Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I haven't included many photos in last two posts since i have been occupied "making" motion pictures so intensely. Here now are some from recent travels: Sophocles watching us—so skeptical, a cupid balanced fancifully on architectural fabulism, a statue guarding the Tevere River while swallows in the sky elude my camera. The last, a detail from a magnificent st. George and the Dragon painting at the Vatican. You have to guess the painter....All haunting images marking my soul with their line and color. Un divertimento mi amici

January 25th, 2010-- rain and music

January 25th, 2010

Another movie week in diverse ways. Seeing AVATAR—great blue people with predictably racist fundamentals: white boy saves ‘natives’. But lots of fun and wonderful minutes when flower flora move off the screen, magically holo-morphed in front of you back in the 14th row. It was crowded, went with Nicolas and Meena, two affiliated Fellows. Walked through city on sunny day, Nicolas showing us special places, throughways and byways, stopped for coffee on return---still jumping over tree roots free-handed in the tropic fogs of Navi land and Carpenter's undersea-influenced imagination.

Working on RIDING THE TIGER, mailing out a new version with three voices. Yael comes from Paris next week to help—hopefully solve remaining issues as my professional consultant. So and now back to THE PURSUIT. Other fellows here are writing on Byron; the Villa Aurelia is available and ready for use. We shot a wonderfully lush sexy bed scene Monday in my bedroom with light-sprinkled, staccato, drifted/imprinted on the bed, wall, linens—having 'Mary' (Eileen) and 'Claire'(Aurelia) roll over 'Shelley' (Nick) —and roll in on over him again. The TV camera was going the whole time so got some lovely rising up to the camera and circling back as well. I hope the film looks as magical as it looked shooting. The whole first reel was more over lit---diffuse light of morning pouring in. Then the sun moved round to angle through the shades and it became visual porous ambiguous exciting!

Weather has turned. It is rain, drear, not as cold as NYC in winter but wearing my heaviest turtleneck sweater —the one I would be wearing in Nova Scotia. Even for yoga we wear lots of clothes till 10 minutes in when we finally warm up. There's been 4 free classes a week here, two teachers, both quite different from each other. IT's a regular dojo [though that can't be the correct name; more an Aikido name...]

Nono, the 20th century avantgarde composer festival was last week. At the French Academy with its hyper realistic l7th century tapestry copies—in which colonialism is celebrated (!) in bold colors: continents represented by flora and fauna of their areas: lions and tigers and parakeets and fishes and peacocks spreading their tails. Lisa B., our erstwhile Fellow sings to recorded tape of voices, noises, urban crowding—out of the holocaust, the people’s cries. Another all recorded piece, again voices, dissonant, classical dissonance, I felt. The last the most marvelous to me, seemed more to the future —Lisa concurred saying it was the most recent work of Nono from the 80s (the other pieces from the 60s as I might have guessed). This last, a tuba player—big beautiful santa claus figure blowing tones, strong, soft, an Asian quality to it, very subtle modulations of tone. With gorgeous score---bars across a long double page; bottom half with drawings and arrows. Post post modern. Interpretation of text seemed as Zorn’s in ways-here are 'head lines', but with perhaps more directions as to time. Lisa concurred again.

Then the following night back at the Villa Aurelia, we heard PMCE—Parco della Musica Contemporanea Ensemble perform a fantastic piece by Lou Harrison (1917-2003), Song of Quetzalcoatl for four percussionists (1941). Very Californian, obvious influence for Reich and Riley, tonal, danceable, wonderful! Then a set of short pieces by Eliot Carter, from early to 2009 (that to my dyslexic mind kept being 1999—how can he be composing this wonderful stuff at 100?!). Loved the latest Tintinnabulation, another percussion piece to bookend the concert. The group was wonderful, the instruments sculptural to look at, Carter continuously “elbowy” to my mind: cerebral in his choice towards dissonance and the unexpected. I felt close to him aesthetically, even when I was uncomfortable within his sounds—amazed actually at his public success—for this is difficult music (at least in these selections). Notes chosen for assertiveness (one might say aggressive qualities), for oddity (one might say precarious), thoughtful and fierce—the result a kind of strong beauty. They say he wrote some of his most famous work in his 70s (the 80s decade) here at the Academy: that his 70s are his ‘mid-period’. Now that’s what I would like my 70s to be so considered!

To music then and the muse of mastery!

This week there is an Arvo Part festival on—so we are off to the Auditorium Parco della Musica designed by Renzo Piano. We have been there before with its fabulous mushroomy silhouettes and spectacular cafes. For now—
A presto

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

January 19, 2010 Movie Week

January 19th, 2010

This has been movie week. John Guare has showed up with many films that might be nominated for Academy Awards upcoming. Mostly they are not my cup of tea but good to see Hurt Locker for sure. I am hoping it wins best film in terms of public political attention to a useless and mismanaged war —though the film’s close, with sentimental music appearing “out of the blue (non-diegetic: no better word here) accompanying pathetic dialogue, would be better cut.

Almodovar’s Broken Embraces was also fun: too long, awkwardly heterosexual, but wonderful to look at as always, a bit crazy and fabulously cinematic: film within film within film. Chinese boxes galore. Saw Up In The Air as well which was interestingly on ‘time’ in its referencing downsizing and firing, but cold, thin and ultimately, saying ‘wife and kids = family = key to happiness!? Wouldst indeed Hollywood was the Liberal bastion it’s made out to be. Instead the subtext is more often deeply profoundly conservative.

I’ve been watching the Wire at nights since David came for Christmas/ New Years (as obsessive as I, we would look at two shows a night!). A Fellow has all four seasons (so it takes a while). Touching, sad and true, it seems to me who has worked (and walked) urban streets. Back in the 70s I was reporting for NBC news, director-producer. The city was much tougher then and the South Bronx in the mid 70s was un-policeable. Fire trucks wouldn’t go down streets, just parked at the end and let the building burn. Because of my early documentary GAME on a street prostitute and her pimp, I was assigned to cover street gangs. It was eye-opening to say the least; I took out time in the month of August before the gig for (unpaid) research. Black and Puerto Rican gangs; fabulous colors; filthy streets; beyond inhabitable ‘pads’; kids who had seen their father’s throat slit; disturbed kids who would slit your throat on a dare. Don Byron was growing up close by a bit north of where I was working. Frightening and super sad: I felt one-third of these children (and they were children) were going to go to jail, one-third would be dead before 21 and the last third might escape. It was my moment to have a gun cocked at my head, but in my innocence I was not frightened. Why we send 18 year olds to war.

Anyway—the Wire is long form television so fun to see ala l9th century novels. The kind that is in parts (to sell and keep you reading/viewing) and goes on and on and on and on. The sublimation of the real in the model. But yet, ultimately it is TV, and what do I mean by that? A box, a sizing, always dialogue, not enough visual surprises, plot and event twisting—great acting, truthful neorealism…..yet, maybe…. not enough poetry? That it ends for the next show. That it is slotted. That it takes it’s form. The wire is great within this form. No question about it. But it makes me understand more deeply perhaps why the time-artists of the late 60s and 70s, seizing on the tv speeding increasingly form-u-liz-ing moment(s) of our communal screen, make expanded durational pieces, that sprawl ambitiously and out of control throughout the culture landscape: whether Morton Feldman or Ken Jacobs or Michael Snow or Lamont Young. A kind of why not? But also take that.

What do we need now: Our face to the mirror? Our face in sand? Our face to the other? Our face to the ground? Sending money to Haiti is essential —but I want to destabilize the infrastructure, remake it —so a Haiti-as-is doesn’t happen in the future. As my friends write, Haiti is not a natural disaster. And the bankers and brokers remain insufferably inhumane, their violence covert, their actions radiating death rays out on the streets into our cities. Who will make the addition?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

January 14th, 2010

January 12th, 2010

It is 50 degrees today, blue iris is blooming in the Bass Garden in the back, and the mimosa trees are also deeply fabulous yellow, covered in small balls of fuzzy pendulous masses. Beautiful and terrifying as local Italians are saying the weather is crazy. They will freeze and is this the climate change paradigm? Really the coldest stretch was the second week in December. It was 60 F for Christmas. I am liking it of course as it feels thoroughly Mediterranean—mild sweet.

The holidays are finally finally over—many of us are happy. Such an extended season of glitter and excitement! Now back to work and a pattern of time which was deeply interrupted. Yet interruptions continue—my theory of life—as I have had technological troubles—images disappearing from an edit drive! As a result, it has been two steps forward, one step back.

A number of smart folks are passing through including Alissa Quart who some of my poetry friends will know, so I showed a group some films in my studio. MIRROR WORLDS seems to stir up feelings—challenging because it never did in this ‘othered way’ with other audiences, including in Asia, and it’s been around a while. I wonder if because as three-screen installation—the vision of the Other gets subsumed into issues of narrativity and sexuality. One artist, a previous Fellow, the fabulous Patricia Cronin, said “you are skirting risky territory.” Now aren’t I always?

Some great suggestions for the Shelley film: definitely foreground home movie style, when the actors are ‘acting’ works less well; bring in as I had intended the contemporary—those gardeners in their fluorescent outfits carrying ladders across the screen!; think about issues of Empire who is removed, expatriated from where? The last hard to get away from since Rome is so present and acts not as “ old Europe” as one person said to me— but rather as a memory, history lesson from the past that is right in your face: war and power. Today and tomorrow.

Regarding RIDING THE TIGER, I have moved ahead to cut in all the voiceover, before the images went ‘down.’ And fascinatingly, perhaps predictably, the intermingling of voices is infecting the meaning as this dialogue about otherness and identity begins to resonate throughout the piece and suggest how China itself is redefining itself under Capitalism. One hears the questioning and feels through these varied voices, how unsure, how mobile, is “Identity”, how tenuous the nation state’s sense of self has become. How it can, or rather must, maneuver within this new situation. I await Yael Bitton’s voiceover version and Yael herself at the end of the month.

Off to swim.
Sun and close to 50 degrees today again. We are watching John Guare movie’s as he is recipient of Academy dvds—many many, some I have seen and others I have no interest in but some—yes some. So we have movies every night for the next 10 days! Wild really after a dearth of movies this fall. Either this is not a particularly movie group or rather not a communal group since people seem to be watching on their particular computer. Guare said in past years that there was a movie on EVERY night. Now that is more my style. I hope to get my fill this upcoming—

Talk of Sicily in March, our group trip, and the oranges—well, they are orange on all the trees, ripe, sweet mandarins and grapefruit—delicious—yellow balls on the ground. Here is a place to winter.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

January 5th, 2010 New Year's!

January 5, 2010

The holidays are not yet over as 'Epiphany' is still to come. Tomorrow. It has been a whirlwind with images of the Tiber River overflowing its banks, trees in water swirling rushing round under arches now lower as water is higher; an eclipse of the full moon on New Year’s eve as we walk to the restaurant Isole de Sicilia for my birthday dinner: the moon a yolk of an egg with bloodspot on the corner arriving out of a grey tide of cloud; the 180 degree + view from Academia’s loggia — fireworks in every direction over the valley of Rome streaming with light, lit sparks descending, fire sparkles streamed through clouds, rain stopped at midnight in perfect timing.

Fortuity continues—sun shines every day we plan to go out—to the Vatican and amazing Raphael which prefigures Manet, it’s cripple’s foot sticking onto the foreground to touch us (as if), haunting simplicity of 12th century paintings all gilt and detailed faces placid, tranquil, touched. We time travel through art. One friend of a friend, who is not an artist, comments, laments — beautifully— that she does not feel emotion before art, does not ‘get’ it. How to explain this: the haunting of the hand, flesh that touches objects across space and time, still made live, that creation. In the Etruscan museum, the Villa Giula, white magnificent set of marble rectangles descending into one fantastic pool with red carp and matched caryatids, handsome narcisstic Zeus set out reclining—asking for sex or simply sunning—? As we did ourselves having our tea outside on January 3rd 2010 —faces turned to pick up rays, cyclamen red under green boxwood. There in the vitrines, one set of Etruscan figures have leaves/trees sprouting off their heads, the figures two inches tall on a double pipe (?), use unknown, they cling to me—I am transported, almost fall into the case. I feel as if in that moment I have entered an Etruscan mind, 2800 years ago and am dancing among trees with so much world, beauty, that is in this mysterious space of head mind sun light. I recover to witness our world and that world’s sad simultaneity— in which war and conquerors are heroes again and again death is power.

Earlier still Palacio Massimo with its endless busts of Romans imitating Greeks—gorgeous particulars of each face. The soulless and yet, these objects have on occasion of the makers’ excellence—a soul. Socrates seems rubid, indulgent, self aware, staring at you across time, Herodotus scholarly and Epicurus extremely handsome (like Zeus above). The woman are often more generic but for some that have aged or like Hypnos, remain asleep.
Livia’s garden is above and reminds me of Roberto Juarez’s garden in Grand Central Station. Roberto, you must have been inspired by same? —A Rome of flowers, accurate and present—you see peony poppy birds trees. And the other rooms of wall paintings, gorgeous colors with cupids perched on corners and delicate balustrades down 10, 20 feet of wall. Black backgrounds for winter rooms to keep in heat and not show fires' soot! In their erasures and missings and delicacies these walls could make a painter’s career today. The partial, the tenderness of the partial, that terror and incompleteness which speak volumes to time and our yearnings. We wish to—

And then we wander streets and I buy a pair of red boots—delicious— and try on a Missoni dress (on sale certo) which is not quite right but such fun to imagine this styling and spending, with D. sitting there telling me if it fits, does splendid things for my body or not. Somehow movie-like to live in that glitterati (for the moment). I do not buy the dress; the smaller print we had seen before the sale is gone….. And into the crush of the metro, somehow like Tokyo. D is back from India and he had not seen so many people since there and never before in Italy. The crush and stink of flesh is nothing compared to those streets he says.

Last night at Giovanna’s ---my Italian friend who loved my art at the shoptalk show and is writing about it: something about the invisible made visible. She will have to finish this month for her masters and translate for me…. She is throwing a dinner in my honor and we arrive a bit late but it is never late enough for Italians! We are all in the kitchen together cooking. David who is such a great cook, is brought up to the stove. Of course he pitches in with all his excellencies. We have a basmati rice with saffron and nutmeg, chicken breaded in small pieces and cooked perfectly. David even goes back to make more in the course of the evening! And antipasto and wine and champagne and as the guests come they are all easy and delightful. The nicest party I have attended in Rome. Gallant and fun. There is a guitarist who arrives with song book and one woman, Tatiana, who is as they joke “our Barbara” [Streisand] who leads the singing gesturing perfectly with her hands and head. They are covers mostly of American pop songs: a natural woman, que sera sera, ridiculous and fun with Italian pop in the mix. We eat joke, speak [my] broken Italian, meet a number of video artists (Giovanna is a curator) and plan to meet again, perhaps to show films at the Academy for these friends in the future.

David has just left for Bergamo, to complete his arrangements before flying back to Boston. A great visit: he got some strength back, he had lost 23 lbs in India. And now has to deal with 10 degree temperature in USA. He is returning in spring to Spain for a show and perhaps I will see him in Madrid when I do my show there. Before though, I need to finish China (you’ve heard this before I know!!) and move on with the PURSUIT and my install (as yet unnamed).

To all—a happy prosperous creative and loving new year. May it bring peace— and thanks to each of you who offered me birthday wishes. It was felt. Certo.

Baci e un abbraccio