Friday, July 26, 2019

In My Dream I was in Kuwait - East Meets West Through Art in Venice

Where I sleep by Zahra Marwan - Photo: Cat Bauer

East Meets West Through Art

(Venice, Italy) Venice has always been a crossroads of people and cultures. Through its powerful maritime culture, for centuries it was the center of trade where East met West. With a strategic position at the head of the Adriatic Sea, her merchant vessels would sail to exotic lands in the Byzantine empire and Muslim world and return home brimming with spices, gems, fabrics, art and ideas from the Orient. These products flowed throughout all of Europe, allowing her citizens to proper. In her heyday, Venice was the wealthiest city in all of Europe.

Kuwait, too, is strategically located at the head of the Persian Gulf, and whose people are linked to the sea. Kuwait struck it rich when oil reserves were discovered in 1938. These days, it is a country in search of a dynamic balance between tradition and innovation, and is making efforts to convert a largely oil-based economy to one that includes innovative activities which focus on information and technology. It is an immensely wealthy country, with the fourth highest per capita income in the world. While remaining an emirate, it is the first Gulf country to have a parliamentary government. Since 2005, women have had the right to vote, and outnumber men in the work force.

Inauguration at Scoletta dei Battioro in Venice - Photo: Cat Bauer

The Heart of Culture

In My Dream I was in Kuwait is the evocative title chosen for the exhibition that spotlights the Heart of Culture program in Venice, and launches the Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Culture Centre in Kuwait onto the international stage. As one of the world's largest museum complexes, the Centre consists of a Space Museum, a Fine Arts Centre, a Natural History Museum, a Science and Technology Museum, an Arabic Islamic Science Museum and a theatre. Established on March 14, 2018, the museum is owned by Kuwait's royal palace, the Amiri Diwan, and is named after the first Emir and founder of modern Kuwait.

Elibelinde by Amani Althuwaini - Photo: Cat Bauer

The Exhibition in Venice - A Cultural Exchange

The exhibition at the Scoletta dei Battioro at San Stae in Venice is presented in two stages with six different artists, all of whom participated in the Artist in Residence program at the Centre, which promotes the work of young and emerging Kuwaiti artists and facilitates cultural exchanges through international collaborations.

From June to August, the works of Zaha Marwan, Amani Al-Thuwaini and Mahmoud Shaker are on show; from September to November it's Khaled Al-Najdi, Ahmed Muqeem and Naseer Behbehani. Through the Heart of Culture program they collaborate with Venetian artists and artisans like Tessitura Bevilacqua that uses traditional 18-century looms to weave its fabrics; glass artist Leonardo Cimolin; New Zealand Painter Veronica Green; the Simone Cenedese Murano glass factory, and the Doppio Fondo Printmaking studio.

On losing a loved one by Zahra Marwan
"Every day, I go to the sea and say hello to my dad."

In My Dream I was in Kuwait

The spirit of the whimsical watercolour and ink illustrations of Zahra Marwan was the inspiration for the title of the exhibition. Zahra, who was born in Kuwait but lives and works in New Mexico, is one of the two female artists who work is currently on display. Her unique experience of facing social injustice and of leaving Kuwait is reflected in her work; her images of her father are especially poignant.

Amani Althuwaini is half Kuwaiti and half Ukranian, and uses mixed media and two-dimensional forms -- video, installation and painting -- to explore themes of luxury, discrimination and other socio-political topics through her work. Elibelinde, created with wool and embroidered fabric, is an image of the goddess commonly used in Kilim rugs, and combines a fairy tale quality with traditional marriage rituals.

Mahmoud Shaker lives and works in Kuwait, and is a writer and visual artist. Before the oil economy, Kuwaiti men dove for pearls as their women confronted the sea, singing and waiting for their safe return. His poems written on photographs express their feelings of loneliness, love and longing.

The Wait by Mahmoud Shaker
In My Dream I was in Kuwait was curated by Francesca Giubilei and Luca Berta, founders of the Venice Art Factory, and runs from June 14 to November 1. Go to the Venice Art Factory for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Venice and the Cruise Ships

Venezia e le Grandi Navi by Gianni Berengo Gardin - courtesy Fondazione Forma
(Venice, Italy) On Sunday, July 7, there was a violent storm in Venice complete with thunder, lightning, chunks of hail, very strong winds and tumultuous waters. Everyone knew the storm was coming. The cruise ship Costa Deliziosa left the port anyway, and then nearly crashed into the bank, narrowly missing a yacht.

Cruise Ship Near-Miss on July 7, 2019
Cruise Ship Crash on June 2, 2019

Last month, on June 2, the Festa della Sensa, the day Venice renews her vows with the sea, the 66,000-ton out-of-control cruise ship MSC Opera crashed into the docked River Countess, a much smaller river cruise boat, injuring four people and scaring the wits out of everybody. Here is a report from CBC News:

Anti-Cruise Ship Protest - Post from September 2012

The following is an excerpt from a post I wrote back on September 19, 2012, nearly seven years ago when Venice and Italy were under an entirely different administration. You can imagine that for Venetians to go through the trouble to stage a protest back then, things had already reached a critical point. If you read the entire post, you will see that I have included several quotes from the international press, so the cruise ship situation in Venice was already a global topic way back in 2012.

Anti-Cruise Ship Demonstration in Venice - September 16, 2012

Photo: Arved Gintenreiter
(Venice, Italy) There was a festive atmosphere when I arrived at the demonstration against the cruise ships here in Venice at the Punta della Dogana on Sunday, September 16, 2012 a bit before 3PM. During the Venetian Republic, the Punta della Dogana was the customs house, holding precious cargo from all over the world that arrived by sea. These days it is owned by billionaire Frenchman Francois Pinault, and contains contemporary art exhibits.

 Photo: Arved Gintenreiter
On Sunday, the tip of the triangle at the Dogana was crowded with locals and over 100 bicyclists (and their bikes) who joined the protest from the mainland, in addition to curiosity-seekers who bought up home-made sandwiches and red "No Grandi Navi" tee-shirts. Aretha Franklin belted out "All I want is a little respect" over the loudspeakers. A flotilla of small boats -- many of which contained children -- decked out with "No Grandi Navi" flags and colorful balloons bobbed in the lagoon, surrounded by a strong police presence.

Click to read the entire post: Anti-Cruise Ship Demonstration in Venice - September 16, 2012

Gianni Berengo Gardin Cancelled Exhibition - Post from October 2015

Then, about three years later, on October 23, 2015, I wrote a post about the blocked Gianni Berengo Gardin Monsters in Venice exhibition at Palazzo Ducale, and translated the letter that Berengo Gardin had written to Luigi Brugnaro, the Mayor of Venice:

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.

Click to read the entire post: Venice and the Cruise Ships - Blocked Gianni Berengo Gardin Exhibition Opens in Piazza San Marco

Gianni Berengo Gardin's Tale of Two Cities by Donna Serbe-Davis

Now, filmmaker Donna Serbe-Davis, is putting the finishing touches on her riveting documentary entitled "Gianni Berengo Gardin's Tale of Two Cities." The documentary allows us to hear Gianni Berengo Gardin in his own words, along with the vibrant voices of those who actually live in Venice. With the knowledge of Donna Serbe-Davis, I recently began promoting the trailer on social media. Have a look:

Gianni Berengo Gardin's Tale of Two Cities from Donna Serbe-Davis on Vimeo.

It would appear that the endless cycle of protests, media coverage and Twitter debates accomplishes very little. According to an article in The Economist on June 8 entitled What slumping demand for cruises says about Chinese tourists:

"America dominates the cruise industry. Carnival, Royal Carribean and Norwegian Cruise Line, which control nearly 80% of the global market between them, are based there. Just over half of the 26m people who went on a cruise in 2018 were American, reckons Cruise Market Watch, a data-provider."
Perhaps if travelers -- especially Americans who dominate the cruise industry -- actually heard authentic voices speaking from inside the lagoon they might think twice before about taking a cruise to Venice unless a satisfactory solution is found. The film should be ready before the end of summer.

For those who subscribe to Venetian Cat-The Venice Blog by email, if you cannot see the visuals, click here to read the post directly on the site.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog