Sunday, May 24, 2015

Vogalonga 2015 in Venice - The World's Most Pleasant Boat Race

Vogalonga 2015
(Venice, Italy) The Vogalonga or "long row" has evolved into an international rowing event, with people who have a passion for boats that are propelled only by oars or paddles arriving in Venice from all over the world. It is one of the most beautiful days to be in Venice because there are no motorboats allowed -- not even the vaporettos run on the Grand Canal.

Vogalonga 2015
Rowing clubs from the Veneto and beyond fill the lagoon with the sweet sound of oars gliding into the water. Even though there are no cars in Venice, the noise the motor boats make with their grinding engines sometimes sounds as bad as the Los Angeles freeway. On Vogalonga, the loudest noises are made by human voices and the pounding drums that keep the dragon boats on track. The silence is awesome... and inspiring.

Vogalonga 2015
The Vogalonga began 41 years ago, back in 1974. A group of Venetians who were rowing enthusiasts wanted to draw attention to how motor boats run by fossil fuel were damaging the Grand Canal and lagoon by the violent waves they made -- something that Venetians still fight to bring to the world's attention today. They decided to have a long, non-competitive race, starting in the Bacino of San Marco in front of Palazzo Ducale.

Vogalonga 2015
The route is about 30 kilometers long (about 19 miles), winds out past the islands, and ends up on the Grand Canal -- really one of the most fantastic routes on the planet that a rower could hope to enjoy. It takes anywhere from 2 hours (if you're very fast) to 6 hours (if you want to kick back and see the scenery) to complete the race.

The event is entirely self-funded -- no sponsors, no government support -- just the €20 entry fee each rower pays to participate. These days there are thousands of participants; each year seems to set a new record.

Vogalonga 2015
For a few hours, on the day of the Vogalonga, it is easy to see how Venice came to be called La Serenissima -- the Most Serene Republic. How peaceful and serene the world seems without gasoline motors!

CLICK to go to the official Vogalonga website.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Longest Marriage in History: Venice and the Sea - Festa della Sensa 2015

Festa della Sensa 2015
(Venice, Italy) Venice and the Sea have been married now for more than 1000 years. Sunday, May 17, Ascension Day, Venice once again renewed her vows to her watery husband. I spent the weekend out on the Lido, and, for the first time, really appreciated the significance of the ceremony, which was first instituted by Doge Pietro II Orseolo more than a millennium ago.

Festa della Sensa 2015
On May 9, 1000, Ascension Day -- the day on which Jesus Christ had zoomed up to heaven 1000 years before -- the dynamic Doge Pietro Orseolo II sailed a fleet across the Adriatic Sea to Croatia to crush the irritating Dalmatian pirates who had been a thorn in Venice's side -- and everyone else who was trying to do business in the Adriatic Sea -- for far too long. From Venice - The Rise to Empire by John Julius Norwich:

...the Doge heard Mass in the cathedral of S. Pietro di Castello, and received from the Bishop of Olivolo a consecrated standard [a banner believed to depict the famous Venetian emblem, the winged lion with an open book in his paws, for the first time]. Thence he proceeded in state to the harbour where the great Venetian fleet lay waiting for him, boarded his flagship and gave the signal to weigh anchor. After a night at Jesolo, the fleet came the next morning to Grado, where the Patriarch... ceremonially greeted them and invested the Doge with relics of St. Hermagoras [friend and disciple of St. Mark].

Festa della Sensa 2015
Doge Pietro Oreseolo II succeeded gloriously in his mission, and returned in great triumph to Venice. This was a victory that needed to be commemorated. Norwich again:

...it was decreed that on every succeeding Ascension Day -- the anniversary of the fleet's departure -- the Doge, with the Bishop of Olivolo and the nobles and citizens of Venice, should sail out again by the Lido port into the open sea for a service of supplication and thanksgiving. In those early days the service was short and the prayer simple, though it asked a lot: 'Grant, O Lord, that for us and for all who sail thereon, the sea may ever be calm and quiet.'

Policeman patrolling on a Jet Ski
Apparently the Lord was listening this Ascension Day, because the sea was calm and quiet, the sun was blazing, and the temperature was pleasant and warm. Venice doesn't have a Doge anymore -- right now, we are even without a mayor -- but we still have a Patriarch after all these centuries. Francesco Moraglia was installed as the Patriarch of Venice on March 25, 2012 -- Venice's birthday. That the Patriarch should still travel out to the Lido to celebrate Mass in the Church of San Nicolò (where some of the bones of St. Nicholas himself are stashed) on the Feast of the Ascension when Venice marries the sea illustrates the importance of the festival.

Francesco Moraglia, Patriarch of Venice - Festa della Sensa 2015
I have written about the Festa della Sensa before, detailing how it was ramped up into a proper marriage ceremony by Pope Alexander III in 1177 after the Venetians succeeded in coaxing Emperor Frederick Barbarossa to calm down and come to Piazza San Marco where he prostrated himself in front of the Pope and received the kiss of peace. It seems it is always a beautiful sunny day on the Festa della Sensa. Click the links below to revisit 2012 and 2013.

Venice Marries the Sea and the America's Cup!!!

The Ancient and the Contemporary, the Sacred and the Profane merge once again in Venice. Today is Ascension Day, the day that celebrates the bodily ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. In Venice, it is known as the Festa della Sensa; "sensa" is the word "ascension" in the Venetian language. Whenever Venetians get their hands on a special day, they like to pack as much power into that day as possible. So, in the morning there is the traditional Festa della Sensa celebration, and in the afternoon -- the America's Cup!

Festa della Sensa 2015

Venice Renews her Vows to the Sea - Festa della Sensa 2013

In one of the world's longest marriages, today Venice once again tossed her ring into the Sea, cementing a relationship that has endured for more than a thousand years. Oh, sure, there have been some quarrels, as in any intimate relationship, but Venice and the Sea have managed to endure century after century. Despite a few storms, floods and other shows of temper, Venice and the Sea always work out their differences and arrive at a state of equilibrio. It is a beautiful day here in La Serenissima, full of sunshine and good feelings -- perfect weather for a wedding. 

Fort of Sant'Andrea
With the flag of San Marco flying in the distance on the Fort of Sant'Andrea, a fortress built in 1543 on the island of Sant'Andrea century to defend Venice, it felt safe and snug to be inside the arms of La Serenissima on her wedding anniversary.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Art Invasion of Venice - Biennale 2015

Bruce Nauman - Life, Death, Love, Hate, Pleasure, Pain
(Venice, Italy) The World of Art tornadoed into Venice last week for the preview of ALL THE WORLD'S FUTURES, flinging colors throughout the city like a giant kaleidoscope released from its cylinder. Arsenale and Giardini were the center of the storm, where Okwui Enwezor, curator of the Biennale's 56th International Art Exhibition has gathered together a montage of artists to monitor the state of the planet.

Angelus Novus by Paul Klee (1920)
Enwezor was inspired by Angelus Novus by Paul Klee, and the writing of German philosopher Walter Benjamin, who owned the painting. The Angel of History is the seed of the show. Benjamin wrote:

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

Everything will be taken away by Adrian Piper
I love it when the artists come to town with their divine offerings. Private palaces wake up, shops stay open late and the air is sprinkled with refreshing conversations. Creative people arrive from all over the globe to witness the birth of the exhibition. It is impossible to be everywhere you are supposed to be; you can be spirited away to someplace you never intended to go.

I went to the wrong party, which was so much fun that I skipped the right one. I stumbled into Rock & Roll Private Library over at Santa Maria Della Pieta, a hodgepodge of cool stuff collected for decades by Punk rocker Mick Jones of The Clash. Since Mick and I are the same age, he's got a lot of perfectly preserved relics from the last century that brought back personal memories -- life was so much fun! What is here in Venice is a fragment of the collection housed in London. According to the website, "Envisaged as a permanent reference library for use by both the local and international community, [the Rock & Roll Public Library] comprises, believes Jones, ‘a personal, cultural and social history of our times, and through that it extends beyond the local to the global.’"

Mick Jones & Cat Bauer - Opening of Rock & Roll Public Library, Venice
Inside Biennale, my three favorite installations were:

1. In addition to her Everything will be taken away series, Golden Lion winner Adrian Piper created the Probable Trust Registry. Three young women perched behind three corporate office desks, armed with iPads. Over their heads were three statements: I WILL ALWAYS MEAN WHAT I SAY, I WILL ALWAYS BE TOO EXPENSIVE TO BUY and I WILL ALWAYS DO WHAT I SAY I AM GOING TO DO. After reading The Rules of the Game, I signed a Personal Declaration for the first two statements, which will be sealed in Piper's archive in Berlin for 100 years. I didn't sign the last statement because I thought, what if I say I am going to do something that involves other people and they don't want to do it?


2. Oscar Murillo debuted Frequencies, his ongoing project, which I absolutely loved. Students aged 10 to 16 around the globe have canvases fixed to their classroom desks and can doodle whatever they want on them for an entire semester. The difference in the sizes of the canvas and the wealth of the countries was impressive. Some kids shared a desk, and a line was drawn down the middle of the canvas. Some countries had lots of colors; some countries only pen and ink. A website will archive each canvas and make it searchable by country, school and age, as well as subject matter and style, illustrating both the dramatic differences and astonishing similarities across continents, races, and social status.

France national pavilion

3. Céleste Boursier-Mougenot's installation for the French national pavilion is revolutions, three living trees that sing and dance while humans lounge on cushions and absorb the magic. The three Scotch pines (two outside; one inside) are mobilized by the electricity generated by the conversion of data drawn from their metabolisms -- variations in their sap flow and their sensitivity to light and shade. Part of Boursier-Mougenot's inspiration was Francesco Colonna mysterious book, The Dream of  Poliphilus, when trees morph into trans-human creatures, freed from their roots to the ground. It was so peaceful and relaxing, I could have spent all day in there, listening to the music of the trees.

ALL THE WORLD'S FUTURES runs to November 22, 2015

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog



Wednesday, May 6, 2015

War Paintings by Jenny Holzer - 56th Venice Biennale Collateral Event

RIGHT HAND DOD-044403 by Jenny Holzer (2007)
(Venice, Italy) War Paintings by the renowned American artist Jenny Holzer at the Correr Museum packs a powerful emotional punch. Holzer has spent more than a decade researching the behavior of the United States government after 9/11, using declassified and other sensitive government documents written by U.S. politicians, CIA and FBI officials, members of the U.S. Department of Defense, detainees captured by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and civilian victims of war. She then transformed what she learned from the heavily redacted documents about the War on Terror into haunting oil-on-linen paintings, writing with her own hands the words from the actual government documents she accessed. "I wanted the paintings to show time and care. I wanted the hand work to be an indicator of sincerity and attention. I wanted it to be human."

Gabriella Belli, Jenny Holzer, Walter Hartsarich
Thomas Kellein, the curator from The Written Art Foundation in Frankfurt, Germany, said it was fitting that the exhibition was in Room 32, the Sala delle Quattro Porte of the Correr Museum, because he always thought of it as "a secret city hall," and said how much he admired and respected Jenny Holzer's work.


But the words... the words... those heartbreaking words on linen... Because of the direct, personal experience I have had as an American writer living overseas targeted by our government, perhaps I know better than many civilians how horrific the behavior of the US government can be, and how extremely difficult it is to communicate such darkness to the people who live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Jenny Holzer has done it. She feels: "the material speaks for itself; having torture seemingly normalized is not a positive development."

in (JIHAD) time by Jenny Holzer (2014)
The exhibition is accompanied by a weighty catalogue, also created by Jenny Holzer and published by Walther Konig in Cologne, Germany, which I strongly recommend. It includes some of the redacted documents, the material that, as Hozler says, "speaks for itself." For example, a document dated July 10, 2001 from the FBI in Phoenix to Counterterrorism illustrates that they were aware long before September 11th that radical Muslims were training as pilots...

Even more than the words of those who had been tortured, what struck me were the words of the Americans themselves. Many, many Americans who love their country, and everything it stands for, tried to stop what was going on. They bravely filed official sworn statements and other documents.

After members of the special forces terrified a redacted prisoner while an interrogator had stepped outside for a break, on February 13, 2002, the interrogator wrote a sworn statement by hand: "I was very upset that such a thing could happen. I take my job and responsibility as an interrogator & as a human being very seriously. I understand the importance of the Geneva Convention & what it represents. If I don't honor it, what right do I have to expect any other military to do so?"


Another redacted document that broke my heart was a letter dated September 26, 2003 from a father "To Whom it May Concern." It starts: "I am writing this letter for my wife and myself. The purpose of this letter is to appeal to you, as a parent, for relief for my son 1st. Lt. ______ in his current situation. I understand that the U.S. Army wants to court martial him and send him to prison."

The father goes to describe himself as a basic, upstanding US citizen, in education for 30 years, appointed by Jeb Bush (?!) to a post that was... redacted. He has friends who are Congressmen. He knows the former governor of Florida. His wife had just retired after spending 17 years as the business manager of their 1000 member church.

His son had led an exemplary life, and wanted to be a career officer. On July 12, 2003, the redacted son wrote to his parents: "Needless to say the Army has made a decision, or helped me make a decision, that I will only serve for 4 years. I still love my country and have faith in her virtues, though she has none in mine. If this goes to court martial it will be broadcast over the news and my name, and yours, will be tarnished forever. You didn't sign up for that, but I did. If this happens I apologize in advance. All I ever wanted to do was to serve and protect those who loved me, and spread freedom to others less fortunate... I have brought hundreds of criminals to prison, captured countless weapons, saved lives of coalition and civilian personnel, have my life threatened on a daily basis from insurgents and criminals alike. Yet all I ever wanted was to be left alone with my platoon so I could continue doing what I love the most..."

Those words struck a deep chord. If they could do that to a soldier who obviously loves his country....

Phase IV Operations pewter Text: U.S. government document © 2007 Jenny Holzer
Prisoners were starved, left shackled in a freezing room, left shackled in a sweltering room, sleep deprived, suffocated and beaten to death. Only the names have been redacted on several of the prisoners' autospy reports, so we can read in cold medical terminology over and over the cause of death: Homicide. After reading the actual descriptions of the harsh interrogation techniques condoned by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney -- that Cheney publicly declared he would "do it again in a minute" -- I can assure you that policy cannot be classified as anything other than torture to any civilized human being.

War Paintings at the Correr Museum
War Paintings is a project between the Musei Civici and the Written Art Foundation, and a Collateral Event of the 56th Venice Biennale International Contemporary Art Festival, ALL THE WORLD'S FUTURES, which opens to the public on on May 9th and runs through November 22nd. President Paolo Baratta stated: "We know that evoking the dramatic facts and occurrences that characterise the present also means admitting history. The present, after all, demands to be understood through the signs, symbols, and recollections that history accords us and from which we draw a sense of desperation but also of illumination. It also means evoking fragments of our recent and remote past, which must not be forgotten."

Jenny Holzer is not the only artist at the international Biennale looking at the past behavior of her country in order to be present and move forward into the future, but because I am American and have personally experienced the shock of how frightening our government can be when it is out of control, it affected me profoundly.

The Dreamer by Heinrich Maria Davringhausen
To get to the Jenny Holzer exhibition at the Correr, you must pass through another incredible exhibition called NUOVA OGGETTIVITA brought here to Venice by the vibrant genius of Stephanie Barron, curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. NEW OBJECTIVITY addresses the Weimar Republic, the period in Germany after WWI and before WWII, which is eerily similar to our own times, and must have its own post.

Go to the Correr Museum

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog
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