The Google Cultural Institute and its partners are putting the world’s cultural treasures at the fingertips of Internet users and are building tools that allow the cultural sector to share more of its diverse heritage online. The Google Cultural Institute has partnered with more than 800 institutions giving a platform to over 170 thousand artworks and a total of 6 million photos, videos, manuscripts and other documents of art, culture and history.

Happy exploring!

Ciao from Venezia,

Friday, October 23, 2015

Venice and the Cruise Ships - Blocked Gianni Berengo Gardin Exhibition Opens in Piazza San Marco

Venice and the Cruise Ships by Gianni Berengo Gardin - Courtesy Fondazione Forma
(Venice, Italy) Gianni Berengo Gardin, whom The Telegraph called "Italy's Greatest Photographer," was supposed to have an exhibition opening at Palazzo Ducale on September 19, 2015 about the cruise ships in Venice entitled, Monsters in Venice. Luigi Brugnaro, the controversial new mayor of Venice, and a strong supporter of the cruise ship industry, postponed the exhibition to coincide with an exhibit about his own plans for the lagoon. Berengo Gardin would not accept those conditions, and the show was cancelled.

In addition, Brugnaro accused Berengo Gardin of "distorting" the photos to make the cruise ships appear larger by using a telephoto lens, prompting all sorts of ordinary citizens to display their own photos and professional photographers to challenge what he said. Even further, Mayor Brugnaro accused Berengo Gardin of "denigrating" Venice -- the mayor also used the same word to publicly attack me, Cat Bauer, on Twitter -- as well as other people who care deeply about the welfare of La Serenissima. .

Gianni Berengo Gardin courtesy of Forma Foundation
Yesterday, October 22, 2015, the Gianni Berengo Gardin VENEZIA E LE GRANDI NAVI exhibition opened 200 meters away from Palazzo Ducale in the Olivetti Showroom designed by the renowned architect, Carlo Scarpa, in Piazza San Marco. The line waiting outside the door proved that banning an exhibition is sure to draw a crowd.

The exhibition was presented by FAI - Fondo Ambiente Italiano, the Italian Environment Fund, sort of like an Italian National Trust, in collaboration with Forma per la Fotografia e Contrasto, and was curated by Alessandra Mauro. Andrea Carandini, the President of FAI stated, "The aim of this exhibition is not alimentary improvisations and controversy, but to open a new phase for Venice, even with opponents, which is, finally, not based on gossip, closed minds and partial studies, but on as much research as possible about the miraculous, complicated and fragile natural system, and the social and cultural development of the lagoon city, viewed as a wonderful complex." FAI hopes to ignite a discussion about excessive tourism all throughout Italy. 

Venezia e le Grandi Navi by Gianni Berengo Gardin - courtesy Fondazione Forma
The 85-year-old Gianni Berengo Gardin wrote a letter to Mayor Luigi Brugnaro -- a wealthy, conservative businessman who made his money with a temp agency called "Umana Holding," or "Human Holding," who was born on the mainland and does not live in Venice, a father of five daughters by two different wives who yanked books about tolerance and different kinds of families from Venice's pre-schools, and whose Beat-poet father was the leader of the factory workers in Marghera -- which expresses how it feels to come under personal attack by the new mayor. I have translated it into American English (for example, Italians don't say "shoot yourself in the foot," it's more like, "hit yourself in the foot with a hoe"), below:


by Gianni Berengo Gardin

I'm very sorry when someone shoots themselves in the foot; therefore, I'm sorry for the mayor of Venice. I'm also very grateful because blocking my exhibit at Palazzo Ducale did me a big favor: all the Italian newspapers and foreign press (Le Monde, The Guardian, El Pais, The New York Times, and many others) have written about it extensively. And probably, if it were not for all this attention from the press, the exhibition would be seen by far fewer people.

I must also be grateful to Celentano (the best-selling Italian singer Adriano Celentano, who strongly supported Berengo Gardin) and all artists, architects, intellectuals and ordinary citizens who have stood up for me. I must also thank Roberto Koch and Alessandra Mauro of the Forma Foundation, who curated the exhibition and the book; without their commitment this exhibition would not be possible. And naturally, FAI.

I am doubly happy that FAI invited me to display my photos at the Olivetti Store in Piazza San Marco: I photographed several works for the designs of the architect Carlo Scarpa, and for over 15 years worked for Olivetti. 

Mayor Brugnaro insulted me several times: he called me a "loser", an "intellectual hack" and a "Solone." He said that I denigrated Venice. He called me an "untouchable" -- I didn't know that, and I thank him for educating me -- and he attacked me for having a double last name.  

My family has been Venetian for five generations. We had a store of Venetian crafts and glass pearls in Calle Larga San Marco. The Berengo Gardin store was cited in 1905 by the writer Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo in his book about Venice, The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole (1909, Cassell, London, 1934). My grandparents' house overlooked Piazzetta dei Leoncini; my father was practically born in Piazza San Marco; and, as for me, even if I was born in S. Margherita Ligure, I lived in Venice for 30 years. My wife is Venetian and my children were born in Venice. 

For this reason, the problem of the cruise ships passing through the Venice lagoon is particularly close to my heart: because I feel venezianissimo (Venetian to the extreme).

Maybe the mayor does not know that I also dedicated as many as 10 books to Venice, exalting in every way her beauty, starting with one of my first, Venise de Saison, published in 1965.

Next, regarding the accusation that I used some kind of "telephoto lens" to create artificial effects, I would stress the fact that I even had to use a wide-angle lens because the ships were so big they did not fit into the viewfinder of the camera. Only in some cases did I use a 90 millimeter lens, which is not telephoto. 

To conclude, Mayor Brugnaro must know that the Italian Constitution, Article 21, says: "Everyone has the right to freely express their thoughts in speech, writing or any other means of communication." 

Venezia e Le Grandi Navi by Gianni Berengo Gardin - courtesy Fondazione Forma
The photo exhibition of Gianni Berengo Gardin Venezia e Le Grandi Navi runs from October 22, 2015 until January 6, 2016.

Gianni Berengo Gardin
Venezia e le grandi navi
October 22, 2015 to January 6, 2016

Olivetti Showroom
Piazza San Marco 101
Tel. 041 5228387 

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, October 19, 2015

Netàr a Corte - Cleaning Day in Venice 2015

Netàr in Corte
(Venice, Italy) It's that time of year again when a group of private individuals who love Venice come together to clean up their city, all on their own initiative. Organized by the group, the Associazione Masegni & Nizioleti, a pack of volunteers blitzed through the city yesterday, cleaning graffiti off walls, wells and memorial plaques, as well as hacking off  "love locks" from Venice's bridges. 

"Netàr" means "to clean" in the Venetian language. Masegni are stones that Venetians have been using for centuries to pave the streets, which are quarried from the Euganean Hills, also known as the Venetian Hills. 

Nizioleti are the white and black street signs you see everywhere in Venice, marking the names of streets and campos. Back in March, 2014, two different Facebook groups, one dedicated to the Masegni and one to the Nizioleti, combined their efforts to create the new group, the Associazione Masegni & Nizioleti. 

The Fearless Warriors slipped into gauzy white Super Suits and attacked the walls and wells with magic Graffitti Eater, and hacked off locks with bolt cutters with names like Excalibur and Durlindana. They scraped off each letter of graffiti by hand, using wire brushes, and sliced off every lock with ease with their mighty swords. 

The Clean Up
After several hours of labor and camaraderie, covered with dust and speckled with paint, the Fearless Warriors gathered together to feast and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well-done. 

The group of volunteers has been steadily growing since it began back in 2012, which you can read about here:

Cleaning Day in Venice

To view many more photos of the event, click HERE to go to Netàr a Corte on Facebook, or HERE to visit the group's Facebook page.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Beat Goes On: Poets at Aman Canal Grande in Venice - Ferruccio Brugnaro, Jack Hirschman & Agneta Falk

Agneta Falk, Ferruccio Brugnaro, Jack Hirschman, Maria Brugnaro at Aman Canal Grande

(Venice, Italy) The Italian poet, Ferruccio Brugnaro, born in Mestre on August, 18, 1936, worked for more than 30 years at the chemical plants at Porto Marghera on the mainland outside Venice, the site of a huge oil-refining and petrochemical complex. During his employment at Porto Marghera, Brugnaro became a strong union leader and compassionate poet, expressing rage at the workers' conditions with his compelling words.

Jack Hirschman
On the other side of the world, the American poet, Jack Hirschman, born in the Bronx on December 13, 1933 to working-class parents, got his PhD in comparative literature at Indiana University. While teaching at UCLA during the Viet Nam war, he heard that "A" students were excused from the draft. He announced that all his students who were draft-eligible got a grade of "A," and was terminated from the university, thus beginning his life as a poet. He now lives in San Francisco, together with his second wife, the poet, Agneta Falk (Sweden, 1947), where he was appointed Poet Laureate in 2006.

Beat Poets at Aman Canal Grande
Jack Hirschman had encountered Ferruccio Brugnaro's work in the '80s when helping to edit an international journal of poetry, but the two didn't actually meet until January, 1993, when Hirschman was on a reading tour in Italy. They read together at Lenin Hall, then spent a week traveling around the Veneto where Brugnaro and his wife, Maria, read Hirschman's poems in Italian, and he read them in the original English.

Maria Brugnaro at Aman Canal Grande
 Hirschman said:

"I decided, during that week of happy camaraderie, and 
because I see in Ferruccio's work a resonance that harks 
back to Mayakovsky, as well as forward toward the 
necessary future of mankind, to translate his poems in a 
selection that might include his rage, his righteousness, 
his tenderness and, through all, that spine of 
lyripolitical discourse so very important for the days 

These two impressive poets are no longer young (Brugnaro is 79; Hirschman will be 82), but their hearts and passions remain strong. Together with their wives, Maria Brugnaro, a former schoolteacher, and the poignant poet Agneta Falk, they delivered a spirited evening yesterday at the Aman Canal Grande for the Slow Words readers' club, presented by Paolo Graziano and Diana Marrone, Slow Words fanzine founders and editors.

Diana Marrone and Paolo Graziano at Aman Canal Grande
I knew before I arrived that Ferruccio Brugnaro was the father of Luigi Brugnaro, Venice's extremely wealthy, conservative and controversial new mayor. But nothing had prepared me for an evening of what appeared to be real-life communists still talking the talk in the year 2015. I was stunned when I heard Ferruccio Brugnaro's poem Tutti Assolti al Processo per Le Morti al Petrolchimico (All Acquitted at the Trial for the Deaths at Petrolchemical) read first by Brugnaro in Italian, and then by Hirschman in English, written in reaction to the acquittal of those Brugnaro held responsible for the suffering of his fellow workers.

In March, 1998, here in Italy, 31 top managers of the chemical industry were put on trial for knowingly exposing their workers to harmful chemicals; 149 were dead, and over 500 were suffering from cancer. (Ironically, Felice Casson, the prosecutor who pursued the action against the chemical industry in the late '90s through 2004, was just defeated this past June by Luigi Brugnaro, the son of Ferrucio and Maria Brugnaro, in the election for the new mayor of Venice.) Ferrucio Brugnaro's poem expressed the outrage he felt when the top managers were all acquitted on the grounds that when the deaths started in the 70s, they could not have known the production's deadly impact on the workers. "Non dite, non dite che non sapevate." ("Do not say, do not say you did not know.")

Cat Bauer and Ferruccio Brugnaro
The evening was an echo of the Beat Generation at its best, when poets and writers were openly critical of society and shouted its injustices with courage and comradery. Because, of course, those chemical managers knew they were killing their own people, and did nothing to stop it.

However, I still can't get my mind wrapped around how two parents like Ferruccio and Maria Brugnaro, who seem to have fought so long and hard against corporate greed and disrespect for human life, managed to produce a son like Luigi, who grew up to yank 49 books about tolerance out of Venice's school system, and wants to dredge up the deadly heavy metal waste from the petrochemical industry that lies on the bottom of the lagoon -- the same waste that killed his father's comrades -- to make way for the controversial cruise ship industry. Sometimes I wonder if Luigi Brugnaro, who made his fortune with a temp-worker company named "Umana Holding" ("Human Holding") really understands the dark forces with whom he has made friends.

