Sunday, May 19, 2013

Vogalonga 2013 in Venice - La Serenissima

(Venice, Italy) Today is Vogalonga here in Venice, and every year it reminds us how peaceful and serene the city is without motors, an ambiance that gave Venice her name, La Serenissima Repubblica, or The Most Serene Republic. What is Vogalonga?

From Wikipedia:

"Vogalonga is a rowing "competition" in the Italian city of Venice.

On November 11, 1974 a group of Venetians, both amateur and professional rowers, had a race in the island of Burano. They came up with an idea of non-competitive "race" in which any kind of rowing boat could participate, in the spirit of historical festivities. The first Vogalonga began the next year with the message to protest against the growing use of powerboats in Venice and the swell damage they do to the historic city.

Participants gather in St Marks Basin in front of the ducal palace. They sing hymns to San Marco (Saint Mark) and begin the "race". The racecourse is scenic route 30 kilometers long along the various Venetian canals and historical buildings....

...The numbers of participants has swelled to thousands over the years from all over the world. Some locals have founded new rowing clubs and build their own boats based on real, historical watercraft. Some participants have brought their own kind of boats like the Chinese dragon boats. Some have also chosen to swim through the route instead of rowing...."

To me, Venice would be the perfect city to go "green," with hybrid boats that operated on solar/electric energy while inside the lagoon that could switch over to gas when more power is needed. And the roofs of the vaporetti, or water buses, seem like they are begging for solar panels!

This year's Vogalonga set a new record with 1,700 boats and as many as 7,000 rowers armed with oars.

Pinned Image
Photo: la Nuova di Venezia
For more images and information, please visit the Vogalonga Official Site, which you can switch over to English by clicking on the right.

The silence is... awesome.

Ciao from La Serenissima,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Venice Renews her Vows to the Sea - Festa della Sensa 2013

The Return of the Bucentaur to the Molo on Ascension Day, 1730 by Canaletto
(Venice, Italy) In one of the world's longest marriages, today Venice once again tossed her ring into the Sea, cementing a relationship that has endured for more than a thousand years. Oh, sure, there have been some quarrels, as in any intimate relationship, but Venice and the Sea have managed to endure century after century. Despite a few storms, floods and other shows of temper, Venice and the Sea always work out their differences and arrive at a state of equilibrio. It is a beautiful day here in La Serenissima, full of sunshine and good feelings -- perfect weather for a wedding. 

Last year the Festa della Sensa fell on the same day as the America's Cup, and I would like to take a moment to remember the Olympic gold medalist, Oliver Simpson, who died at the age of 36 on Thursday, May 9, 2013 after being trapped under the Artemis Racing catamaran when it capsized in San Francisco Bay during a routine training exercise for this year's America's Cup. May he rest in peace. Last year I wrote a detailed post about the holiday:

Venice Marries the Sea and the America's Cup!!!

Here is a long excerpt:

Festa della Sensa

The Ancient and the Contemporary, the Sacred and the Profane merge once again in Venice. Today is Ascension Day, the day that celebrates the bodily ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. In Venice, it is known as the Festa della Sensa; "sensa" is the word "ascension" in the Venetian language. Whenever Venetians get their hands on a special day, they like to pack as much power into that day as possible. So, in the morning there is the traditional Festa della Sensa celebration, and in the afternoon -- the America's Cup!

Festa della Sensa -- even without the America's Cup in town -- traditionally commemorates two different, important events in Venetian history. The first took place on May 9, 1000 when Doge Pietro Orseolo II rescued the Dalmatians from the Slavs.

The second event took place in 1177. Back in those days, the players involved were:

1. The Holy Roman Empire with the German Frederick I Barbarossa (aka Red Beard aka Kaiser Rotbart) as the Emperor.
          a) Anti-pope Callixtus III, backed by Red Beard
2. The Republic of Venice, with Sebastiano Ziani as the Doge.
3. Pope Alexander III, backed by the Lombard League

Federico Zuccaro - Barbarossa Pays Homage to Alexander III
Frederick I Barbarossa (Red Beard) was the German Holy Roman Emperor, and he had his own anti-pope, Callixtus III. Red Beard was going around conquering everybody, as emperors have a tendency to do. He was particularly eager to conquer Italy, and was not fond of Pope Alexander III, who had excommunicated him for his bad behavior. The only force with any hope to stop Red Beard was the Lombard League, which was backed by Pope Alexander III. The Battle of Legnano was fought and the Lombard League won.

Just WHO was God's vicar on Earth? The Pope or the Emperor? That was the question. It is not easy to get an Emperor and a Pope together in the same town, but Venice managed to do just that. Pope Alexander III came to Venice. Red Beard got as far as
Chioggia, but was not allowed to land in Venice herself "until he had set aside his leonine ferocity and put on the gentleness of the lamb." Barbarossa became lamb-like, and was allowed into Piazza San Marco, where he found Pope Alexander III surrounded by the Doge, the Patriarch, a host of cardinals and other luminaries. The Emperor prostrated himself in front of the Pope, and received the kiss of peace. 

So, the Treaty, or Peace, of Venice in 1177 is also celebrated during the Festa della Sensa. From Old & Sold:

The astute Venetians extorted valuable privileges both from the Pope and from the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa as their reward for the part which they had played in the historic reconciliation.

During his stay in Venice Alexander III was present at the famous ceremony which was later known as the wedding of the Adriatic, a rite which had been inaugurated by the great Doge Pietro Orseolo II, the conqueror of Dalmatia. As a token of Papal approval of the ceremony the Pope handed the Doge Sebastiano Ziani a consecrated ring with the words: "Receive this as a pledge of the sovereignty which you and your successors shall have in perpetuity over the sea."

For over 600 years this magnificent ceremony was enacted annually. The Doge, surrounded by the Patriarch of Venice, the great officers of State, and the foreign ambassadors, embarked on the large gilded barge, the Bucintoro, and sailed through the Porto di Lido to the open Adriatic. Here the Patriarch blessed the ring and gave it to the Doge, who threw it into the sea, pronouncing the time-honoured formula: "Sea, we wed thee in token of our true and perpetual dominion over thee." The ceremony only came to an end with the extinction of the Republic in 1797.

Festa della Sensa by Canaletto
Venice began celebrating Festa della Sensa again in 1965. The tradition continues to this very day when Venice marries her husband, the sea, except these days it is the mayor who throws a symbolic "ring" into the sea in the waters off Lido. Then there are traditional regattas, a high mass at the Church of San Nicolò, and a market on the grounds outside the church.

Click HERE to continue reading.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, May 6, 2013

NOT VITAL: 700 Snowballs

Snowball, 2001, Murano glass, 18cm Ø. Courtesy the Artist, copyright Eric Gregory Powell
(Venice, Italy) There was some discussion about the lack of a Venetian presence at the exhibition Fragile? at Le Stanze del Vetro, which is a joint initiative of the Giorgio Cini Foundation and Pentagram Stiftung to promote 20th Century Venetian glass. This press release from Le Stanze del Vetro is so well-written that I am going to publish it in its entirety. The Not Vital 700 Snowballs exhibition is a collaboration between the Swiss artist (with a very cool name) and the glassmasters on Murano, and will be opening at the same time as the Biennale International Contemporary Art exhibition.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

 On 1st June 2013, the exhibition Not Vital: 700 Snowballs, curated by Alma Zevi, opens to the public on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. The exhibition is sponsored and promoted by Pentagram Stiftung, a Swiss private foundation dedicated to the study of glass. In 2012, the foundation launched Le Stanze del Vetro in partnership with the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, also on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice.

The exhibition is on show in the left wing of the Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore and will be open until 29th September 2013 from 10 am to 7 pm (free admission, closed on Wednesdays).

This presentation of Not Vital: 700 Snowballs, alongside the exhibition Fragile? concurrently on view at Le Stanze del Vetro, brings the visitor through a comprehensive mapping and understanding of the use of glass in contemporary art.

700 Snowballs is an installation consisting of 700 individually blown glass balls which bear striking resemblance to snowballs suspended in air. The snowballs rest directly on the floor, evenly and randomly spread. As each snowball is hand-blown by Vetreria Pino Signoretto in Murano, no two are identical – just as natural elements are never exactly repeated.

The installation creates a place of meditation, evoking the metamorphic, transformative and cyclical processes of nature. The luminous and reflective qualities of glass simultaneously reflect both the dense and yet ephemeral nature of snow. This mirrors the tension between the organic form and the inorganic material, between the durability of the artwork and the fragility of the elements it evokes.

As stated by curator Alma Zevi: "These balls remain, suspended in a moment, creating something that is fundamentally beautiful, and disconcertingly permanent in the world. This work is about human experience, a primary and universal encounter with nature and its physical substance".

700 Snowballs becomes an environment, a tranquil place of awe and contemplation. Inspired throughout his career by a childhood spent in the Swiss Alps, Vital has explored the contradictions of the harsh climate and vast landscapes that he knows so intimately. Indeed, the iconography of snow and its context has recurred throughout Vital's oeuvre – he has for instance used plaster to mould mountains that appear to be covered in snow, and has fabricated sleds from marble.

In 700 Snowballs, Not Vital succinctly and poetically presents to us the duality of water’s form when it freezes. It also makes us think of water’s importance in Venice: both in its attractive picturesque quality, which has long been symbolic of the city’s opulent history, and its more recent role as a serious threat to the city. 700 Snowballs explores the ever-rich potential of Venice glass-blowing tradition, despite our being in an era of industrial mass-production and cultural globalization. The installation is an unprecedented technical feat, and a fine example of the fruits that can be borne of an intimate and intellectually stimulating collaboration between a highly established artist, and the most skilled of Murano craftsmen.

On the occasion of the exhibition Not Vital: 700 Snowballs, artist Not Vital, in collaboration with glass master Simone Cenedese, will design a special limited artist edition glass artwork available for purchase at the bookshop of Le Stanze del Vetro. For more information, please contact

Concurrently, Not Vital will be presenting a selection of works on paper at Giorgio Mastinu Fine Art  (San Marco 3126, 30124 Venezia) from 28th May 2013. For further information please visit or contact +39 347 1828553.

With thanks to Abbazia di S. Giorgio Maggiore, Ruch & Partners Architects St. Moritz, and those donors who wish to remain anonymous

Biographical notes

photo: Eric Gregory Powell
Not Vital (b. 1948, Sent, Engadin, Switzerland) is at the international forefront of contemporary sculpture. A nomadic lifestyle has brought him to live and work periodically in every continent over the last 40 years. Currently he has a studio in Sent and Beijing, and ongoing relationships with craftspeople in Venice, Lucca, North Africa, Rio de Janiero and Patagonia. Not Vital took part in the 49th Venice Biennale (2001), curated by Harald Szeemann, with his work Plateau of Humanity. Since the mid 1970s, Not Vital has exhibited extensively and with international acclaim in galleries, museums and institutions.