Articles by: Letizia Airos soria

  • Art & Culture

    Claudio Angelini. Promoter of the Italian Culture

    It’s the third time that Oggi7 visits Claudio Angelini in his Park Avenue office. We came to see him at the beginning of his term four years ago, to hear about his plans for the Istituto, and again two years later for a first assessment. This time we come here to say goodbye and to collect some reflections and opinions on a term that, even through difficult times, has seen this New York institution change tremendously.

    Angelini, writer, poet (he debuted at a very young age thanks to Salvatore Quasimodo) and journalist, began working at RAI at the same time as Bruno Vespa, Nuccio Fava and Paolo Fraiese. At the height of his career he knew how to translate his lengthy experience as an able communicator to his new appointment as Director of the Istituto. In our first visit, his enthusiasm was apparent from the way he presented his program; the enthusiasm of a man strongly tied to Italian culture: organizer of literary prizes, curator of cultural programs and well-known news anchor as well as correspondent from the Quirinale. Two years later, when we met Angelini again, we found him still productive, but more aware of the difficulties, particularly the bureaucratic ones, that he’s had to deal with. He couldn’t accomplish all that he had planned and promised.

    During his term he’s had his share of criticism. In particular regarding some events he organized. Nevertheless, considered the means available to him, we must recognize how much this man has given to this institution he led. First of all the office on Park Avenue, which no longer has the decaying air it had four years ago. Of course the newly appointed director had dreamed of a renovation plan that was more ambitious, and would involve famous architects: “I tried to get some financing. There was a project with the Public Works Superintendency of Lazio. The basement was going to be turned into a theater with a concert hall…we got a lot less accomplished. We cleaned up the headquarters…we redid the lighting, created an art gallery, renovated the basement which now houses the offices of IACE and the Dante Alighieri…The attic is still left, where I would have liked to dig out another room…I now place my faith in my successor. You need ‘papers’, authorizations…it’s not just a problem of funds.”

    In this third meeting we expected a final assessment from him, instead we realize that in some ways Angelini leaves an “open balance” – open to his successor, but also to the effort that he now intends to put forth directly in the world of Italian culture in the United States.

    Affable as always he welcomes us into an understated yet well renovated office. On a table we notice his book translated into English: The Mystery of Simonetta (Guernica Editions). “It’s the story of a woman in Florence during the 1400s at the court of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Simonetta is the woman painted by Botticelli in Primavera and The Birth of Venus. I recreated the setting of renaissance Florence and the character of this woman, who some thought was an angel, others a courtesan. But then why can’t those two things go together? It was a biographical and ambient research that lasted some years. Piero Bargellini (remembered as the mayor of Florence during the flood) a great popularizer of the history of Florence, introduced me to Simonetta and I read some of her writings. The mystery surrounding her fascinated me. Officially she died of natural causes, but I discovered that the doctors that had visited her did not agree with this diagnosis. And so I created a real thriller around it. But I can’t reveal now if I have her being murdered…”

    The decision to translate it into English was made because of the cultural curiosity Americans have towards the Italian Renaissance: “ I think it is a novel that appeals to them. Of course the translation – as is often the case – had its difficulties, but thanks to Marta King and the excellent editing of Michael Moore we succeeded.”

    The promotion of Italian culture in English and now the Italian language. Angelini will be the new president of New York’s Dante Alighieri. As they say – another hot potato… “I have some clear ideas, but I have to go to Rome to discuss the funding,” he says about it. In a recent article Magdi Allam spoke of the “suicide of Italian”, caused by the few “pennies given to the Società Dante Alighieri (only 1.7 million euro, compared to the 300 million that the Goethe Institut receives from Germany)”. In the Corriere della Sera he wrote: “it’s ridiculous that we are shocked if the European Union and the United Nations declassify Italian”.

    On this subject Angelini’s opinions is realistic: “Europe is hard terrain. There are cultural jealousies in all families. Italy has to set its sights on larger continents like Asia, China, and the two Americas. In particular in the United States, where Italian is so loved. It has it is more widely studied that German or French. And it is third after English and Spanish. I’m not suggesting it’s going to be second or first, but it should maintain its spot. The Dante Alighieri can help this by increasing the diffusion of the language. But it is necessary that the US offices coordinate with each other and there need to be funds to boost the courses. I also want to create an arrangement and work with IACE (Italian American Committee on Education). And I would like to use Italian writers, maybe with the help of the Istituto di Cultura, to hold special Italian lessons. Italian courses give back. Of course there needs to be some initial funding.  A sum of about…60, 70 thousand dollars.

    Along with that, Angelini will return to RAI as a journalist. He has always said with pride how he organized the Istituto di Cultura as a newsroom. “I nominated “managing editors” of sorts. Actually I wouldn’t want them to sue the journalist order…one for art and cinema (Amelia Carpenito Antonucci), one for literary events (Renata Sperandio) and one for music and theater (Silvia Giampaola). I leave a great Istituto among women, like New York itself, a city fascinated by Italian culture. It doesn’t just love the Florentine renaissance, but also our way of life, our music, our new cinema…there is fertile ground, we just opened it up. But I have to say one thing, when I was a director at RAI I had an administrative executive follow me all the time… in the Istituti there should be an analogous figure that reports to the director. I know that in the so-called Baccini reform it was proposed…As far as administrative and bureaucratic matters I think the Istituti have to further themselves more from the consulates. I say it even though I personally was lucky to find the two consul generals I worked with.”

    The funds that should have arrived thanks to an elusive “targeted legislation” never arrived. The Istituto still managed to have its renaissance. “Yes, those funds were diverted who knows where…I think it’s the one thing that really upset me. But in the meanwhile beyond working with our own resources to renovate we intensified our collaboration and the synergy with other centers of Italian culture. The Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, the Italian Academy at Columbia University, the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute at CUNY, since Anthony Tamburri took over. The mission of the Istituto di Cultura is also that of sorting, involving, spreading the culture and in the second half of my term I think we accomplished this. We worked with museums, universities, American organizations. I already prepared some events for the future…I’m not leaving a void. I am happy with the nomination of my successor. Renato Miracco has already collaborated with the Istituto, and there are events that we organized together to maintain continuity.”

    So, more projects. Good luck then, Director…


    Oggi7 - America Oggi


  • Facts & Stories

    “Istituto virtuale” o virtuali “di chiara fama”?

    Vogliamo parlare di ricerca anche in questo magazine. Ma vogliamo farlo portando all’attenzione dei media e dei lettori della Rete qualcosa di diverso dal solito. Abbiamo scelto di raccogliere infatti nel mondo della ricerca italiana in America testimonianze, proposte e provocazioni che spesso hanno difficoltà ad arrivare a destinazione, nonostante siano molto accreditate le persone che le avanzano.

    Cominciamo quindi con Prof. Michele Pagano* (Ellen and Gerald Ritter Professor of Oncology presso il Cancer Institute della New York University School of Medicine) che occupa una posizione di rilievo nella nell'ambiente scentifico americano da anni.

    E la prima domanda che gli porgiamo la rivolgeremo un po’ a tutti.

    Ha senso parlare di “fuga dei cervelli”?

    “In un mondo globalizzato non ha molto significato se vivi e lavori in un Paese o in un altro. Essere italiano e fare lo scienziato negli USA non è diverso da essere brasiliano e fare il calciatore nell’Inter (anche se i calciatori di seria A di solito guadagnano di più).”

    Ma la ricerca biomedica è indubbiamente migliore negli USA. No?

    “Non c’è dubbio che l’Italia investe molto poco nella ricerca biomedica, sia di base che quella collegata alla clinica. In più non possiede un’industria che guadagna dalla ricerca, e non mi riferisco solo a quella innovativa, ma anche alla produzione di tutto quello che serve per la ricerca. Per cui la ricerca rappresenta in Italia solo una spesa, ma nessuna entrata. Però è anche sbagliato generalizzare affermando che la ricerca in USA sia sempre di qualità.”


    “E’ un’idea totalmente erronea che crea la nozione che se un ricercatore riesce a trovare lavoro in un’università degli Stati Uniti sia per definizione migliore di chi lavora in Italia.”

    Sembra che lei voglia sfatare un luogo comune….

    “Si, gli Stati Uniti sono enormi e hanno università prestigiose ma anche altre estremamente mediocri e spesso succede che scienziati di scarso valore trovino una collocazione in queste università di scarsa importanza. Io personalmente conosco tanti italiani, europei, asiatici, ecc. (ed americani, naturalmente) che fanno una ricerca assolutamente di seconda classe negli USA. Questi stessi italiani sono spesso il soggetto di mirabolanti articoli su giornali nazionali e telegiornali della RAI, solo perché svolgono un’attività all’estero, non perché stiano facendo qualcosa di particolarmente meritevole o interessante.”