Below there is a poem by Jack Hirschman about Ferruccio Brugnaro, and below that is a poem, translated into English, from Fist of Sun by Ferruccio Brugano.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Ferruccio Brugnaro
by Jack Hirschman

When he turned
to retrieve from his car
the coat you needed
for the chill on
our passeggiata,

Ferruccio Brugnaro
changed into a young man
hurrying along the street
with a stride that was
that of another
person altogether.

His arms dangling widely,
his steps rapid, windy,
almost adolescent.
We stood in that Chioggia street
aghast watching his form
from behind.

Front face, he is a man
of gentle strength and grace,
in his sixties, and has always
reminded me of my father's
older brother,

and there's a photo he sent
to his American publisher
for use in his poetry tour
in the States next month

that has the sharp, dark lines
of one who might be an actor
in silent movies.
The darkness under the eyes.
The chtonic touch from that time
when a house was
closer to the womb.

And one was genuinely
youth and antiquity
in the same breath.

And it was visible,
dramatic, poetic and alive.

by Ferruccio Brugnaro


     We've gotten hold of

            every corner of Venice today.

     Tall red banners, slogans

                against rip-offs and Death.

     Urgent songs of

               struggle and love now rise up

     from blood and soul.

     The stones and the waters have become

                     human, warm.

     Our heart

                runs madly

                      to liberation.

           Huge joy.

     Today life raises

                       the concrete future

     of men, of all mankind,

                   in its fist of sun.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Coffee in Venice - The Good Guys Unite!

Afghan Refugee Girl by Steve McCurry
(Venice, Italy) You already know award-winning photojournalist Steve McCurry because he took one of the most iconic images of all time, Afghan Refugee Girl back in 1984.

And if you know anything about coffee, you already know that family-run Lavazza is "Italy's Favorite Coffee," and invented the concept of blending different types of coffee from different geographical regions to create its unique products.

Francesca Lavazza, the Corporate Image Manager, is the great-granddaughter of the founder, Luigi Lavazza, who opened Lavazza's first shop in 1895 in Turin, 120 years ago, and she was here in Venice to present the new agreement between the city and her family's company -- her grandfather was Venetian.

Piero Rosa Salva and Francesca Lavazza
VELA is the Venice Municipal Council company responsible for marketing the City of Venice, and for the commercial development of its transport. VELA is the main organizer of the traditional Venetian events in town, such as the Carnival, the Regata Storica and the Festa del Redentore. It handles the season ticket campaign for La Fenice Opera House, the Malibran Theater, the box office for the Goldoni Theater, the Venice Biennale, Venezia Unica City Pass, all the main sporting events -- even the tickets for the vaporetto. The Chairman of VELA is Piero Rosa Salva, who is Venetian to his core.

Farmers Sift Coffee Cherries at Plantation by Steve McCurry, Brazil, 2010
The Foundation of the Civic Museums of Venice (Musei Civici, or MUVE) administers the eleven city museums, one of the most important complexes in Europe. By virtue of his office, Luigi Brugnaro, the controversial new mayor of Venice, is the Vice-President of the Board of Directors of MUVE. Only in office since June 15th, Brugnaro immediately made headlines when he yanked 49 books about tolerance from the city's pre-schools, sparking a Twitter war with Elton John and uniting 267 Italian authors who asked him to ban their books, too, in a gesture of solidarity. Brugnaro also cancelled the contracts of 18 city library employees, and declared that he would ban any gay pride parade in Venice.

© Gianni Berengo Gardin
Gianni Berengo Gardin, the renowned Italian photographer, was supposed to have a show about the cruise ships in the Doge's Palace, part of the MUVE museum complex, opening on September 19, 2015 entitled Monsters in Venice, "a powerful exhibition intended to make one think about these monsters that threaten Venice daily...", but Brugnaro, a strong supporter of the cruise ship industry, postponed it to coincide with an exhibit about his own plans for the lagoon. When asked if he would modify his exhibit, Berengo said: "Certainly not. I know even without the Ducal Palace, the exhibit will go on. I don't know where, but it will be a success."

