Saturday, November 21, 2009

La Biennale, the Entity

Kazuyo Sejima
(Venice, Italy) The Art Sector of La Biennale concludes tomorrow, which gives me the opportunity to write about La Biennale, the Entity. 

That photo is of Kazuyo Sejima, the first female Director of the Architecture Sector, who will curate the 12th International Architecture Exhibition on August 29 to November 21, 2010. Born in Ibaraki, Japan in 1956, Kazuyo Sejima is a leading exponent of contemporary architecture.

A quick recap: La Biennale is divided into six different sectors: Art, Architecture, Cinema, Dance, Music and Theatre. The only thing that is missing, in my view, is Literature, and then we would have a perfect seven:) I remember the first year of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. No one was sure if the public would attend a book festival, but they came in masses, standing in line for hours to catch certain events. 

The Art and Architecture Sectors of La Biennale alternate every year. This year we had Art -- from which, in all honesty, we do need an entire year to recover -- so, in 2010, we will have Architecture. I never used to attend Architecture, but after last year, I thought the architects had surpassed the artists in their offerings -- in fact, I felt the architects were becoming the artists -- so I am looking forward to 2010. 

Back in March, the theme of the Dance Sector this year was Degree Zero; that is where we started: at zero with Director Ismael Ivo. It has been like lifting off a spaceship, but I think we are finally off into outer space. One of my favorite sayings is: If the foundation is rotten, the structure will collapse. If the foundation is solid, the structure can reach to the heavens. Ismael Ivo is a real human being, and the core he is creating has a jewel at its center. Degree Zeros' focus is on the creation of a national center dedicated to contemporary dance training. So, all you dancers, get ready to move to Venice!

During the film festival, on September 9th, I had the great opportunity to attend the inaugural conference at La Biennale's newly restored headquarters, Ca' Giustinian, a magnificient palazzo on the Grand Canal. The Council of Europe re-christened the ancient rooms of the palace with their conference on domestic violence against women. This is from Wikipedia:

The Council of Europe (French: Conseil de l'Europe) is the oldest international organisation working towards European integration, having been founded in 1949. It has a particular emphasis on legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation. It has 47 member states with some 800 million citizens.

The most famous conventional bodies of the Council of Europe are the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights, and the European Pharmacopoeia Commission, which sets the quality standards for pharmaceutical products in Europe. The Council of Europe's work has resulted in standards, charters and conventions to facilitate cooperation between European countries and further integration.

To read the complete article, please click here: Council of Europe

After the conference, we had cocktails and hors d'œuvre on the terrace, which has an stupendous view of the Grand Canal and the lagoon, the triangle of the Dogana far below. I even had a chance to speak with Google Folks, who were there because they were sponsoring a Domestic Violence Awareness Contest in October. Unfortunately, due to my own domestic distractions, I did not announce it in time, but you can still see the results here: I Beat You I told the Google Folks that I would not exist if it were not for Google, and that I gave them my deepest appreciation. Yay, Google! Ca' Giustinian is open to the public; you can even have lunch on the ground floor terrace between the Bauer Palazzo and the Monaco.

At the final press conference of the film festival, the President, Paolo Baratta said that the Mostra del Cinema was part of a huge stimulation plan for the island of Lido itself, and that the film festival needed to prove it was a very vibrant organization in order to exist. It is difficult for me to imagine that someone could seriously ask the question: What use are international festivals? but, after everything I've experienced lately, I am well aware that this point of view exists.

Paolo Baratta said to look at the Venice Film Festival in terms of a publishing company, and that is a concept I can understand very well. Every publishing house is different -- and that is an important word: house. A publisher feels like a house; at some places you feel warm and at home, and at others you can't wait to leave. Also, in the world of publishing, things take Time. If I finish writing a book tomorrow, you will not read it until some time in the future -- not like a blog:)

Paolo Baratta said that the Venice film festival hopes to bring films up to the surface which would otherwise sink. Publishers are remembered for this. Great publishers never look at the fashion of the time, but look at the long view. A good publishing house brings up new talent. We must build our selections so they are recognizable as a selection of the Venice Film Festival.

When he said those words, I got goosebumps. That kind of thinking is why I respect Paolo Baratta so much, and the quality of films that the Director, Marco Mueller (who is very clever) uncovers always excite me.

The Music Sector, directed by Luca Francesconi, concluded on October 3rd, with an amazing night down at the Arsenale inside Teatro alle Tese. There were stages scattered all over the inside, high on ladders and down on the ground, with wild lighting and video projection. It went on for hours, and you could wander in and out, drinking excellent red wine from the Loredan Gasparini winery -- they even gave us food! The highlight, for me, was when 94-year-old David Honeyboy Edwards played the blues. I had to run backstage like a groupie and kiss him! I could not resist! From Wikipedia:

David "Honeyboy" Edwards (born June 28, 1915, Shaw, Mississippi, United States[1]) is a Grammy Award-winning Delta blues guitarist and singer from the American South. As of October 2009, Honeyboy Edwards, at age 94, and his close friend, Pinetop Perkins (age 96) are the oldest and arguably, the last Delta blues players still touring the United States remaining from the last century. 

To read the entire article, click here: HONEYBOY

Finally, on November 4, 5 and 6, the admirable Maurizio Scapparo, Director of the Theatre Sector, closed the theme of Mediterraneo - 40 with Polvere di Baghdad, a production inspired by 1001 Nights, and starring another one of the good guys, Massimo Ranieri.

La Biennale feels like a warm house filled with the most fascinating people on the planet. It is a place to create and experiment, where it is okay to do things differently than the norm, yet still have commercial appeal. There are some hits and some misses, some great successes and some fantastic failures. But there is freedom, and there is creativity, and there is fun and happiness and joy!

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer

Sunday, November 8, 2009

LANDMARK RULING! Italy Convicts 23 Americans for C.I.A. Renditions

Photo; Luca Bruno/Associated Press European Pressphoto Agency

This is from the New York Times article by RACHEL DONADIO, published November 4, 2009:

MILAN — In a landmark ruling, an Italian judge on Wednesday convicted a base chief for the Central Intelligence Agency and 22 other Americans, almost all C.I.A. operatives, of kidnapping a Muslim cleric from the streets of Milan in 2003.
The case was a huge symbolic victory for Italian prosecutors, who drew the first convictions involving the American practice of rendition, in which terrorism suspects are captured in one country and taken for questioning in another, often one more open to coercive interrogation techniques....
...Ian C. Kelly, a State Department spokesman, said the United States was “disappointed” by the verdicts in Milan....

To read the entire article, please click here:

Although I am grateful that the major press has finally started paying attention to what is going on over here, I see that even the New York Times has edited themselves. They changed the quote of Armando Spataro, the deputy public prosecutor in Milan. I am POSITIVE they changed the quote, because I quoted it myself when I commented on Michael Moore's website (found at the bottom of the page):
Here is what was originally written:

Armando Spataro, the deputy public prosecutor in Milan, said in his closing argument Wednesday that it was "unthinkable" that the U.S. policy of extraordinary rendition should trump Italian law, which forbids kidnapping.

"Here, Italian law rules, not American law or any other law," he said.

Here is how it reads today:

Armando Spataro, the counterterrorism prosecutor who brought the case, said he was considering asking the Italian government for an international arrest warrant for the fugitive Americans.

Mr. Spataro said he was pleased with what he called “very courageous” verdicts. He said it was a victory that “we brought the trial to an end, and the facts were shown to be what they were.”


And... more amazing news. It seems that the United States Consulate in Milan is crawling with CIA agents posing as -- you guessed it -- diplomats! Paging Mr. William Gill, Mr. William Gill, Mr. William Gill, come in Mr. William Gill...

On June 8, 2009, I called the cell phone of A. Daniel Weygandt, the US Consul in Milan and got a voice recording. I hung up, and called the local Venice Consul, Megan Jones. A voice recording said she was on vacation and to call the US Consul in Milan, so I called the main number, 02-29-0351. That was when I first discovered that Dan Weygandt was no longer the consul, but that Carol Z. Perez was. I left my name and number with a woman named Angela, who said the Consul would call me back. About 1:55pm, my cell phone rang. A woman's voice asked who I was, implying that she had seen my number and was returning the call. I said, "I'm sorry?" and she hung up without another word.

About a half hour later, William R. Gill called me from the US Consul office in Milano. He later sent me an email confirming the call. The strange thing is the way he signed his name:

William R. Gill
American Consul
U. S. Consulate General Milan

To read the entire letter, click over to the Cat Bauer - Eviction Documents:

William R. Gill - June 8th Letter to Catherine Bauuer

Michael Moore has got more of the CIA the story from ABC news over on his site:

Convicted CIA Spy Says "We Broke the Law"

By Matthew Cole, Avni Patel, and Brian Ross

..."And we are paying for the mistakes right now, whoever authorized and approved this," said former CIA officer Sabrina deSousa in an interview to be broadcast tonight on ABC's World News with Charles Gibson.

DeSousa says the U.S. "abandoned and betrayed" her and the others who were put on trial for the kidnapping. She was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison....

...Italian prosecutors said deSousa was a CIA officer who helped organized the kidnapping using her diplomat cover at the U.S. Consulate in Milan. Several former U.S. intelligence officials confirm to ABC News deSousa's role in the operation...
Are you reading this blog, MEGAN JONES, the local US Consul here in Venice? Remember when you told the police here in Venice that if I didn't leave the police station while I was attempting to make a perfectly valid denuncia that they were to force me into the hospital? Sue me for slander and libel if that is not true. You KNOW they are going to abandon you, too.

Ciao from Venice,

Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog