Friday, April 16, 2010


Here are pictures from the opening, along with preparatory shots: Stefano in basement hanging screen and the two boys Malcolm and Titus covering the skylights in the cortile so the Cryptoporticus was dark all day.

I like very much that the piece is in the Cryptoporticus, the basement, above the aqueduct: as if film is bringing back the dead, or it is the doorway to the
dead? the depths, the underground, so chthonic (a word i learned in Sicily).
The show went very well. A spettacolo spettacolare.
Close to 100 persons came the first night. Everyone was very positive: both the previously negative and the always supportive. People had smart things to say in many directions.
I liked the show. It was magical with people/shadows moving through the space; the sound was mix of 4 sets of speakers across the long 125 ft hallway and its 75 foot arms;
the portraits projected on the brick walls particularly amazing since they became decayed frescos or mosaics, distorted, strange.

Slept most of today.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 15th, week of the opening!

April 15th, 2010
Recovering from many trips and install about to open tomorrow, ooops today!
Tuesday long bus ride to Palestrina and then Benedictine monastry. In Palestrina best thing was triangular tower house part of the Barberini estate, built at sharp angles like the Aurelian walls here by Villa Sciarra---so that they could fire from two directions. Here the walls are folded upon themselves. Very sharply so the building is a triangle, the inside a hexagonal with three points. Extremely beautiful in decay—a party house for the wealthy in the 16th century, by an architect who shared model makers with architect and sculptor Francesco Borromini. We met the extant Barberini, Elena, who lives next door; it is a working farm, albeit small. Then up the hill to Palestrina, a Renaissance Palace built onto of a Christian church built on top of a Roman mystical site built on to earlier ruins. It commands the valley from the sea east and north to Rome. It was a site commanding travel for centuries and the valley saw the march of the Americans in June 1945 coming up the valley near the close of World War II. Some spectacular Etruscan finds (but mostly they are in Villa Giula back in Rome).

We toured, we climbed a bit, we ate lunch, got caught in the rain and back in bus
to Benedictine Monastery near Subiaco. The area was conquered by the Romans in 304 BC who built four aqueducts to bring the water of the Anio River to Rome. Later, Nero had the river dammed to form three artificial lakes and built a villa for himself next to them. [I have to look at the cheap Hollywood version entitled “Nero”!] The area was named Sublacus ("below the lakes"), which later became Subiaco.

St. Benedict has a largish back story. We were told anecdotes of his life, where fellows tried to poison him and he was saved—thus, a miracle! He was born near Spoleta in 480 AD and went to university in Rome, but was horrified by the immorality in the big city(!). He left for solitude on the forested slopes near Subiaco where a monastery was already established, but Benedict chose to live alone in a cave (the Sacro Speco) for three years, sustained by scraps of food lowered in a basket by his friend Romanus. He frequently fought temptation, famously casting himself naked into thorn bushes to combat lust. What they don’t tell you is he went into the cave with a servant! Ahhh those monks.

Benedict was eventually discovered in his cave and invited to become the superior of the nearby monastery of Vicovaro. However, the monks soon found his rule so unpleasantly strict (!) that they tried to poison him, hence the miracle. Benedict returned to his cave, but by then had attracted so many followers that he could no longer pursue the solitary life, and thus organized his first monastic community at Subiaco, housed in part of Nero's old imperial villa. Benedict lived there for 20 years, during which time he founded 12 daughter monasteries and wrote his famous Rule that would become the standard guideline for western monasticism. I don't know this 'rule'?

The place is magnificent. Built into hills of stone with beautiful 12th century frescos. There is a fantasy about the place, winding up to it (getting nauseous along route), seeing hills form walls and coves of place, the extant drawings and small intimate scale. Beautiful sudden descents and ascents, steep magnificence, all limestone vistas covered in pale spring leaves.

The next day the Foro Italico, a group of buildings to the north founded by Mussolini, masterpieces of 1930s architecture. A sport center, a private gymnasium, a college.
All quite disturbing: the past not erased with its slogans “more enemies, more honor”. And the wonderful question brought up by Adrian, ooops Darian, a fellow, re: do you destroy disturbing historical monuments or save and surround with criticality. There is an article about this that uses as an example the Taliban destroying Buddhist statuary—which places the issue in an interesting light. Myself, I would save and create critical commentary around them (as in my films!). Here at Foro Italico, there are empty marble slabs which were to further fascist historical exploits but could look at other empires: roman, Etruscan, garibaldian, communist etc. The elegant fascist piazza is by Luigi Moretti who also did Mussolini’s private gymnasium. The obelisk of solid marble shouts il duce duce il duce and no attempt has been made to erase this. The piazza has mosaics that map the foro and sloganeering and imitate the crowds screaming as well il duce il duce and have fish and lobster circling the beautiful, non functioning spherical marble fountain. Large impressive perspectival and odd actually. A swimming pool is Olympic sized, a stadium rebuilt for more seats for soccer which happens weekly has lost much of its Travertine while the private gymnasium has spared no expense: bookended marble, high ceilings, originally a hanging set of moveable barbells and gymnastic rings. Gorgeous. Also an outdoor stadium type space ringed in gigantic futuristic brutalist statues of athletes—perhaps for marches and dances a la Korean spectacles of more current histories?

Do all dictators go for large? Today there was a visit to Shelley’s grave in the protestant cemetery but I could n’t be up for another morning trip no matter how relevant (i will go next week with my sister visiting) as I spent the night late re-working a loop for the seventh screen of my show. The show, mostra, exhibition opens tonight!
Wish me luck. Un abbraccio
a mi amici

Sunday, April 4, 2010

more Pix from Sicily

Easter 2010

April 4, 2010
It’s Easter, la Primavera, the week of Passover conjoined with equinox and increasing of la luce, light. Buona Pasqua to you, mi amici. Last night with friend Lauren S. we went to San Sabina high up on Aventine Hill, a residential sector, elite, mysteriously quiet, music coming from one house only trickling over the star studded sky, black silhouettes of juniper and cedar, baroque walls where Shelley walked, time stopped. We peeked through the keyhole and saw down an avenue of boxwood (?) the Vatican amazingly pointed lit. This is the view in kid’s storybooks and it has indeed a mysterious sense of false front or supernatural vision. Around us the smell of wisteria, it has just bloomed from oddly prehistoric pallid hairy pendulous bobs, midst mostly dark windows and silent streets—everyone is out of town visiting their grandmother! We showed up early, wandered, were about to leave for another church when the priests (20 of them approximately) came out of San Sabina with 140-200 parishioners holding candles. Lauren whispered: let’s get a candle and on the way in we managed to. First there was a beautiful bonfire outside, increasing in scent as it burnt down (incense inside the bundle?) while the priests sang, the young ones Black and Latin, Asian, ‘imported’ for the church (so much for immigration battles). They lit a large candle—4 feet long, 6 inches in diameter from the fire and then carried it in to the darkened church as we all with small tapers lit by each other ‘s flame—look in each eye as light ‘my fire’— followed. The young priests sang in Latin and as we entered in the dark, eventually lights came on at front, the back still in shadow. The older priest put the large candle in a fancy candelabra, bottomed with breasts and twisted to look like (to these secular eyes) pubis or ass atop twisted legs. He began to sing in Latin without microphone—the church tall and of stone, made out of Roman columns (reminding me somewhat of the Sicilian churches incorporating Hellenic columns)—reverberating his bass voice beautifully for a half hour. Magnificent. We stood, then sat, stood, then sat. The mass began with Genesis: let there be light. We tiptoed out and got on the bike to look for an Enoteca, or wine bar.

Testaccio was amazingly quiet for Saturday night. One bar completely empty so we peeked at the glass wall fronted on the mountain of clay shards that construct that hill—
the discarded remains of thousands upon thousands of amphores: magnificent unintended architecture with intended pipes running through it for air circulation and water drainage. Then on L’s motorino searching for a nice atmosphere, still open. Ended up at Olio e…..?—winebar recommended by Leonard, here at Academy, ate and drank and biked home through Trastevere which unlike the rest of Rome was packed with kids: all those ones escaping church and family or at school here? Trastevere is full of English schools. Beautiful night with the Latin and stars singing out. I am not religious at all but I too can welcome spring.

Earlier that day and yesterday the weather has been fabulous: warm in sun, going down in temperature at night. I’ve spent last two mornings waking up at 7am to shoot the staccato ‘clock’ light of the roman shade as the sun has swung now to front of the room—this close to my last chance to get it on the wall. Soon the sun will swing more forward or rather close to the window than when I got here as I approach more than 4 months past equinox of dec 21st. This light has been a kind of calendar; I have shot in fall, winter and now spring. Hoping I got it adequately—its tricky because the light is hot but it is mostly dark in room. As well, I shot film of the spring blossoms in back garden all yesterday having checked on the weather and realized it was to rain Easter and Easter Monday which is a big holiday here: little Easter it’s called— closed up stores and swimming pools. Friday I swam and stopped at Volpetti’s a fancy tiny deli (like NYC’s Dean and Deluca….?) with expensive goodies so I stocked up on a few small cheeses and salami and fancy ravioli and the price was 35Euro. O my---the place was packed. Easter is a big deal and like all of Italy food tops its pleasures. On that end our barbecue has been cancelled today because of rain but I plan an Easter meal with friends at the Academy.
Wishing you a glass and much light.