    E’ una provocazione coraggiosa…

    “Si forse, a questo punto si potrebbe aprire un discorso sul desiderio di apparire nei media che spesso è inversamente proporzionale al valore scientifico dei suddetti ricercatori. O si potrebbe ricordare che per motivi storici (siamo stati dominati per secoli da straniere) e geografici (siamo un popolo di mare e marinai…) gli italiani sono esterofili. O invece si potrebbe (e forse si dovrebbe) aprire un discorso sulla stampa, incluso quella scientifica, e come questa propaghi informazioni sbagliate e spesso non verificate su scoperte scientifiche e su chi le ottiene.”

    Informazione sensazionale quindi…

    ‘Malinformazione’ che allontana dai media italiani tanti ricercatori seri che avrebbero cose sensate da dire ma che hanno il terrore di essere confusi nel gruppo e banalizzati."

    Ma secondo lei esiste una forma di esterofilia scientifica

    "Assolutamente! Pensi che il governo italiano offre da anni posizioni di professore (chiamate di ‘chiara fama’) ad italiani col solo di titolo di essere professori negli Stati Uniti, senza distinzione tra l’essere professore al Massachusetts Institute of Technology o alla Prairie View A&M University. Così, come paradosso, se uno non ha gli ‘amici’ giusti o il pedigree per diventare professore in una facoltà Italiana (e non è particolarmente brillante) potrà emigrare in una università sperduta nel centro degli Stati Uniti, fare carriera là (non è molto difficile, né molto lungo, dalla laurea ad Assistente può prendere dai 3 ai 5 anni) e rientrare in Italia come professore di ‘chiara fama’, ‘ex-cervello in fuga’.”

    Ma allora come possiamo migliorare la ricerca in Italia?

    “Tenendo conto della globalizzazione, io penso che si potrebbe (e si dovrebbe) creare un “Italian Biomedical Institute”, un “Istituto virtuale” che, sebbene italiano, comprenda ricercatori italiani sia in Italia che in USA (ed altre parti del mondo). Questa iniziativa di grande utilità e visibilità “sfrutterebbe” le avanzate infrastutture scientifiche che esistono in prestigiosi istituti americani e sarebbe assolutamente meno costosa di qualsiasi progetto che voglia creare un nuovo, tradizionale istituto di ricerca. Questo istituto virtuale verrebbe formalmente riconosciuto dalle università ospitanti (l’affiliazione o il gemellaggio formale di multiple università è un’operazione molto facile negli USA) e facilitare:

    1. Scambi tra USA e Italia di Know-how e Tecnologie Biomediche.

    2. Scambi tra USA e Italia di Brevetti nel campo biomedico.

    3. Periodi di preparazione ed aggiornamento in USA di Dottorandi, Post-Dottorandi e Ricercatori italiani.

    4. Raccolti di fondi per la ricerca sul cancro presso la comunità Italo-Americana, possibilmente con l‘aiuto delle ambasciate e consolati italiani in USA.”

    In questa intervista lei ha toccato dei punti cocenti e ha fornito delle idee controcorrente. Ma ha anche avanzato una proposta molto interessante… Però come si fa a creare questo “Istituto Virtuale”?

    “Io penso che con l’aiuto di validi elementi italiani (sottolineo, validi) presenti nelle università americane, il ministero dell’Università e Ricerca Italiano possa raggiungere questi obiettivi. Chiaramente c’è bisogno di un’interfaccia con un serio gruppo politico italiano che si impegni nel raggiungimento di questa comune iniziativa, la quale sarà di grossa utilità educativa, scientifica e, possibilmente finanziaria, e potrà rappresentare il fiore all’occhiello della ricerca biomedica italiana.”

    Apparentemente facile, vediamo se qualcuno prende in considerazione l’idea.

    * Michele Pagano

    Ellen and Gerald Ritter Professor of Oncology

    Director of the Growth Control Program

    New York University Cancer Institute

    New York University School of Medicine

    550 First Ave., MSB 599

    New York, NY 10016

    Email: [email protected]


    Michele Pagano, M.D.

    Ellen and Gerald Ritter Professor of Oncology

    Department of Pathology and Cancer Institute

    Dr. Pagano, an internationally recognized molecular and cell biologist, studies the cell division cycle and how the deregulation of this process contributes to malignant transformation. He received his doctorate in Medicine and a Specialty Diploma in Molecular Endocrinology in 1989 from the Federico II University in his native Napoli, Italy. He was subsequently a post-doctoral fellow at the EMBL, Heidelberg, Germany (1990-92) and a principal investigator and scientific co-founder of Mitotix Inc., Cambridge, MA (1992-96). He joined the NYU School of Medicine in September 1996 and has been the director of the Growth Control Program of the NYU Cancer Institute for the past seven years. He has received many prestigious grants and in 2006 obtained a MERIT Award from the National Cancer Institute in recognition of his outstanding achievements in cancer biology. Dr. Pagano serves as an Associate Editor of Cancer Research and Journal of Biological Chemistry and he is the founding Editor of Cell Division, a journal of the BioMed Central. He has published 127 leading papers and has been invited to present seminars to more than 150 international conferences, universities or research institutions in the USA and abroad

  • Op-Eds

    Citizen Journalism

    ... as a tool to enable people to collaborate in the creation and exchange of information.

    Some 15 years later, it should not come as a surprise that the one field most affected by this momentous change is journalism. The phenomenon of “citizen journalism” is now ubiquitous, displacing old-style media thanks to an endless network of blogs and audio- and video-sharing websites.

    What we are trying to do with i-Italy is to convert the social potential of the web into a powerful communication and collaboration tool for Italian Americans, Italians who live in the U.S., and Americans who have an interest in Italy. Our challenge is to connect worlds that rarely meet, and hardly know each other. Lack of knowledge and superficial interaction is at the origin of so many stereotypical perceptions: e.g., Americans as ignorant cowboys without history, Italians as paesani immigrants with mafia connections. If there were ever a way to put an end to these foolishly distorted images the old media keep disseminating about Italy, America, and Italian America, it is through i-Italy.

    A group of innovative journalists and public intellectuals are willing to embark upon this path together. But we can only succeed if we are able to trasmit the challenge to our readers, making them an active and important part of our enhanced editorial staff. To this end, i-Italy will give everyone the opportunity to collect, tell, discuss, and spread information about their life, culture, and heritage. A journalist in the 21st century must be able to gather with humility the input from the net’s grassroots contributors. As for myself, I offer not only my professional experience as a writer, but also my personal experience as an Italian who has been living in this country – and among its Italians - for many years and loves it.


    Editor Oggi7- Managing Editor




  • Art & Culture

    A rebel, between past and future

    ... But his are thoughts of freedom, memories, acknowledgements, and reflections. He wants to talk about the past, the future, everything. Maybe even the Universe.

    Aldo is like this, every time you meet him he manages to sweep you away. He involves you. A retrospective on Aldo will be held in a few days in Lucca, a very important first in Italy. I contacted him to get his impressions on his return to his origins, the city where he spent his infancy and adolescence. I try to grasp his feelings, emotions and above all his recollections. It is like an overflowing river. It’s impossible to embank him, you follow him and you become a stone being slammed from one bank to the other.

    And yet there is something more profound that goes beyond his way of communicating, his American being but also his indissoluble ties to Italy. His artistic and human path is a burning fire of constant rebellion. He’s a man ready to feel - not just artistically - the responsibility to contest those that which others know only to accept.

    “My goal is the masses; I look for simultaneity...for me humanity is sharing, giving of my personal experiences to others. One might say, ‘I own a Van Gogh,’ but I’d like to also say that even those who have nothing, share similar experiences.  The same courage, the same tormented heart, the same human concept that anyone else may share.”

    His has been a life linked to four cities: Syracuse, Lucca, New York and Cambridge. Son of a Brazilian father and an Italian mother, he was born in Syracuse, New York in 1930, and at 18 months he was taken to Lucca, where he began his artistic studies, but war interrupted his life. He was close to death at least two times: during the bombing of Lucca and soon after in the fields when the S.S. arrived.

    In 1945 he returned to Syracuse where he attended university. In 1959 he moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, organized an underground movement called “Group Center,” and became the leader of a group of counter-culture artists. He opened the first experimental film theatre, the Gate Theatre, and with German artist Otto Piene, the Black Gate Theatre for live multimedia performances. At the beginning of the 60’s he began “the Black Film Series” and “Black TV” (now at the Museum of Modern Art), which won at the Oberhausen Festival. Since 1974, Aldo has been a Fellow at CAVS at MIT.

    Aldo’s personality is multifaceted. He is an intense writer of prose and poetry. The abrasive witness and peace activist of our times tells me that in the past few years he has dedicated more time to his writing activities as an artistic outlet. Among his latest accomplishments was the Exhibit in Berlin No Art! Show and his digital film LISTEN, which won the Howl Festival 2004 in New York, the New England Experimental Film Festival, and the Syracuse International Film Festival.

    Aldo is to some an agitating figure of the 60s and 70s, yet to others, a soothsayer. He puts forth political and social themes in his art: often-uncomfortable themes spanning from the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, to black youth, to the Vietnam War, to Italian-American issues, and civil rights.

    He has no brakes. He explores new technologies and makes experimental videos. He works directly on film with chemical agents and inks, he scratches them, and inserts commercial footage. “I used media as a social reaction against those who didn’t consider media as an art form. No gallery or museum in New York in 1967 would have given importance to a low quality VHS tape.”

    When Tambellini picked up an amateur video camera, he intuitively realized he had a cheap, immediate, powerful tool in his hands. And everywhere in his films was the color black.  “Black to me is like a beginning - a beginning of what it wants to be rather than what it does not want to be. I don’t mean black as a tradition or non-tradition in painting, nor as having anything to do with pigment, nor as an opposition to color. As I am working and exploring black in different dimensions, I’m definitely more and more convinced that black is actually the beginning of everything. Black gets rid of historical definitions. Black is a state of being, both blind and more aware. Black is oneness with birth. Black is within totality, the oneness of all. Black is the expansion of consciousness in all directions. Blackness is the beginning of the re-sensitizing of human beings. I strongly believe in the words ‘black power’ as a powerful message, for it destroys the old notion of western man, and by destroying that notion it also destroys traditional concepts of art.”

    Memories of war permeate his whole life, personal and artistic - and even here, “black” appears….”The jeeps came down from the mountains; there were black Americans who came to liberate us. Only their commanding officers were white. Maybe this is the reason why I am one of the few Italian-Americans involved with blacks.”

    Curious and immersed in the future, but always holding onto a thread of the past, Tambellini narrates his memories as events as though they’ve just happened. Lucca unleashes on a non-stop emotional trip through his memories. Events of thirty or sixty years ago come to life. Memories of the art school where he made a fresco with images of the city. Memories of his military service and the first protests in which he took part. Memories of his mother, who was destroyed psychologically by the war, becoming more distant and fragile, to whom Aldo says he owes his artistic beginnings. Memories of that brother so different from him who used to attended fascist meetings. “I used to refuse to go, I was a lively child, I was only calm when I used to draw or paint.”

    Proud of his Italian Culture, Aldo talks about how critical his foundation was, steeped in the classics, which he brought with him to America. “Dante was critical in my formation.” But with anger he insists that the media overshadows the image of the Italian-American. “When I returned to the United States I represented “Art” and the Italian culture to many, but now, however, it’s not the same. Italian-Americans are best known for their money, pizza and spaghetti, but never for their culture.”

    “I respect people who are involved and militant, not those who think that nothing will ever change. Culture is important in keeping a connection with one’s roots, but Italian-Americans have not given serious consideration to this aspect, I must say, and no Italian-American has ever helped my art.”

    “I am one of the oldest, very few of us are left”...and then more memories and comments. Since his arrival in Syracuse, his works have dealt more with blacks, and with world conflict still fresh in his mind, he captures the desperation in poor neighborhoods, where he finds yet another war - one on poverty. And this work becomes his door to the academy. “I went to the Museum of Fine Arts and I showed them my paintings. I was 17 years old and they told me ‘you should be teaching here.’ I became a teacher with my broken English. It was my first job. Then someone spoke to me about a group of artists who sublet a loft on Salina Street called Vedet. They were all much older than I was, they used to go there to paint, and they accepted me among them. They were modern. I knew little then of Modern Art, like De Chirico and Boccioni, for example, because in Italy, reproductions of their works appeared in literature books. Marinetti was the Minister of Culture then.

    It’s now 2007 and his works will return to Italy thanks to the interest of a young researcher, Nicola Borelli and not because of a politician (the Minister of Culture). Moved by Tambellini’s work, and above all by the fact that Italy has known little of his work, the student of cinema has worked so lavishly to bring a consciousness of an artistic career which may have developed far away but, in a certain sense, still belongs to Italy. The program in Lucca is well articulated, the details of which may be found on the Lucca Film Festival (September 28-October 6) website

    A question comes to mind: how much time must pass before Italians and Italian-Americans become conscious of (and begin to recognize) such important cultural phenomena as that of the creative works of Aldo Tambellini?