Sunday, November 30, 2008

Intellectual Property Rights at the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace)

(Venice, Italy) Ten years ago, when I first arrived in Venice, I was fortunate enough to score an Access All Areas pass to the Doge's Palace. I had permission to roam unrestricted wherever I wanted for an entire week, so Palazzo Ducale is magical to me. I imagined myself straight back into the past, and wandered with the spirits through the great halls and chambers. I gazed upon Titian's fresco of St. Christopher and Veronese's Victory Against a Sinner, and trembled in front of the Council of Ten. I mounted the Golden Staircase, and danced under Palladio's ceiling in the Anti-Collegio. I stepped into Tiepolo's Neptune Offering Gifts to Venice, her seductive finger holding back the yearning of the Adriatic, and never quite stepped out again.

Neptune Offering Gifts to Venice by Tiepolo
In addition, the first press conference I ever attended was held in the Sala del Piovego, and I found myself in that very room a few nights ago for the Fifth Annual Venice Award for Intellectual Property Rights ceremony. As a writer, it is a topic close to my heart.

Alison Brimelow, the President of the European Patent Office was there, as was Paolo Baratta, who, among many other things (as you know if you've been reading this blog), is President of La Biennale. Kevin Cullen accepted the award given to the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) for their work in bringing together universities, research institutions, government agencies and innovative enterprises. In other words, they connect research to the market, and spin thought into gold.

Long, long ago in 1474, Venice herself passed the first written law to grant and protect patents. Paolo Baratta said they probably signed the law in the very room where we were seated, the Sala del Piovego. Although most of the Palazzo Ducale is now a museum, there are a few rooms that function in a contemporary way, and that room is one of them. Just think -- 534 years ago Intellectual Property rights were a topic of discussion here in town, and the Venetians were wise enough to understand that ideas and thoughts should be protected.

What is Intellectual Property? This is from Wikipedia:

"Intellectual property (IP) is a legal field that refers to creations of the mind such as musical, literary, and artistic works; inventions; and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce, including copyrights, trademarks, patents, and related rights. Under intellectual property law, the holder of one of these abstract properties has certain exclusive rights to the creative work, commercial symbol, or invention by which it is covered."

     It is amazing that this battle has been going for 500 years, probably much longer. I have spent most of my life in a creative environment, so it is difficult for me to understand how others fail to recognize the worth of original thought, and the tremendous time, energy and effort it takes to produce it. It is what I encourage in the books I write, and I have been fortunate enough in the past week or so to be surrounded by like-minded people. These days, Venice is teeming with discussions and conferences about how to be creative and productive, not stagnant and destructive; it is a very exciting time. There is a fascinating dynamic that erupts when you bring contemporary thinkers into ancient venues; you can almost feel the thoughts still floating in the air from centuries ago mingle with present-day brain waves. (That's Canaletto's version of Palazzo Ducale, though he is only about 300 years old:)

Here is the text from the ancient law:

19th March, 1474

There are in this city, and also there come temporarily by reason of its greatness and goodness, men from different places and most clever minds, capable of devising and inventing all manner of ingenious contrivances. And should it be provided, that the works and contrivances invented by them, others having seen them could not make them and take their honour; men of such kind would exert their minds, invent and make things which would be of no small utility and benefit to our State.

Therefore, decision will be passed that, by authority of this Council, each person who will make in this city any new and ingenious contrivance, not made heretofore in our dominion, as soon as it is reduced to perfection, so that it can be used and exercised, shall give notice of the same to the office of our Provisioners of Common. It being forbidden to any other in any territory and place of ours to make any other contrivance in the form and resemblance thereof, without the consent of the author up to ten years.

And, however, should anybody make it, the aforesaid author and inventor will have the liberty to cite him before any office of this city, by which office the aforesaid who shall infringe be forced to pay him the sum of one hundred ducates and the contrivance be immediately destroyed. Being then in liberty of our Government at his will to take and use in his need any of said contrivances and instruments, with this condition, however, that no others than the authors shall exercise them.

After the ceremony, I wandered out onto the Loggia and gazed at the imposing courtyard below... the bronze well-heads, the Giants' Staircase... and I think I glimpsed the Doge!

Ciao from Venice,

Monday, November 24, 2008

Architecture La Biennale Wrap-Up: Record Number of Visitors!

The La Biennale press office sent over this release (which I edited very slightly for American ears). To me, the most exciting news is the huge increase in attendance by students, and that Aaron Betsky has introduced young minds to new ideas. And, of course, special thanks must go to Paolo Baratta, the President of La Biennale, for making it all happen. If you remember, back during the film festival I said it was too early to judge Paolo Baratta. Well, after seeing what he has done with the other sectors, I will state very strongly that I think he is brilliant and gutsy, and I am happy he exists. Whether you agree with what La Biennale is doing or not, at least there is finally a breath of air in here, and discussions.

(Venice, Italy) November 24, 2008 – The 11th International Architecture Exhibition, Out There: Architecture Beyond Building, directed by Aaron Betsky, organised by La Biennale di Venezia, and presided over by Paolo Baratta, closed yesterday, Sunday, November 23, with a record number of visitors.

A total of 129,323 visitors came to the Exhibition, divided between the venues of the Giardini and the Arsenale. During the ten weeks that it has been open, the 11th Exhibition has consistently been ranked at the top of the most visited Italian exhibitions in 2008. With a daily average of 1,827 visitors and record numbers of 8,840 people during the weekends, the total is higher than the last edition in 2006 (127,298).

The total number of students that visited the exhibition, either in groups or individually, was 61,436.

Officially inaugurated on September 13th by Sen. Sandro Bondi, the Minister for Cultural Affairs, the 11th Exhibition was also visited by Giorgio Napolitano, the President of the Italian Republic.

The discussion and criticisms about the original theme of the exhibition – “architecture beyond building” – and the unusual layout of the show by Aaron Betsky, stimulated a wide-ranging debate and high attendance for an architecture exhibition, especially in the current economic situation, which has seen a drop in tourist numbers.

The importance attained by the Architecture Biennale, which has enjoyed unmatched media coverage, and which was covered by all the Italian TV news channels on the day of its opening, has been confirmed by leading international publications:

· “The 11th Architecture Biennale of Venice, the most important event in the sector” (Grégoire Allix, Le Monde, 16.09.2008).
· “The Venice Biennale, the world’s most important architecture festival” (Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times, 16.09.2008).
· “The Venice Architecture Biennale remains the most anticipated and ambitious design show in the world” (Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times, 17.09.2008).
· “Enormous numbers of visitors, journalists arriving in crowds and an impressive press coverage: the 11th Architecture Biennale of Venice no longer has any reason to envy its big sister, the Biennale d’Arte” (Lorette Coen, Le Temps, 20.09.2008).
· “A fundamental appointment to learn of the latest trends” (Gerhard Matzig, Suddeutsche Zeitung, 11.11.2008).

The exhibition saw the presence of 2,360 journalists during the 71 days it was open to the public(1,294 non-Italian and 1,066 Italian; in 2006, a total of 1962 journalists visited). There were 85 television channels accredited during the entire exhibition (59 non-Italian and 26 Italian) and 183 television reporters visited the exhibition (105 non-Italian and 78 Italian). Press coverage has been ample and so far totals 920 articles, compared to 793 in the past edition of 2006.

The four-day vernissage, held from September 10th through 14th, was attended by 25,000 international guests (trade operators, curators, exhibitors, national representatives and the press), an increase of 19% from 2006. The number of journalists present at this year's vernissage was 1,570: 709 Italian and 861 non-Italian, up from 1,319 in 2006.

Another figure that has changed substantially for the Architecture sector concerns the number of national participations and collateral events: 56 national participations, one Special Event by the Milan City Authorities and 24 Collateral Events, double that of preceding editions.

The educational activities have also concluded successfully, with 16,794 visitors making use of them, an increase of 18% from 2006 (14,236). A particularly noteworthy figure is the 45% increase in the participation in educational initiatives by university students, and a 25% increase on the part of second-degree secondary schools. There have been 254 workshop activities (+49% from 2006) involving 5,037 enthusiasts, from the very young to adults. Of the 840 groups who have made use of these educational activities, 686 come from the world of research and teaching. These figures demonstrate that the Architecture Biennale has been chosen as a venue for learning and discovering the latest trends at all stages of the educational process, from primary school to university.

The 11th Exhibition has paid particular attention to the young public, becoming a creative workshop open to research. Its experimental character has been confirmed by the numerous inscriptions to the on-line Everyville 2008 competition entitled, Communities beyond Place, Civic consciousness beyond Architecture, aimed at university students from around the world: 245 groups for a total of 782 students from 48 countries took part in the competition. The works of the leading 10 and of the 40 honorable mentions were exhibited at the Artiglierie dell’Arsenale while the rest of the projects to have been received can be seen on the website:

Two publications, both by Marsilio, have accompanied visitors on their exploration of the Exhibition, Out There: Architecture Beyond Building: a catalogue divided into five volumes contained within a PVC case, and a DVD entitled The Making of the Biennale by Aaron Betsky.

The 11th Exhibition was held with the support of ACI-Automobile Club d'Italia, Domus, Fantoni, Foscarini, Nivea, Autodesk, Casamania, Matteograssi, Bisazza, Enel, Ferrovie dello Stato, Flex, Link, Mediacontech and Micromegas. And, for Everyville 2008, with the support of Telecom Italia, MACE and Newitalianblood. We wish to thank Actv for the shuttle services.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

BBCC Expo, Middle East Peace Orchestra, L'ultimo Pulcinella

(Venice, Italy) I was over at the press conference for the BBCC Expo the other day, which will be held next week at the Verona Fairgrounds on November 27th through 29. The BBCC Expo develops tourism based on cultural heritage, and is supported by governments, foundations and institutions from a variety of nations: Germany, Czech Republic, Holland, Slovenia, Slovak Republic, Poland, Hungary, France, Denmark, Norway, Spain, United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and Russia. (The countries are in that order on the press release -- I hope I didn't forget anyone:) There will be three days of conferences and information exchange, a prestigious showcase of international products. If the BBCC Expo has any impact on elevating the level of tourism here in Venice, well, I am all for that.

The press conference was in Ca' Corner, which is the headquarters of the Province -- in fact, Davide Zoggia, the President of the Province was one of the speakers. The BBCC Expo is a joint venture between Venice and Verona. The main sponsor is the Casinò di Venezia. The entrance is free, so if you are in the area and interested in international tourism, that is the place to be. For more information (it's in Italian, so use your Google Translator), go here:

Next, Jack Kessler, who discovered Venetian Cat - Venice Blog after someone forwarded him my blog on Jewish Spiritual Music (SEE: sent over a press release. I know there are some of you who read Venetian Cat up there in Austria and Germany. It's too late for the Austrian concert, but you can still catch the show in Munich on Saturday at:

Samstag, 22.11, 20 Uhr, Carl-Orff-Saal, Gasteig
Middle East Peace Orchestra, USA
A Concert for Peace
The power of art to change the world:

The MIDDLE EAST PEACE ORCHESTRA features Arab and Jewish musicians in concert together to make a powerful statement for peace thru shared music. No speeches--the music is the message! This project exemplifies the potential for creativity between two groups both musically and beyond, and is an important statement in multi-cultural tolerance. This is the only performance group that, in addition to virtuoso instrumentalists capable of playing the music of both traditions, has both Hebrew and Arabic vocal specialists: Hazzan Jack Kessler, one of the premier masters of Jewish spiritual song, and the great Lebanese singer, composer and 'oud master Maurice Chedid.

Also known in North America as ATZILUT:CONCERTS FOR PEACE. the group has an extensive performance history, including the United Nations, the Algarve International Festival, Munich Gasteig, the Royal Opera Theatre of Copenhagen, and a recent tour of France in summer 08.
For more info (and that site is in German, so use your Google Translator:), click:

Finally, a couple of nights ago I saw a great film called L'ultimo Pulcinella as part of La Biennale Laboratorio Internazionale del Teatro, or the Theatre segment of La Biennale. The theme this year is Mediterraneo, and there are offerings from all sorts of Mediterranean countries. This film was directed by Maurizio Scaparro, who also happens to be the director of the Theatre Section itself (that is Maurizio Scaparro there on the right at the Rome Film Festival, where L'ultimo Pulcinella premiered). The movie was brilliant. Both Maurizio Scaparro, and the star, Massimo Ranieri (over there on the left), who delivered a perfect performance, spoke before the film, which was originally set to screen at the Malibran Theatre, but in typical Venetian fashion, ended up being shown at the Giorgione Theatre.

I spoke, briefly, with Maurizio Scaparro today at yet another press conference; hopefully I will have some details to share with you about the United States screenings in the near future. It really deserves its own blog, it was that good -- especially since I watched it in Italian and French with Italian subtitles!

The Pulcinella character shows up in many cultures. In America and the UK, we know Pulcinella as "Punch" of Punch & Judy, so the title of the film would translate as "The Last Punch," or "The Final Punch," which is sort of interesting if you think about it.

This is from the program:

"Pulcinella in the banlieue. What do the suburbs of Paris, theatres of social marginalization and violence, have in common with this character from the Neapolitan commedia della'arte? The suburbs of the world talk to one another. They share problems of integration, employment, youth. The theatre can become a metaphor for social redemption."

I can tell you from personal experience that is true. I used to be a Brownie leader for a group of troubled little girls, aged six and seven-years-old. I wrote a play for them, and it was something magical to see. One shy, beautiful little Hispanic girl, whose home was gangland Los Angeles, asked me if she could play the lead -- it really transformed her. It's strange to think that the girls would be in their 20s by now... The Arts -- music, theatre, art, dance, architecture, film -- are a great way to channel energy that can become destructive into something constructive. I have seen many a troubled youth turned around by Art.

Ciao from Venice,