Sunday, November 14, 2010



So I return October 29th through November 9th for my show at Cinoteca, The National Archive at wondrous Sala Trevi, a gem of a modern theatre hung over a 2000 year old ruin and continuously running water. The Roman aquifer astonishes me: this many years through drought and sun! My friend, the poet Benoît Gréan picks me up at Fiumicino and we drive to the Academy where I see Lauren Kinnee, last year's Fellow at the Gate—she shouts: its just like last year, i feel at home. And where Kathryn Moore (last year's two-year fellow as well) leaves me a key for Cryptoporticus piano room so that i have an 'office' from which to work. I leave my tech suitcase there to be joined the next day with film camera and video—and we go up to Benoît's delightful apartment overlooking the Piazza di Santa Maria Chiesa in Trastevere.

I sleep two hours and then B. hustles me over to Sala Trevi where we watch a B comedy in Italian. I hear more Italian in these 11 days than I will have the last 11 months up at the Academy. By the end of the week i can understand the slower speakers round a lunch table. Marvelous!

The city is familiar to walk in. Still turns and walls I don't recognize but a certain kind of 'there i have been' and there and there, ecco la. We end the night with dinner for 10 at the fabulous house of Francisco in Trastevere (all the artists seem to live here on the climbing quiet(er) hill west of the river. Francisco comes from Palermo and he sold a house there to buy this apartment loaded with art. Francisco does costumes for the opera and there is a German editor here as well, an Italian philosopher and a colleague of F. who was assistant costume designer for Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. Very nice crowd and certo, a fantastic 7 course meal! Including pate and orecchie (little ears) pasta made with nuts since it is autumn. We are happily stuffed, i nearly asleep but by being forced to stay up i am instantly over jet lag and with the help of Melatonin, sleep each night (until the end— but more on that).

Next day I climb to the Academy (intending to hit every stair up from Trastevere and indeed i do over the next 11 days) to meet Mary Doyle my marvelous assistant with camera and we plug everything in and talk, plan and organize. Having the basement room is a godsend as is access to the web in the Salone. Benoît's web access is acting up so Mary comes back with me to help Benoît's set up and yes she can solve it—better and quicker than the endless help line phone calls he was making. We are due for dinner at Annie's, a French literature professor. Somewhat like Henry James, Benoît has dinner engagements 3 or 4 times a week. Tall, skinny, birdlike, everyone likes to cook for him! Another 7 course meal, this time a pasta with a bit of hot pepper and a marvelous veal en daube--perhaps the best i have every eaten. Gelato for dessert after wonderful salad and once again we are able to stroll home, stopping on route through Trastevere to look at for-rent posters since B. has to move from his delightful rookery come spring.

Sunday i show up at the Academy to record Kathryn on piano. She tires after a while and the sun is lost since the rains have come —it is November—how could i have forgotten? i build a fire with help of Lauren and her new beau Sam, so get that scene with more closeups. Which is wonderful—I needed it. I stay for Sunday dinner though it is just Kathryn and me— we get to gab and she shows me the wonderful book that inspired her by her professor at U of Virginia---must get title.......beautifully produced like an art book. She makes a great soup which is perfect for the chill.

Monday it is rainy again for the Day of the Dead. We make plans and then stay home. Benoît cooks up some fresh ravioli and salad and finally at 3...the days are going dark. Daylight savings went away--[why? why?!] —we go to Verano on the east side of Rome, the big cemetery. On the day of the dead, families bring flowers. Lauren Sunstein, my friend from the last year (whose mother remarkably wrote one of the major books on Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley and our paths crossed by chance) says she goes the next day and it is touching as every stone is covered in flowers. Today in the rain, the dark blacks of stones we wandered among a few folks, many flowers. Above there is a section that is not laid out square but with round buildings and paths round them and reminded my of nothing so much as the Etruscan tombs at Cerveteri. Beautiful and not so beautiful sculpture, fascist period architecture and statuary , many gorgeous sleeping (!) men and painted poignant portraits that reminded me of Russian tombs. All this construction, the futile attempt to save humans from 'oblivion'. That taking care of the dead is a first sign of civilization both makes sense and not to me, or perhaps the largeness of this memoriam is what does NOT make sense. It is a last illusion—to make death look like life under the guise of giving the dead a welcome. Dead is like a period at the end of the sentence. It does not need a hat.

We stop by Lauren's on the way home and find she knows some of the people that Benoît knows. Once again we discover the boheme of Rome are a small(ish) crowd, and or that artists conjoin. That night we go out with Florantin and Siruda—the name of some epic poem or opera? Norwegian crossed with French lyric perhaps? Florantin is past colleague of Benoît and Siruda his Tajikistan wife. Very nice people with energy that was more than i had seen at the dinners——was it the dinners were more formal? Or what Benoît sometimes says about Italy all together: that it is tired? Florantin works for the World Bank (boo) and does good things (cuts through red tape, yea) and had an enthusiasm. also two children so that Siruda's energy was a bit different. We have delicious fish meal, we all eat way too much. Home again through Trastevere looking for B's new home.

Tuesday we go to Bormarzo. Takes a while to get out of the city; the traffic is immense, noisy. B is still on long weekend off, weather grey and not for shooting though rain is holding off and in the country the trees are lushly yellow, the sun shines weakly from behind, there is an immanence of light along the forest . The parqui di mostri is a l6th century folly, a testament to love: when Giulia Farnese died, her husband Prince Pier Francesco Orsini called upon architect Pirro Ligorio to create a "Villa of Wonders" in homage to her. (Orsini was called upon to complete St. Peters in Rome after Michelangelo died, and built the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, so he was no weekend tinkerer, to be sure.) Like some fairy tale come true—out of the stones in the forest come a whales mouth, a turtle bigger than a garden house, two giants fighting, a mouth of a monster like a grotesque Halloween stone pumpkin, a salone lined with giant pinecones and acorns (loved that). Quite beautiful and strange, mythology alive or rather illustrated. Could not take out tripod so shot with canon and we will see (this is my current mantra).

On way back we head off to Chia to search for Pasolini's Tower. We spot it in the distance and walk towards it but are almost immediately sidetracked by a stream and l5th century stone mills fallen apart but you can still see where the water has been forced into a smaller channel to build up pressure. We get lost we climb. We are not wearing hiking clothes nor shoes but we move forward. B. has laid out the challenge and of course i follow. At one point we say we hope we dont have to go back the same way as we have been climbing and it is getting dark and then we run into a metal locked door. We turn round and retrace our steps appreciating still the wildness the water--muddy grey dun colored seasonal. We find another path back off the road this one dryer faster how did we miss it? And again a locked metal wall. I get up on B's head but there is nothing to be seen . Pasolini has protected his privacy well.

We head on to Viterbo hoping to do a terme, or bath, but in the fast approaching dark we miss it and go on back to the city for a restaurant that Fellini loved. We have chestnut soup it is in season and buy 'dead fingers' the cookies only made this time of year at a lovely Forno. On our way back , B can't read the signs well. I read them for him but we get lost and at one point we are circling a traffic circle multiple times, like something out of Jacques Tati's films. It is hysterical, we can't stop laughing. We ask directions a few times and B says yes, drives out and then is again completely lost. Even i can understand the directions but they still don't always make sense or rather, we can't remember, rather than ask to write them down, B does not want to be impolite! So struck i am by this/his craziness, we laugh and laugh. Another adventure.

I must continue this later as i have a show for tonight, so soon miei amici, a presto