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


  1. Thank you for that wonderful write up. You made me feel I was right there too, Cat. Keep writing!

  2. Well explained got to learn a lot of things from it.