Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Google Cultural Institute and Venice Art Biennale Team Up

Google Cultural Institute at Venice Biennale
(Venice, Italy) The Google Cultural Institute and the Venice Biennale believe in sharing knowledge. Launched in 2011, the Google Cultural Institute is google-izing the world of art and culture in order "to make important cultural material available and accessible to everyone and to digitally preserve it to educate and inspired future generations."

Reps from the Google Cultural Institute were here in Venice on October 22, 2015 to open their space over by Ca' Giustinian, La Biennale Headquarters on Calle del Ridotto, and to announce that you can enjoy the 2015 Venice Art Biennale, All the World's Futures, by cyberspace. 

Those of you who have visited the Venice Art Biennale can see it again; those who are still planning to come can get an idea of what you can expect. And those of you who cannot make it to Venice will be able to digitally experience the world's oldest Biennale, which was first held in 1895 -- you can watch it even after it's over.

I am posting the press release below, slightly edited -- the text is tiny; I have tried to reformat it, but am unable. In any event, you can follow the links to wander around the exhibitions of 80 different countries -- almost as good as being in Venice!
A peek backstage - Google in Venice
La Biennale di Venezia and the Google Cultural Institute announced that they are making a selection of artworks and pavilions from the Biennale Arte 2015, curated by Okwui Enwezor, available online on the Google Cultural Institute. The collaboration was announced in Rome on October 21, 2015 at the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, in the presence of the Minister Dario Franceschini, by the President of La Biennale di Venezia Paolo Baratta and the Director of the Google Cultural Institute, Amit Sood.

The project, thanks to the cutting edge technology developed by the Google Cultural Institute, is a first experiment aimed at expanding the possibilities of bringing people closer to the Biennale Arte 2015. On the one hand, it will encourage those who want to explore the exhibition before setting off for Venice, while on the other, it will allow to capture highlight of the exhibition so people can experience the artworks online after the closure of the Biennale Arte on November 22, 2015.
A peek backstage - Google in Venice
Starting from October 21, in the final month of the Biennale Arte, the International Exhibition and the exhibits of 80 Countries in 70 National Pavilions will be accessible online on and Viewers will be able to browse a diverse collection of more than 4,000 artworks and photos in multiple digital exhibitions. Users will also be able to see 360 degree panoramic views of the internal and external exhibitions at Giardini and the Arsenale thanks to more than 80 sites photographed with Street View technology.
The Google Cultural Institute, alongside La Biennale di Venezia, has also created an app for mobile devices which can be downloaded from the Google Play store which grants access to the digital exhibition and allows users to explore two virtual tours using Google Cardboard, a simple virtual reality viewer.
"The collaboration between La Biennale di Venezia and the Google Cultural Institute confirms just how much of a great ally technology can be in appreciating our cultural heritage," said the Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, who also underlined "the importance of technical innovation in broadening cultural communication, in creating new ways of use and overcoming distances, as well as encouraging greater dialogue."
A peek backstage - Google in Venice
“This collaboration with Google is the first and a very important experiment, which I believe can be further developed in the future in a variety of possible, if yet still unknown ways,” said Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale di Venezia. “We’ll do our best! With more technological abilities we’ll be able to better link them with a stronger editorial ability, making better use of technology both for our documentation as well as to support the public. This bet on using modern technologies is most definitely not aimed to substitute the experience in person with virtual viewing, but, on the contrary, to compliment and enrich the direct viewing experience.
A peek backstage - Google in Venice

“We are proud to work with La Biennale di Venezia, a world-leading exhibition that brings many countries, cultures and their approaches to art to the center of the cultural debate" said Amit Sood, Director of the Google Cultural Institute. "The Internet is a powerful tool for the democratization of art and culture, a force that helps cultural institutions to extend their impact. It empowers cultural institutions to make their artworks and treasures accessible to a greater number of people in the world and preserve them for the future”.
A peek backstage - Google in Venice
La Biennale di Venezia, founded in 1865, stands at the forefront of research and promotion of new contemporary art trends and organizes exhibitions and researches in all its specific sectors: Art (1895), Architecture (1980), Cinema (1932), Dance (1999), Music (1930), and Theatre (1934). Its activities are documented at the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts (ASAC) that recently has been completely renovated.
The Google Cultural Institute and its partners are putting the world’s cultural treasures at the fingertips of Internet users and are building tools that allow the cultural sector to share more of its diverse heritage online. The Google Cultural Institute has partnered with more than 800 institutions giving a platform to over 170 thousand artworks and a total of 6 million photos, videos, manuscripts and other documents of art, culture and history.

Happy exploring!

Ciao from Venezia,

Friday, October 23, 2015

Venice and the Cruise Ships - Blocked Gianni Berengo Gardin Exhibition Opens in Piazza San Marco

Venice and the Cruise Ships by Gianni Berengo Gardin - Courtesy Fondazione Forma
(Venice, Italy) Gianni Berengo Gardin, whom The Telegraph called "Italy's Greatest Photographer," was supposed to have an exhibition opening at Palazzo Ducale on September 19, 2015 about the cruise ships in Venice entitled, Monsters in Venice. Luigi Brugnaro, the controversial new mayor of Venice, and a strong supporter of the cruise ship industry, postponed the exhibition to coincide with an exhibit about his own plans for the lagoon. Berengo Gardin would not accept those conditions, and the show was cancelled.

In addition, Brugnaro accused Berengo Gardin of "distorting" the photos to make the cruise ships appear larger by using a telephoto lens, prompting all sorts of ordinary citizens to display their own photos and professional photographers to challenge what he said. Even further, Mayor Brugnaro accused Berengo Gardin of "denigrating" Venice -- the mayor used the same word to publicly attack me, Cat Bauer, on Twitter, as well as other people who care deeply about the welfare of La Serenissima. .

Gianni Berengo Gardin courtesy of Forma Foundation
Yesterday, October 22, 2015, the Gianni Berengo Gardin VENEZIA E LE GRANDI NAVI exhibition opened 200 meters away from Palazzo Ducale in the Olivetti Showroom designed by the renowned architect, Carlo Scarpa, in Piazza San Marco. The line waiting outside the door proved that banning an exhibition is sure to draw a crowd.

The exhibition was presented by FAI - Fondo Ambiente Italiano, the Italian Environment Fund, sort of like an Italian National Trust, in collaboration with Forma per la Fotografia e Contrasto, and was curated by Alessandra Mauro.

Andrea Carandini, the President of FAI stated, "The aim of this exhibition is not alimentary improvisations and controversy, but to open a new phase for Venice, even with opponents, which is, finally, not based on gossip, closed minds and partial studies, but on as much research as possible about the miraculous, complicated and fragile natural system, and the social and cultural development of the lagoon city, viewed as a wonderful complex." FAI hopes to ignite a discussion about excessive tourism all throughout Italy. 

Venezia e le Grandi Navi by Gianni Berengo Gardin - courtesy Fondazione Forma
The 85-year-old Gianni Berengo Gardin wrote a letter to Mayor Luigi Brugnaro -- a wealthy, conservative businessman who made his money with a temp agency called "Umana Holding," or "Human Holding," who was born on the mainland and does not live in Venice, is a father of five children by two different wives who yanked books about tolerance and different kinds of families from Venice's pre-schools, and whose Beat-poet father was the leader of the factory workers in Marghera. Berengo Gardin's letter expresses how it feels to come under personal attack by the new mayor. 

I have translated the letter into American English (for example, Italians don't say "shoot yourself in the foot," it's more like, "hit yourself in the foot with a hoe"), below:


by Gianni Berengo Gardin

I'm very sorry when someone shoots themselves in the foot; therefore, I'm sorry for the mayor of Venice. I'm also very grateful because blocking my exhibit at Palazzo Ducale did me a big favor: all the Italian newspapers and foreign press (Le Monde, The Guardian, El Pais, The New York Times, and many others) have written about it extensively. And probably, if it were not for all this attention from the press, the exhibition would be seen by far fewer people.

I must also be grateful to Celentano (the best-selling Italian singer Adriano Celentano, who strongly supported Berengo Gardin) and all artists, architects, intellectuals and ordinary citizens who have stood up for me. I must also thank Roberto Koch and Alessandra Mauro of the Forma Foundation, who curated the exhibition and the book; without their commitment this exhibition would not be possible. And naturally, FAI.

I am doubly happy that FAI invited me to display my photos at the Olivetti Store in Piazza San Marco: I photographed several works for the designs of the architect Carlo Scarpa, and for over 15 years worked for Olivetti. 

Mayor Brugnaro insulted me several times: he called me a "loser", an "intellectual hack" and a "Solone." He said that I denigrated Venice. He called me an "untouchable" -- I didn't know that, and I thank him for educating me -- and he attacked me for having a double last name.  

My family has been Venetian for five generations. We had a store of Venetian crafts and glass pearls in Calle Larga San Marco. The Berengo Gardin store was cited in 1905 by the writer Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo in his book about Venice, The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole (1909, Cassell, London, 1934). My grandparents' house overlooked Piazzetta dei Leoncini; my father was practically born in Piazza San Marco; and, as for me, even if I was born in S. Margherita Ligure, I lived in Venice for 30 years. My wife is Venetian and my children were born in Venice. 

For this reason, the problem of the cruise ships passing through the Venice lagoon is particularly close to my heart: because I feel venezianissimo (Venetian to the extreme).

Maybe the mayor does not know that I also dedicated as many as 10 books to Venice, exalting in every way her beauty, starting with one of my first, Venise de Saison, published in 1965.

Next, regarding the accusation that I used some kind of "telephoto lens" to create artificial effects, I would stress the fact that I even had to use a wide-angle lens because the ships were so big they did not fit into the viewfinder of the camera. Only in some cases did I use a 90 millimeter lens, which is not telephoto. 

To conclude, Mayor Brugnaro must know that the Italian Constitution, Article 21, says: "Everyone has the right to freely express their thoughts in speech, writing or any other means of communication." 

Venezia e Le Grandi Navi by Gianni Berengo Gardin - courtesy Fondazione Forma
The photo exhibition of Gianni Berengo Gardin Venezia e Le Grandi Navi runs from October 22, 2015 until January 6, 2016.

Gianni Berengo Gardin
Venezia e le grandi navi
October 22, 2015 to January 6, 2016

Olivetti Showroom
Piazza San Marco 101
Tel. 041 5228387

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, October 19, 2015

Netàr a Corte - Cleaning Day in Venice 2015

Netàr in Corte
(Venice, Italy) It's that time of year again when a group of private individuals who love Venice come together to clean up their city, all on their own initiative. Organized by the group, the Associazione Masegni & Nizioleti, a pack of volunteers blitzed through the city yesterday, cleaning graffiti off walls, wells and memorial plaques, as well as hacking off  "love locks" from Venice's bridges. 

"Netàr" means "to clean" in the Venetian language. Masegni are stones that Venetians have been using for centuries to pave the streets, which are quarried from the Euganean Hills, also known as the Venetian Hills.
Nizioleti are the white and black street signs you see everywhere in Venice, marking the names of streets and campos. Back in March, 2014, two different Facebook groups, one dedicated to the Masegni and one to the Nizioleti, combined their efforts to create the new group, the Associazione Masegni & Nizioleti. 

The Fearless Warriors slipped into gauzy white Super Suits and attacked the walls and wells with magic Graffitti Eater, and hacked off locks with bolt cutters with names like Excalibur and Durlindana. They scraped off each letter of graffiti by hand, using wire brushes, and sliced off every lock with ease with their mighty swords. 

The Clean Up
After several hours of labor and camaraderie, covered with dust and speckled with paint, the Fearless Warriors gathered together to feast and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well-done. 

The group of volunteers has been steadily growing since it began back in 2012, which you can read about here:

Cleaning Day in Venice

To view many more photos of the event, click HERE to go to Netàr a Corte on Facebook, or HERE to visit the group's Facebook page.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Beat Goes On: Poets at Aman Canal Grande in Venice - Ferruccio Brugnaro, Jack Hirschman & Agneta Falk

Agneta Falk, Ferruccio Brugnaro, Jack Hirschman, Maria Brugnaro at Aman Canal Grande

(Venice, Italy) The Italian poet, Ferruccio Brugnaro, born in Mestre on August, 18, 1936, worked for more than 30 years at the chemical plants at Porto Marghera on the mainland outside Venice, the site of a huge oil-refining and petrochemical complex. During his employment at Porto Marghera, Brugnaro became a strong union leader and compassionate poet, expressing rage at the workers' conditions with his compelling words.

Jack Hirschman
On the other side of the world, the American poet, Jack Hirschman, born in the Bronx on December 13, 1933 to working-class parents, got his PhD in comparative literature at Indiana University. While teaching at UCLA during the Viet Nam war, he heard that "A" students were excused from the draft. He announced that all his students who were draft-eligible got a grade of "A," and was terminated from the university, thus beginning his life as a poet. He now lives in San Francisco, together with his second wife, the poet, Agneta Falk (Sweden, 1947), where he was appointed Poet Laureate in 2006.

Beat Poets at Aman Canal Grande
Jack Hirschman had encountered Ferruccio Brugnaro's work in the '80s when helping to edit an international journal of poetry, but the two didn't actually meet until January, 1993, when Hirschman was on a reading tour in Italy. They read together at Lenin Hall, then spent a week traveling around the Veneto where Brugnaro and his wife, Maria, read Hirschman's poems in Italian, and he read them in the original English.

Maria Brugnaro at Aman Canal Grande
 Hirschman said:

"I decided, during that week of happy camaraderie, and 
because I see in Ferruccio's work a resonance that harks 
back to Mayakovsky, as well as forward toward the 
necessary future of mankind, to translate his poems in a 
selection that might include his rage, his righteousness, 
his tenderness and, through all, that spine of 
lyripolitical discourse so very important for the days 

These two impressive poets are no longer young (Brugnaro is 79; Hirschman will be 82), but their hearts and passions remain strong. Together with their wives, Maria Brugnaro, a former schoolteacher, and the poignant poet Agneta Falk, they delivered a spirited evening yesterday at the Aman Canal Grande for the Slow Words readers' club, presented by Paolo Graziano and Diana Marrone, Slow Words fanzine founders and editors.

Diana Marrone and Paolo Graziano at Aman Canal Grande
I knew before I arrived that Ferruccio Brugnaro was the father of Luigi Brugnaro, Venice's extremely wealthy, conservative and controversial new mayor. But nothing had prepared me for an evening of what appeared to be real-life communists still talking the talk in the year 2015. I was stunned when I heard Ferruccio Brugnaro's poem Tutti Assolti al Processo per Le Morti al Petrolchimico (All Acquitted at the Trial for the Deaths at Petrolchemical) read first by Brugnaro in Italian, and then by Hirschman in English, written in reaction to the acquittal of those Brugnaro held responsible for the suffering of his fellow workers.

In March, 1998, here in Italy, 31 top managers of the chemical industry were put on trial for knowingly exposing their workers to harmful chemicals; 149 were dead, and over 500 were suffering from cancer. (Ironically, Felice Casson, the prosecutor who pursued the action against the chemical industry in the late '90s through 2004, was just defeated this past June by Luigi Brugnaro, the son of Ferrucio and Maria Brugnaro, in the election for the new mayor of Venice.) Ferrucio Brugnaro's poem expressed the outrage he felt when the top managers were all acquitted on the grounds that when the deaths started in the 70s, they could not have known the production's deadly impact on the workers. "Non dite, non dite che non sapevate." ("Do not say, do not say you did not know.")

Cat Bauer and Ferruccio Brugnaro
The evening was an echo of the Beat Generation at its best, when poets and writers were openly critical of society and shouted its injustices with courage and comradery. Because, of course, those chemical managers knew they were killing their own people, and did nothing to stop it.

However, I still can't get my mind wrapped around how two parents like Ferruccio and Maria Brugnaro, who seem to have fought so long and hard against corporate greed and disrespect for human life, managed to produce a son like Luigi, who grew up to yank 49 books about tolerance out of Venice's school system, and wants to dredge up the deadly heavy metal waste from the petrochemical industry that lies on the bottom of the lagoon -- the same waste that killed his father's comrades -- to make way for the controversial cruise ship industry. Sometimes I wonder if Luigi Brugnaro, who made his fortune with a temp-worker company named "Umana Holding" ("Human Holding") really understands the dark forces with whom he has made friends.

Below there is a poem by Jack Hirschman about Ferruccio Brugnaro, and below that is a poem, translated into English, from Fist of Sun by Ferruccio Brugano.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Ferruccio Brugnaro
by Jack Hirschman

When he turned
to retrieve from his car
the coat you needed
for the chill on
our passeggiata,

Ferruccio Brugnaro
changed into a young man
hurrying along the street
with a stride that was
that of another
person altogether.

His arms dangling widely,
his steps rapid, windy,
almost adolescent.
We stood in that Chioggia street
aghast watching his form
from behind.

Front face, he is a man
of gentle strength and grace,
in his sixties, and has always
reminded me of my father's
older brother,

and there's a photo he sent
to his American publisher
for use in his poetry tour
in the States next month

that has the sharp, dark lines
of one who might be an actor
in silent movies.
The darkness under the eyes.
The chtonic touch from that time
when a house was
closer to the womb.

And one was genuinely
youth and antiquity
in the same breath.

And it was visible,
dramatic, poetic and alive.

by Ferruccio Brugnaro


     We've gotten hold of

            every corner of Venice today.

     Tall red banners, slogans

                against rip-offs and Death.

     Urgent songs of

               struggle and love now rise up

     from blood and soul.

     The stones and the waters have become

                     human, warm.

     Our heart

                runs madly

                      to liberation.

           Huge joy.

     Today life raises

                       the concrete future

     of men, of all mankind,

                   in its fist of sun.