Next, Walter Hartsarich, the respected President of MUVE, suddenly resigned after an impressive five years at the helm.

Luigi Brugnaro was on the list of speakers at the press conference on September 22, 2015 entitled LAVAZZA IN VENICE: A PARTNERSHIP WITH VELA AND MUVE and Presenting STEVE McCURRY, From These Hands - A Journey Along the Coffee Trail, but unfortunately could not attend because of another meeting. I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to hearing what he had to say, especially in the presence of Steve McCurry, another renowned photographer whose work captures the soul. I later learned that the mayor did attend the opening that evening, so it was nice to know that he did show his support.

A Young Man Carries a Sack of Coffee by Steve McCurry, Ethiopia, 2014
Steve McCurry and Francesca Lavazza have been working together for years on Tierra, Lavazza's first independent Corporate Social Responsibility project which focuses on helping small coffee farmers improve their conditions. Started in 2002, the Tierra project improves the living conditions and economic growth of coffee farming communities, building schools, homes, and infirmaries, and helping the farmers get the most of their their land and work. These are small farmers who actually touch every single coffee bean by hand, which are then blended together to create a special Tierra coffee, which you can buy and enjoy, and do your own bit for a sustainable future.

Francesca Lavazza is passionate about her family's coffee and glows when she talks about the Tierra project. They work with the Rainbow Alliance in a partnership that focuses on three fundamental issues: the quality of the end product, a concern for the living conditions of the people in coffee producing countries, and environmental impart. She said that Lavazza asked Steve McCurry to document the stories of their efforts because they liked his sensibility. They met eleven years ago over a cup of coffee. "That's the magical thing about coffee. It is a social drink that brings people together."

Photos from 12 different countries -- Brazil, Burma, Columbia, Ethiopia, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Peru, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Vietnam and Yemen -- have been gathered together in a book and an exhibition called, FROM THESE HANDS: A JOURNEY ALONG THE COFFEE TRAIL.

Cat Bauer and Steve McCurry
Steve McCurry said how rewarding it was to see the farmers actually learn, and that coffee is part of our everyday lives, but we don't think about where it comes from. "I was a young man when we started the project, and now I have no hair."

The exhibition of 62 of McCurry's powerful photographs was designed by the architect, Fabio Novembre, to whom McCurry gave full credit for the unique presentation. The photos are blown-up and back-lit in a winding labyrinth that immerses the viewer in the lives of the coffee farmers. The show takes place in the new space down at Aresnale Nord, TESA 113, which has been restored into a very cool exhibition venue.

Young Woman from the Suri tribe by Steve McCurry, Ethiopia, 2013
It was refreshing to meet a company like Lavazza, which cares so deeply about sustainable development, and puts such personal care into their product and the human beings who produce it. It is an honor that they have chosen to support Venice, Vela and the Civic Museums in a three-year agreement, and that the first collaboration is the prestigious Steve McCurry exhibition.

In the States, you can find the Tierra blend at Gelsons. If it's not there, just tell them you want it. In the Bay area and beyond, you can find it:

Corti Brothers
5810 Folsom St.
Sacramento 95819

Corral Market
2 Corral De Tierra Rd.
Salinas 93908

Genova Deli
1550 Trancas Rd.
Napa 94558

Deluxe Foods
783 Rio Del Mar
Aptos 95003

Lavazza is a 1.34 billion euro business, the world's seventh ranking coffee roaster and the retail market leader in Italy with a market share by value of over 47% -- which goes to show that you can care about the environment and still make a nice profit.

Steve McCurry Exhibition at Arsenale Nord - TESA 113
September 23 to November 8
ACTV vaporetto lines 4.1, 4.2, 5.1, 5.2 - Bacini Arsenale Nord stop
FREE ENTRANCE, daily from 10:00AM to 6:00PM

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog