Sunday, May 30, 2010

Oxygen - Finally a Breath of Air!

(Venice, Italy) Capturing Emotions is the title of La Biennale's 7th International Contemporary Dance Festival. After the world premier of Oxygen on Wednesday night, May 26th, I told Ismael Ivo, who conceived and choreographed the work (in addition to his other gig as the Director of La Biennale Dance:) that I was happy to be on Planet Earth at the same place and time as he is. Oxygen was a masterpiece, a long-awaited chance to breathe.

As the battle between the Dark and the Light seems to grow more intense each day, it was refreshing to see ancient truths brought to life through the human body -- a kind of physical manifestation of Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man (which, by the way, is here in Venice inside the Accademia Gallery). I was transported back in Time to a point about 500 years ago, when Venice teemed with the most enlightened individuals in the world. 

Staged in Teatro alle Tese, it is always well worth the trip to Arsenale just to experience the ancient venue, where the Venetians built their renowned ships, transformed into an enchanted theatre. Ismael choreographed the piece for twenty-two young dancers from the Arsenale dance company, who went through an intensive learning process. In fact, if you are a young dancer, auditions for "Body in Progress 2011" will be held in Vienna and Venice. If accepted, THERE IS NO TUITION FEE.

Arsenale della Danza invites contemporary dancers into an intense physical learning-by-doing process of research and exchange. Four months (Feb. to June 2011) in Venice of daily classes with master teachers in a multifunctional space which fosters the dialogue with other artistic disciplines. Auditions in Vienna c/o ImPulsTanz on 7-8 August 2010 (deadline: 30 July) and in Venice at Teatro Piccolo Arsenale, on 23-24 October 2010 (deadline: 9 October). 
Click here to read more:

Oyxgen was created in collaboration with the outstanding Orchestra of Padua and the Veneto, who played Arvo Pärt's haunting and beautiful Fratres for strings and percussion, and his Festina Lente for orchestra and strings, followed by John Adams' Shaker Loops for orchestra and strings. The performance began with a single dancer on a raised platform outside the theatre. As she aligned her palm with the setting sun, I knew we were in for a magical evening... and I was right! 

The next place I found some air was over at the Giorgio Cini Foundation for the end of the conference Corpo e Anima della Scrittura tra Oriente e Occidente, or Body & Spirit in Writing in the East and the West -- unfortunately, I only had time to experience part of the last day. Italian architect and designer, Italo Lupi and Japanese graphic designer, Shin Matsunaga (that is his love hand there on the left), primed us with insider knowledge about the use of symbols in today's contemporary world -- which I found interesting because, if you are reading the Venetian Cat - Venice Blog sidebar, you will know that I had just decided to create my own symbol! I am still working on it, but right now it looks like sun symbol with the "C" inside you see there on the right. I want to personalize it more, and make the outer circle gold and the inner dot blue and the "C" red, but I haven't figured out yet how to do it yet.

Next, I was... shocked, astonished... stunned... flooded with emotion when Sonu Shamdasini began to speak about Carl Jung's Liber Novus. First, Shamdasini expressed his gratitude that we were even able to meet at all at the Cini Foundation, considering the state of the world today. (Even access to the Cini Foundation has become a little bit of an adventure since the vaporetto stop no longer really exists. Well, it exists exactly where it always has -- in typical Venetian fashion, it is hidden in plain sight -- you just can't see it very well unless you know what you are looking for. But if you can manage to find your way into the Cini, you will be happy to find many other enlightened beings waiting there for you:) If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know how deeply grateful I am that such a place still functions here in Venice. You will also know that Carl Jung is one of my greatest heroes. Because I have been so isolated, I had no idea that this book had recently been published, and that it is the color red -- just like the book I have been keeping -- is most astonishing of all. 

From Wikipedia:

Until 2001, Jung's heirs refused to permit publication of the book and did not allow scholars access to it.[10] Until September 2009, only about two dozen people had seen it.[11] Historian Sonu Shamdasani, an employee of the Jung heirs and their advisor in the handling of unpublished Jung material, and Stephen Martin, a Jungian analyst, created the Philemon Foundation in order to facilitate publication of Jung's works.

Click here to read the entire article:

For those of you in Los Angeles, if you hurry, you can actually see The Red Book exhibit at the Hammer Museum through June 6, 2010. I must express my profound gratitude for the honor and privilege of hearing Sonu Shamdasani speak.

Another outstanding speaker was Luigi Serafini, author of La Scrittura del Codex Seraphinianus, who spoke with a twinkle in his eye. He was not listed on the original schedule, so it was a pleasant surprise. By that time, the interpreters had vanished, along with all their equipment, so I appreciated that he spoke in English since listening to long lectures in Italian can get tiring. 

From Wikipedia:

Luigi Serafini (born in Rome, 4 August 1949) is an Italian artist, architect and designer. He is best known for creating the Codex Seraphinianus, an illustrated encyclopedia of imaginary things in a constructed language. This work was published in 1981 by Franco Maria Ricci, out of Milan, and of interest and inspiration to others.

...The Codex Seraphinianus was originally released as in a limited edition of 5000 artfully-bound copies in 1981. It has been republished on four occasions, first in a 1983 English language edition; then in English, Spanish, and French editions in the 1990s, each again limited to 5000 copies; and finally in a more widely printed 2006 edition.

The cover ofPulcinellopedia (piccola)
Many other people have been inspired by the work. Roland Barthes was interested in the Codex. In 1984Italo Calvino wrote an essay on it, which can be found in Collezione di sabbia (Sand Collection) byMondadori. The French choreographer Philippe Decouflé was inspired by it. Douglas Hofstadter wrote at some length about it.
Serafini does not comment on whether the language in the text is intelligible, though it uses a carefully-defined set of characters and numerals throughout.

Click here to read the entire article:

Now I see he is another Leo, which explains why he felt like a comrade:) I also am very pleased that Luigi personally wrote my name, "Catherine Ann Bauer," in his secret code for me!

We ended the conference with tattoo artists and graffiti writers, and I was fascinated to learn they have an entirely different reason for their creations than Americans seem to have. To me, it seemed more tribal, more ancient. As if all the Western madness that is being imposed upon the culture is resulting in them expressing themselves in a collective consciousness kind of way. For me, Norman Mailer expressed this the best:

“Slum populations chilled on one side by the bleakness of modern design, and brain-cooked on the other by comic strips and TV ads with zooming letters, even brain-cooked by politicians whose ego is a virtue – I am here to help my nation – brained by the big beautiful numbers on the yard markers on football fields, by the whip of the capital letters in the names of products, and gut-picked by the sound of rock and roll screaming up into the voodoo of the firmament with the shriek of the performer's insides coiling like neon letters in the blue satanic light, yes, all the excrescence of the highways and the fluorescent wonderlands of every Las Vegas sign frying through the Iowa and New Jersey night, all the stomach-tightening nitty-gritty of trying to learn how to spell was in the writing, every assault on the psyche as the trains came slamming in.” -Norman Mailer

During the lunch break I wandered back to the Teatro Verde, "a 1,600 seat open air theater nestled among cypress trees and boasting a splendid view of the lagoon." I am quoting myself from a piece I wrote back in 2003 for the Italy Daily section of the International Herald Tribune. I also wrote that it "presents a host of international productions, often in conjunction with the Venice Biennale." Well, it does not do that any more. Right now, it is flooded with a green slime, and the green shrubbery is wild and overgrown, highlighted by wild red poppies. After hearing the last lecture, to me, I'd let the street artists get their hands on it and bring it back to life. 

From the Cini Foundation, I dashed home and then to the Malibran Theatre for more of Capturing Emotions, to catch Le Sacre du Printemps by Igor Stravinsky (who is buried here in Venice) and Vaslav Nijinsky, performed by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal (Québec), directed by the distinguished Gradimir Pankov from Macedonia, a rather violent encounter between males and females.

The next piece, Bella Figura of 1995, choreographed by Jiří Kylián, who received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at La Biennale di Venezia in 2008, left me in awe. It was perfect. The dancers moved as if their bodies were liquid, individual atoms of the same entity. The music fit perfectly, by Lukas Foss, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Alessandro Marcello, Antonio Vivaldi and Giuseppe Torelli. Word around town is that it was a work of genius; everyone I spoke to had the same reaction I did -- as if we had witnessed something... heavenly.

When it came to the last piece, Six Dances of 1986, I will use Kylián's own words:

"Two centuries separate us from the time Mozart wrote the German dances. A historic period transformed by war, revolution and all sorts of social change. With these in mind, it is impossible to create any dance number simply reflecting the humour and musical brilliance of the composer. On the contrary, I have created six non-sense pictures; little pictures examining the tormented world of today, which most of us bear within our soul."

It did make us laugh, however, in a black-humor kind of way -- which brings us to my motto: "It is the Divine Comedy not the Divine Tragedy!" Let's stay in the right key, folks!

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Venezia Segreta - Secret Venice

SSShhhh! Venezia Segreta holds the key to a hidden, secret Venice known only to a few. Let them guide you through the labyrinth of this ancient, magical city created centuries ago by master builders, a jewel in the center of a lagoon. A city of whispers... a city of romance... a city of fantasies and dreams... Venezia Segreta will help make your dreams come true.

With the most beautiful town in the world as your stage, Venezia Segreta will write a script designed to fit your individual wishes. From business meetings and conventions, to marriage proposals, weddings and anniversaries -- and Carnival, of course -- they offer a unique, personalized service tailored especially for you.

Accommodations - The Setting

A personal space designed for your individual character is where the story begins. Quaint bed and breakfasts, five-star luxury hotels, ancient locandas, elegant boutiques, private apartments and more, the unique accommodations hidden in Venice are unlike anywhere else in the world. Venezia Segreta will find the perfect lodgings to match your personality, tastes and budget.

Meetings and Conventions - A Unique Scenario

For centuries, Venice has been a hub of power. In the past, competition between rich, powerful families created beautiful palazzi and places of business, each trying to outdo each other with grandeur and design.

Today, it is still possible to enjoy the splendour of their ancient ambitions. Venezia Segreta will find a distinct location best suited to your most exacting requirements, and transform your business event into a unique theatrical production. While you get down to business, Venezia Segreta will handle the details, and organize the catering for relaxing coffee breaks, scrumptious lunches and divine dinners. They will provide the necessary technical and multimedia equipment, as well as arrange the logistics of airport and in-town transportation.

Venezia Segreta organizes seminars, conferences, congresses and business meetings. Their complete, professional service combines efficiency and planning down to the smallest detail. With majestic Venice as the backdrop, your event will have a special flair, making it an unforgettable experience.

The Carnival - A Classic Scenario

Plan your story around the most magical event on the Venetian calendar: Carnival, which takes place in the days leading up to and culminating on Shrove Tuesday (or Mardi Gras). 

Have you ever fantasized about being an elegant Count or Countess, a powerful Emperor, a heart-broken clown, or even a sexy servant? During the Venetian Carnival, you have the freedom to indulge the hidden mazes of your mind. The wearing of a mask puts everyone on the same level: rich and poor, nobleman and citizen, beautiful and ordinary, old and young. Venezia Segreta offers a full program of events where you can act out your most fanciful dreams. 

If you want to experience Carnival but cannot make the date, Venezia Segreta will wave their magic wand and whisk you away to your own personal Carnival, at a time and date suitable to your schedule. Venezia Segreta can create Carnival when you dictate, any time of the year you choose, complete with costumes, masks and balls. Any time can be Carnival time!

Please visit Venezia Segreta to see photographs and programs of past Carnivals

Weddings, Marriage Proposals and Anniversaries - Scenarios of Romance and Seduction

Venice first married Neptune, the god of the Sea, more than one thousand years ago, and repeats the ceremony up to the present day during the Festa della Sensa, celebrated every year on Ascension Day. Venice is a bride with centuries of experience, ready to coddle and nurture you during one of the most important occasions of your life. Venezia Segreta guarantees a joyous, stylish event, whether you wish a traditional, romantic experience, or something more avant-garde.

Venezia Segreta will supply and organize:
*An enchanted setting
*Romantic accommodation
*Catering - Venezia Segreta offers a wide range of menus sure to suit the most discerning palate, from traditional Italian and Venetian regional dishes, to exotic cuisine, to choice finger food and hors d'œuvres.
*Floral decorations and bouquets, harmonized to complement your event
*Top quality musical entertainment
*Special Wedding Gondola

A proposal of marriage is one of the most important decisions a man must make. Dinner by candlelight... champagne and chocolate... an evening gondola ride... Venezia Segreta will provide the ultimate romantic setting so that your future bride will be sure to answer, "Yes!"

After many years together, sometimes a sprinkling of fairy dust is what a couple needs to put the magic back in their lives. A personal massage... exotic food... wine blessed by Dionysus himself... Let Venezia Segreta make your wildest fantasies come true in the most mysterious and sensual city in the world.

Special Occasions and Unique Events

Whether it's fireworks and a private boat for the Festa del Redentore, or a Grand Canal view for the Regatta Storica, Venezia Segreta can plan your event around the unique holidays that only Venice can share. New Years Eve or Christmas, Easter or Passover, Venice celebrates her holidays like no other city on earth. La Biennale's program runs throughout the year, offering contemporary art, dance, architecture, music and theatre events, in addition to the world famous Venice Film Festival.

Venezia Segreta Organises...

Secret gardens... palazzo concerts... photography tours... Venezia Segreta unveils a new, secret Venice, offering alternative guided tours which peak into the hidden corners and whimsical delights of this most visited, yet still mysterious city. Follow in the footsteps of Casanova, circle Venice by helicopter and see the lagoon city through the eyes of a seagull, savour top vintages at wine tastings, and master the secrets of Italian cuisine with cookery courses. With the guidance of Venezia Segreta, you will be sure to uncover your own secret Venice, known only to you.

Venezia Segreta recommends: 

*Private Carnival ball any time of year, suitable to your schedule
*Historic and classic Venetian cuisine
*Secret Venice in a private gondola
*Gliding down the Brenta River in the“Burchiello” and a visit to Villa Palladiano
*Supper on hidden island in the Venetian lagoon
*Visiting Basilica di San Marco at night
*Private visit of Venice’s museums
*Private visit to a classic Murano glass factory
*Wine tastings

For enquiries or questions, please contact:

Venezia Segreta

Go to Venezia Segreta website

Photo credits:
Pomellato: Tabou Ring

Fairy silhouette:
Venetian garden -

  • 20th Century Fox - Rocket Science Laboratories (United States)
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  • Prague Television (Hungary)
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  • Siemens (Italy - Germany))
  • UBS (Switzerland)
  • Wines Plus (United Kingdom)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

You Might Invade Venice, But You Can't Conquer Her

(Venice, Italy) Back when I was a regular contributor to the International Herald Tribune's Italian supplement, Italy Daily, I used to write a column called, "By the Way," which featured art exhibits and other goings-on around town. I decided to start something similar here on Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog, which you will find over there in the column on the right under the red rose. I've also added a couple of other new features: "About Town" and "HEAR YE! HEAR YE!," so be sure to check back often, even if the main blog post doesn't change -- a situation I hope to soon remedy with a creative solution... stay tuned!

In June, 2003, I wrote an article entitled, CAPUCHIN INGENUITY AND BOOKS, which I would like to share with you, slightly edited.

I found that image of Herbario Nuovo by Castore Durante on Wikipedia, which says it is the 1585 edition, published in Rome. I am no expert, but to me, I think that is a Venetian edition published in 1684. Here is the link for anyone who wants to check for themselves:

by Cat Bauer
originally published June 6, 2003
Italy Weekly

After invading Venice in 1797, Napoleon paid a visit to the Capuchin Order on Giudecca to try to discover what riches the friars had stashed in their monastery. When he spotted just a few recently published books on the shelves and not much more, he declared the monastery only fit to house horses. Transporting livestock across the Giudecca Canal was another matter, so he abandoned the idea, leaving the Capuchin friars alone to practice the simple lifestyle for which they were known.

Little did he realize that if he had searched more carefully, he would have found a treasure trove of ancient and rare books -- the friars had piled all the valuable books into bags made of horsehair and carried them out back to the pens where the pigs lived. Thanks to their ingenuity, today there are about 8,000 volumes in the Capuchin's ancient collection, including books that date back to the 1500s.

An antique wooden bookshelf lines the locked room on the second floor where the rare books are stored. Connoisseurs of botanical art will appreciate the exceptional colors of the drawings in Sertum Botanicum collection de plances, published in French in Brussels in 1831 (I just checked, and a similar edition sold at Christies for $7,961 back on November 29, 1995), or the descriptions of herbs and medicinal plants contained in Herbario novo di Castore Durante, published in Venice in 1617.

Long after Napoleon invaded Venice, there were still many wealthy and noble families living in the city who continued to donate their collections to the monastery, so topics such as ancient history, science, and Greek and Latin classics are also well-represented. Due to their sojourn in the pigsty two hundred years ago, many volumes fell victim to pest and worm infestation, with damage not only to the bindings, but also to the valuable pages inside. A thorough restoration was completed in 2003.

Recent funding from the European Union has also allowed the monastery to catalogue the library. In addition to the ancient collection, the library contains more than 30,000 volumes of contemporary manuscripts, which grows by about 2,000 books each year. Although primarily focused on theological writings, the collection also includes books about history, law, philosophy and literature.

Libraries of the Veneto
Comune of Venice
Library of the Capuchin Friars at Redentore
Giudecca 194

Speaking of stuff that Napoleon looted, a few months back there was an article in ANSA pleading Carla Bruni, the wife of Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France, to try to get Veronese's Wedding at Cana out of the Louvre and back to the Palladian refectory at the Cini Foundation, where it belongs -- Veronese painted it SPECIFICALLY for that space, and right now all we've got is a huge photocopy.

(ANSA) - Venice, January 7 - A Venice heritage association is appealing to French First Lady Carla Bruni to persuade the Louvre to return the most famous painting looted by Napoleon from the lagoon city.

The Progetto Nordest (PNE) is the latest in a string of local bodies to ask France to restore Paolo Veronese's Wedding at Cana to a Palladian refectory on a lagoon island where it hung from 1563 until the French emperor sacked Venice in 1797.

"I feel I can appeal to your sensitivity to raise the Veronese issue with French public opinion once more," PNE culture chief Ettore Beggiato wrote to the Italian wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Beggiato said that "thanks to (Bruni's) authoritativeness" the Mannerist masterpiece "may find its way back to its natural home on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore".

He recalled that Bruni, who is also a singer and arts patron, had come out in the past in favour of returning the giant canvas, one of the prize pieces in the Louvre's late-Renaissance collection.

The former supermodel also came to Venice in November to give the Cini Foundation, which is based on San Giorgio, the huge archive of her father Alberto Bruni Tedeschi, a tyre magnate, music buff and art collector who died in 1996, the PNE chief noted.

The Louvre has turned a deaf ear to Venetian pleas for the Veronese, which is regarded as his greatest large-canvas achievement.

But it has allowed a computer-graphic facsimile to be made which was hung in the Palladian Refectory of San Giorgio's old Benedictine monastery on September 11, 2007, the 210th anniversary of its looting by Napoleon's troops.

Commissioned by the Cini Foundation and made by a Madrid art institute under British artist Adam Lowe, it consists of 1,591 files.

Venetians are increasingly unhappy with having to make do with the clone, Beggiati claimed.

"It has only increased bitterness and resentment towards the French Republic, which is Napoleon's heir, for better or worse," he told Bruni.

I was there on September 11, 2007 for the unveiling, so I can tell you first-hand how I felt when the copy was presented. I felt very sad, and started weeping; I didn't know why. Now I think it was because we were expected to accept a copy as the real thing, which it is not. Yes, it LOOKS just like the real painting, including the damage marks left by Napoleon when they ripped it off the wall -- the technique used to make the copy is outstanding. But the human touch of Veronese is not there. The living oil and canvas is not there. There were samples outside the Palladian refectory of other artists who had tried to copy the Veronese by hand -- they did not come close, and the computer-graphic facsimile is far superior to any copies made by man. It really made me appreciate the genius of Veronese to see the inferior attempts made by the other artists... but the soul of Veronese has been stolen. When you see the copy, you can feel his pain -- he is screaming his anger from the grave; it is as if Napoleon robbed his tomb. That is why France should give the painting back.

The hors d'œuvres and wine served at the unveiling were excellent, however, as I recall.

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog