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Articles by: Marcello De marco

  • Life & People

    The Week of Remembrance. Never Let the Past Horrors Happen Again

    Some things should never be forgotten. While this statement holds true for many happy historical events, such as the day Columbus touched land, or the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, it is much more important and has a much deeper meaning when we are remembering tragedies: in that case remembering is functional to never let the past horrors happen again.

    This is why every year the Consulate General of Italy in New York places particular emphasis on Remembrance Day, January 27, the date on which, in 1945, the Soviet army entered Auschwitz and discovered what can be defined as one of the most perfect examples of pure evil at work in the history of mankind.

    Italy has always been extremely sensitive about the horrors of WWII, for instance it was one of the first countries to observe Remembrance Day, established by the parliament with a law dated July 20, 2000. Furthermore, the relationship between the italian and Jewish community in New York has historically been very positive and constructive. Rabbi Arthur Schneier himself confirmed this during a recent interview with i-Italy, remembering the contributions of Mayor La Guardia, one of the first to denounce the Nazi persecutions, and more recently Rudy Giuliani and the Cuomos. It is no surprise, then, that the Consulate of Italy in New York put great emphasis on the recurrence, so much that they decided to expand the Remembrance Day into a Remembrance Week full of appointments.
     

    In cooperation with the Primo Levi Center, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò at NYU, the Italian Academy at Columbia University, and the John D. Calandra Institute at CUNY, the Scuola d’Italia “G. Marconi”, and the Consulate organized a series of events meant to contribute to the preservation of the memory of the Holocaust.

    The opening of Remembrance Week took place at the Scuola d’Italia G. Marconi. It was the discussion “New York and Naples: Harbors of Dialogue” between the cardinal of Naples Crescenzio Sepe, who visited New York last week, and Rabbi Arthur Schneier. The event was divided in two parts. The first was a recital performed by actors Robert Zuckerman and Antoinette La Vecchia along with students of the Scuola. It consisted in readings of excerpts from the book “Il Libro della Shoah in Italia” (The Book of Shoah in Italy). These memoirs gave the public an idea of how Jews in Italy lived through those terrible year. Tales of rejections from schools and closures and destructions of Jewish businesses were alternated to tales of more general xenophobia, like that experienced through the innocent eyes of a child who wrote: “my mum used to tell me that black people smell. When I was at school I tried to smell my black schoolmates but I could find no difference with the white ones”.
     

    After the recital Sepe and Schneier tried to find answers to the great questions regarding the Holocaust through a profound discussion on the themes of xenophobia and segregation, and the new approach to those themes of the Catholic Church after Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions promulgated in 1965 by Pope Paul VI, which is intended to pave the way to a new harmony and cooperation between faiths.

     Probably the most touching of these events will be an outdoor reading of the names of the Italian victims of the Shoah at the Consulate, on Thursday. As every year, every New Yorker is invited to what is an extremely touching tradition of the Italian-American Jewish community. A mixed crowd of Jewish and Italian students, common people and notable personalities will perform the reading of the names of the over 8,000 Italian victims of the tragedy.

    Also on Thursday there will be a discussion about a special issue of the magazine Zapruder called “Brava Gente” (Good People) regarding memory and colonialism, at NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò. Prof. Ruth Ben Ghiat will moderate a panel featuring Prof. Teresa Fiore and Claudio Fogu in conversation with Elena Petricola and Andrea Tappi, co-curators of Brava Gente.

    The next event will take place on Friday, January 28, at the John Calandra Institute for Italian American Studies at CUNY. It is the discussion “A Difficult Identity? Literary Representations of the Shoah from Liana Millu to Helena Janeczek”. During this event, Stefania Lucamante, Ph.D. 
Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature
 at The Catholic University of America, will shed some light on the role and experiences of women during the Holocaust.

    It will then be the turn of “Anti-fascism and Resistance among Italian Jews” at the Primo Levi Center on Sunday, January 30. This appointment features an afternoon of screenings and interviews aimed at reconstructing the participation of Italian Jews in anti-Fascist movements and the resistance. A panel of scholars and public intellectuals will shed light on the early opposition to Mussolini's Regime and the exodus to France of many political dissenters. 

    The Week will end with the symposium “Racially Inferior: Roma, Sinti and other Holocaust victims” at the Italian Academy at Columbia University on Tuesday, February 1. This event is dedicated to the other communities judged “Racially Inferior” in those dark years, such as the Roma and Sinti (known as Gypsies) that shared the same tragic fate of the Jews.

    Along with the Consulate, one of the main supporters of these manifestations is the Primo Levi Center. Named after the famous chemist and writer, this foundation is dedicated to studying the history and culture of Italian Jewry, sharing beyond linguistic borders its current ferments and future perspectives.

     

    EVENTS OF THE WEEK OF REMEMBRANCE

    Fiday, January 21 | 9.30 am – Scuola d’Italia “G. Marconi”, 406 East 67th Street : New York and Naples: Harbors of Dialogue”, a dialogue on tolerance between Naples Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe e Rabbi Arthur Schneier
    Thursday, January 27 | 9 am to 4 pm –Italian Consulate (690 Park Avenue) - Outdoor reading of the names of the Italian victims of the Shoah
    Thursday, January 27 | pm – Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò at New York University, 24 West 12 St: presentation of a special issue of the magazine Zapruder on memory and colonialism.
    Friday, January 28 | 12 pm - The John Calandra Institute for Italian American Studies at CUNY, 25 West 43rd Street: A Difficult Identity? Literary Representations of the Shoah from Liana Millu to Helena Janeczek
    Sunday, January 30 | pm - Primo Levi Center, 15 West 16th Street: “The Jews of Italy between Antifascism and Resistance” , a conference on the contribution of the Italian Jewish to the Liberation of Italy
    Tuesday, February 1 | pm - The Italian Academy at Columbia University, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue Symposium: “Racially Inferior: Roma, Sinti and other Holocaust victims”.

     
    For further information, see http://www.primolevicenter.org/Home.html

  • Life & People

    I Borghi Più Belli d'Italia. A New, Refreshing Pace to Italian Tourism

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    Florence, Rome, Tuscany, Milan, Capri… The list of famous Italian tourist destinations could go on forever. There is however another side to Italy that is virtually unknown outside and often even inside the country. The Italian peninsula is dotted with countless charming small villages; settlements dating back centuries that even today are bathed in an unscathed aura of history and charm. The problem was that the glimmer of these little jewels used to be eclipsed by the big names of the tourism industry. Furthermore, given their small size, it was practically impossible for these historic villages to make themselves appealing to oversea visitors: while it is a highly charming location, it was unlikely that tourists visiting Milan heard of places like the village of Tremezzo, one of the gems of Lake Como. And even if by some coincidence they did, there were more barriers to overcome. The lack of a proper tourism infrastructure left the visitors to organize the trip by themselves and, given that there were other maybe even less interesting but more easily accessible and more advertised locations available (after all, it is Italy…), places like Tremezzo risked remaining in the shadow forever.
     

    I used the past tense because since the beginning of the millennium something has changed, thanks to the association I Borghi più belli d’Italia (The most beautiful villages of Italy) which was the protagonist of the event held at the Dopo Teatro Restaurant on December 2, 2010.

    In the informal and convivial atmosphere of the trattoria, Enit (the Italian Government Tourist Board) President Riccardo Strano opened the event with encouraging data about tourism in Italy: the Boot is now on top of the wish list of countries Americans want to visit.
     

    Present at the event were also Roberto Rocca, Director General of the Italian Minister of Tourism; Marco Bruschini, Head of the central Roman office of ENIT of the worldwide development of the Board; and Armando Perez, councilor of the Minister of Tourism. According to Director Strano: “these three men are responsible for all [the tourism in Italy]”. This should be enough to give an idea of how crucial the I Borghi più belli d’Italia is deemed to be for Italian tourism.

    Furthermore, in representation of the association, at the event were present Umberto Forte and Mayor Livio Scattolini respectively Director and Vice President of I Borghi più belli d’Italia. Scattolini underlined that “we were born ten years ago, and now 200 beautiful villages are members of our association. They are part of the hidden Italy and are places that preserve the history, tradition and culture of Italian people. Thanks to the association they can promote themselves all over the world.” Director Forte stressed that while there are already 200 members, “more than 300 villages are waiting to be taken into consideration to be part of the association”.

    The organization doesn’t simply promote the villages abroad. They have set up a travel agency, I Borghi Travel, that efficiently organizes tours comprehensive of food and accommodation, so that tourists can simply lay back and enjoy the trip without having to worry about anything.

    After the conference, dinner was served but Roberto Rocca and Umberto Forte were kind enough to take the time to answer our questions.

    Mr. Rocca underlined how long it has been since the last time a workshop like that had been organized in the United States, and how important it is that this kind of events focus, rather than on Italian tourism in general or the more common Italian destinations, on a more specific product, such as the Borghi association. This organization represents “that marvelous, hidden Italy that often isn’t known abroad as well as in Italy itself.”

    According to Rocca, however, this kind of product can be offered only in countries that already know Italy very well, such as the States, as it would not be understood and considered in emerging markets such as China or South Africa.

    We asked Director Forte if they encountered difficulties or resistance at the beginning of their endeavor, ten years ago. “What is incredible is that since the very beginning we had the feeling that the mayors of these comuni [townships] felt the need of being architects of their own development, a role that always eluded them, and being part of this association actually allows them to do so.”
     

    We then asked about the requirements to be allowed “in the club”. Of course there are many, the most important being size (overall population of maximum 15,000 and village population of maximum 2,000), and the quality of the historical part of town and the need to have residents: no ghost towns allowed. One of the main goals of the association is indeed to avoid emigration from these small centers.
     

    At the moment the association is well known in Europe, Russia and Japan, but thanks to ENIT it is growing daily, and Forte supplied data to back this statement up: “A recent survey by ISTAT and L’Aquila University shows that in 2008 people slept for a total of 8 million nights in our villages, and spent 10 billion euros”.

  • Filomena Maria Sardella mostra uno dei pezzi
    Arte e Cultura

    Il presepe napoletano. Quando arte, religione e cultura popolare si fondono

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    Una delle tradizione natalizie più amate degli italiani è quella del presepe.

    La rappresentazione della natività è una parte talmente importante della cultura italiana che è stata spesso inclusa ed enfatizzata in opere cinematografiche e teatrali. L'esempio più noto è forse quello di casa Cupiello, parte fondamentale della commedia Natale in Casa Cupiello di Eduardo De Filippo. In quest’opera il presepe diventa simbolo delle tradizioni familiari, prima snobbate e poi abbracciate dal figlio dei Cupiello.

    L’origine di questa tradizione risale a San Francesco, che creò il primo presepe vivente nel 1223. Tuttavia dal 1500 questa forma d’arte è stata rivisitata dai maestri napoletani con la creazione del famoso presepe napoletano, caratterizzato da statuine in creta e da elaborate scenografie denominate scogli.

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    Il presepe napoletano è oggi considerato una vera e propria forma d’arte; come tale un evento che celebrasse questa tradizione a New York in manera esaustiva era da tempo dovuto. Finalmente l’attesa è finita: gli abitanti di New York e dintorni potranno ammirare alcuni affascinanti presepi, sia moderni che storici. Infatti saranno in mostra  presso l’Istituto di Cultura Italiana dal 14 Dicembre al 18 Gennaio.

    Ad i-Italy è stata concessa un’anteprima della mostra durante l’installazione. Abbiamo così anche parlato con Filomena Maria Sardella - curatrice della mostra - che ci ha spiegato molto sulla storia ed evoluzione del presepe napoletano.

    La sua storia comincia nel sedicesimo secolo, quando il Maestro Gaetano di Thiene iniziò a includere nella rappresentazione figure più intime facenti parti della vita comune. Fino ad allora il presepe era una rappresentazione mistica della natività con tutte e solo le figure canoniche come Gesù Bambino, la Vergine, gli angeli ecc.

    Gaetano di Thiene incorporò personaggi più mondani, per esempio i pastori, portando alla formazione di una nuova corrente. Così il presepe divenne più rappresentativo della vita reale e degli usi e costumi della società napoletana.

    Questo nuovo modo di realizzare il presepe divenne gradualmente sempre più predominante, trasbordando addirittura nelle arti figurative, e raggiunse il suo apice durante i periodi del Barocco e Rococò (1600 e 1700), quando furono inclusi personaggi come la lavandaia, lo storpio, il moro e molti altri.

    Questo trend non si è mai affievolito e oggi sono inclusi nei presepi moderni personaggi del mondo politico e dello spettacolo. Nel 1960 Totò fece la sua comparsa; la stessa cosa accade, in tempi più recenti, a politici come Di Pietro, Mitterrand,  Bill Clinton, Barak Obama.

    Durante il periodo Barocco ci fu anche un’altra evoluzione del presepe. Fino ad allora i presepi erano allestiti esclusivamente in edifici religiosi, ma in quel periodo l’aristocrazia  si interessò a questa forma d’arte e i presepi cominciarono ad apparire nei sontuosi palazzi della nobiltà napoletana.

    Il re Carlo di Borbone era un grande appassionato a tal punto che voleva sistemare personalmente i personaggi nello scoglio e dava mandato alla Regina e alle dame di corte di creare con le sete più raffinate gli abiti per le statuine.

    Il presepe “domestico” divenne così diffuso che nel 1700 artigiani specializzati creavano gioielli in miniatura per i personaggi.

    Da allora il presepe ha attraversato numerosi momenti. Una dei più curiosi è quello che ha portato alla creazione dei presepi in miniatura allestiti per esempio in gusci di noce o conchiglie. Nella mostra all'Istituto potrete ammirare uno alto 40 cm e con più di trecento personaggi.

    Questa forma d’arte  è per definizione sempre in divenire: ogni anno, anche se lo scoglio rimane lo stesso, i personaggi vengono sistemati in maniera differente. Poi vengono aggiunte nuove statuine e rimosse quelle vecchie e danneggiate.

    Ancora oggi la maggior parte delle famiglie italiane ogni Natale realizza un presepe.  Nel 1954 fu fondata l’AIAP (Associazione Italiana Artisti del Presepe) per preservare questa tradizione, e ovviamente la divisione napoletana dell’associazione è la più attiva.

    L’esposizione all'Istituto di Cultura  è composta da quasi 40 opere, tra le quali una carretto parte del presepe reale dei Borbone in esposizione alla Reggia di Caserta.

    L'inaugurazione è prevista per il 14 Dicembre ma i presepi saranno visitabili fino al 18 gennaio quando il Cardinale di Napoli, Crescenzio Sepe, inzierà una visita di tre giorni a New York. 

    Si tratta di un’occasione unica per scoprire e apprezzare questa affascinante tradizione italiana, e magari per cominciare a ideare il loro personale presepe.

    .

  • Mrs. Filomena Maria Sardella illustrates one of the pieces
    Events: Reports

    The Neapolitan Presepe. Where Art, Religion and Popular Culture Come Together

    One of the most beloved Italian Christmas traditions is the presepe.

    The representation of the nativity is so important in the Italian culture that often it has been included and emphasized in cinema and theater. One example above all is Cupiello’s Presepe that plays a central part in the theatrical comedy Natale in Casa Cupiello by Eduardo De Filippo. In this piece, the Presepe becomes the symbol of the entire family tradition, first snubbed and then embraced by Cupiello’s son.

    The origin of this tradition dates back to Saint Francis, who created the first Presepe with real people in 1223. This form of art, however, has been mastered over the centuries, since the 1500s, by the Neapolitan masters, leading to the famous Presepe Napoletano, characterized by clay figurines and highly detailed and elaborated settings (scogli).
     

     The Neapolitan Presepe is now regarded as a true form of art; as such, an event to celebrate this tradition was long due. And finally the wait is over: Americans will be able to enjoy some incredibly charming presepi, both modern and historical, at an exposition held at the Italian Cultural Institute from December 14 2010 to January 18, 2011.

    During the installation of this event i-Italy was granted a sneak peak at the pieces and an interview with Filomena Maria Sardella - curator of the exhibit and part of the Direzione Regionale dei Beni Culturali e Paesaggistici della Regione Campania (The cultural bureau of Campania Region) - who explained the evolution of the Neapolitan presepe.

    It began in the 1500s, when Master Gaetano di Thiene (Saint Cajetan) started to include in the representation more intimate figures from everyday life. Up to then the presepe was a mystical representation of the nativity scene, with only the canonical characters such as Baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the angels etc. Gaetano di Thiene included more common characters such as shepherds, effectively creating a new trend: the presepe became more representative of real life and of the customs of Neapolitan society. This new trend gradually increased in importance, and even leaked into figurative arts, reaching its climax during the baroque and rococo periods (1600s and 1700s) when characters such as the washerwoman, the cripple, the moor, and many others were included in the representation. This trend never faded, and even today popular characters even from cinema or politics are included in the presepe. In the 1960s Totò made his appearance; the same, more recently, happened to politicians such as Di Pietro, Mitterrand and even Bill Clinton.

    During the baroque period the presepe went through another evolution: up until then it had been staged only in religious buildings, but the aristocracy took interest in this art and at that moment the presepi began to appear in the palaces of the rich and powerful Neapolitan nobility. It is well known that king Charles de Bourbon was an avid enthusiast of the presepe, so much that he liked to personally set the characters in the scoglio and had the queen and court damsels craft the garments to be used out of the finest silks.

    The presepe became so popular that in the late 1700s shops even sold miniature jewels to ornate the figurines.

    Since then the presepe has gone through many evolutions. One of the most curious is the miniature presepi, such as the ones set into chestnut shells or seashells, or the one which will be on view at the exhibition which is 15” high and includes over three hundred characters. By definition this form of art is always changing: every year, even if the scoglio remains the same, the characters are arranged differently, new figurines are brought in and old and damaged ones are substituted.

    Nowadays most Italian families celebrate this tradition every Christmas. As a result, this art is probably the most practiced in Italy (after cooking), and the setting up of the presepe is an extremely heartfelt moment of the festivities, when the entire family gathers together and celebrates Christmas. In 1954, AIAP (the Association of Presepial Artists) was founded in order to preserve this tradition, and of course the Neapolitan branch of the association is the most active.

    The exhibit will feature nearly forty pieces, among which a cart that is part of the royal family's presepe on display at the Royal Palace of Caserta. The exhibition will be inaugurated on December 14 at 6 pm. This will be a unique opportunity for New Yorkers to discover and appreciate this fascinating Italian tradition, and maybe even to make their own presepe.

  • Events: Reports

    The Italy That Still Runs – Genuine Passion

    With his boundless knowledge of Italy and Italian food, Fred Plotkin was the obvious choice as moderator of the seminar: “The Italy That Still Runs – Genuine Passion”. The event was organized by Casa Italia Atletica, and was part of a series of events held from November 4 to November 6 to promote genuine and healthy Italian food. Among the other appointments, an event at the Italian Government Tourist Board (ENIT) in New York on November 4 with representatives of several Italian regions who described the zones they come from in relation to sport and food.
     

    The seminar, held at Jolly Madison Tower Hotel, featured the same delegations present the evening before at ENIT – from Ascoli Piceno, Reggio Calabria, Molise, Province of Siena, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Lazio Fontana di Papa - introduced and moderated by Mr. Plotkin. The conference lasted the entire afternoon and, during the halftime break, the guests were able to sample some of the best products Italy has to offer both in the gastronomical and enological fields. A special mention is deserved by the many bergamot based desserts (bergamot is a citrus fruit found along the coast near Reggio Calabria, and it is best known for being the ingredient that gives Earl Grey tea its distinctive flavor) and the superb Sicilian cannoli prepared on the spot. For those who still wanted more, a pasta party was the final treat of the event. A very Italian icing on the cake.

    During his introduction, Plotkin talked about what makes Italian food truly genuine and how to preserve its heritage. He started off reminiscing of a time, 25 to 30 years ago, when Americans thought Italian food was made up of basically two ingredients: tomatoes in the South, and cream and cheeses in the North.

    Of course, it is now common knowledge that Italian cuisine is made up of countless local culinary traditions, so many that it is impossible to categorize them in one simple frame. When American chefs realized the existence of this variety of products, they started importing them to the United States and utilizing them in their own creations, often using them in a very different way than the Italians do.

    Plotkin explained that chefs want to make their Italian recipes more appealing to the American palate and how this is unfortunately threatening to make genuine Italian food an ever rarer breed in the US. In order to preserve true Italian heritage in the American kitchen, according to Plotkin, restaurants need to educate their clients: Italian chefs in the USA have to be “ambassadors of their own regions”.

    Another issue that Italian restaurants have to overcome is importation regulations. The gargantuan amount of rules – about specific Label guidelines, packaging standards and inspections, to name a few - imposed by American authorities on imported products makes it very hard for local restaurateurs to import all the products they need. Actually, only a minimal part of the products available in Italy reaches this side of the Atlantic.

    In addition to these issues, Italy as part of the European Union, must follow the guidelines the Union’s administration designs to make the European economy more efficient. A true Italy lover and connoisseur, Plotkin pointed out how it often happens that while these rules indeed make the European economy more efficient, they threaten the local character of gastronomical products as well. For example, if there is a surplus of milk in Holland and that milk is shipped to Italy and used to make Parmigiano, the resulting product is different that the original, as those cows are of a different variety and graze on a different grass, thus their milk has a different aroma.

    Plotkin further expanded on this concept saying that globalization itself is a force that somehow flattens the quality standards of products all over the world, and as such it can be a threat to local artisanal high quality food. An example of how globalization, coupled with the lack of information on the American market, can produce a negative result is that of balsamic vinegar. This product is made following extremely strict standards in a small area around the city of Modena. Rising demand for this condiment became so extreme that it led many companies, often from anywhere but Italy, to create imitations of balsamic vinegar. The same thing happened with Parmesan (the fake Parmigiano Reggiano).

    The bottom line, according to Plotkin, is that Italian people always try to exceed standards. When the DOC standard was introduced, many Italian companies created products far exceeding the minimum standard requested for DOC denomination. This effort to reach the best possible quality, together with a deep connection to history and traditions – “Italy is the place of memory” – makes Italian artisanal products special. Plotkin emphasized that American consumers deserve to appreciate this form of art the way it was originally created.

  • Life & People

    NICE Film Festival Presented at the Italian Cultural Institute


    The New Italian Cinema Events (NICE) is one of the most prominent Italian film events organized outside of Italy.
    The festival, at its 20th edition, showcases each year around the world Italian films made by young directors at their first or second experience. With screenings and events held in locations such as New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Saint Petersburg and Amsterdam, this is an important opportunity for new Italian promising artists to have their talent recognized outside the borders of their home country.
     
    This year the festival opens in New York on November 15, with the premiere international screening of Matrimoni e Altri Disastri (Weddings and Other Disasters). The event will be attended also by lead actor Fabio Volo and director Nina Di Majo.
     
    Director Di Majo, however, was also present on November 12 at the Italian Cultural Institute, together with NICE director Viviana del Bianco. They held a conference to illustrate the Festival and the movie.
     
    The movies competing this year are: La Doppia Ora (The Double Hour) by Giuseppe Capotondi, Meno Male Che Ci Sei (Lucky to have you) by Luis Prieto, Alza la Testa (Raise Your Head) by Alessandro Angelini, Matrimoni e Altri Disastri, Dieci Inverni (Ten Winters) by Valerio Mieli, Scontro di Civiltà per un Ascensore in Piazza Vittorio (Clash of Civilization over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio) by Isotta Toso and 18 Anni Dopo (18 years later) by Edoardo di Leo.
     
    As director del Bianco told us, the peculiarity of this itinerant event is that there is no jury. Rather, the public chooses the winner. The official screenings for the States are scheduled in Seattle and San Francisco, and during these the audience will be provided with ballot sheets to cast their vote.

     
    In the past years, New York used to be a prominent location for the festival, but budget issues forced the organizing committee to tune down this part of the contest.
    This however is just an exception, most definitely not the new rule: it is already decided that next year New York will again be a central location for the contest.
     
    Highlights of the initiative will be the final night in San Francisco, with the announcement of the winner, and the closing night in Florence.
     
    Riccardo Viale, director of the Italian Cultural Institute (ICI), opened the conference underlining his organization’s strong involvement in media and cinema: “[ICI] is much involved in the media, documentaries and movies. We are thinking about establishing a new prize for emerging movie directors. We were also discussing a project halfway between social science and movies: a documentary about emerging hot issues of real people with a comparison between the States and Italy. The issues found would be discussed by social scientists”.


  • Life & People

    Painting Music and Time. Alessandro Marrone's First American Exhibition

    A cubist Hermes is hovering above a score piece; in the background a puzzling, oneiric red composition; a violin emerges from an entanglement of notes and geometrical shapes; a couple dances the tango in front of an over sized bluish piano keyboard.
     

    No, we are not watching a new visionary Broadway show, but the American debut of Arezzo-based artist Alessandro Marrone, held at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute on the evening of November 9.

    During the event, we had the opportunity of interviewing the artist and learn a bit more about his life and work.

    He has been interested in the arts since he was 13 years old. This passion led him to work with jewelers and goldsmiths as a prototype designer. However this work didn’t truly fulfill his thirst for an artistic occupation, so he decided to open an art school in Arezzo that has now reached forty students.

    His original vocation was toward sculpture, however he subsequently worked on canvases as well, with the intent of “bringing the feeling of sculpture into painting”. This is apparent in some of his works, such as Vibrazioni (Vibrations), which is truly a crossbreed between a painting, a bas-relief and a sculpture.

    His consecration as mainstream artist arrived in 2007, when the city of Arezzo asked him to create a monument in memory of the Carabinieri who fell during the terrorist attack in Nassiriya.

    The idea for this exhibition came this summer: his friends Vincenzo Marra, President of the Italian Language Inter-Cultural Alliance (ILICA – sponsor of the event at Calandra) and fellow artist Greg Wyatt, from New York, visited him during a show held in Arezzo and noticed how some of his works revolved around music.

    Knowing that pianist Cristiana Pegoraro would take part in an ILICA event the following fall, they proposed him to organize an exhibition in the City at the same time.

    The show had another, subtler theme next to the obvious musical one: how a work of art modifies your perception of time (la temporalità dell’opera).

    Marrone explained to us how his intent is for us to lose the perception of time while we contemplate his work. This is a dialogue between the artist and the spectator, with the painting as medium. The result is dependent on the observer: the artist simply gives the spectator an input, but the experience is different according to the psychology of who is observing the painting.

    The exhibition featured over a dozen paintings, and Marrone himself held a conference during which he explained the concepts behind his art to the many guests. An exquisite buffet featuring Italian specialties quenched the hunger and thirst of the parterre intent on enjoying the paintings. Considering that a sale was made not a quarter of an hour after the opening of the event, we can safely say that New York is very appreciative of this Italian talent.

    Marrone, however, is not resting on his laurels: he is working to fulfill his wish of moving on to a more international scene, maybe even come and paint in New York because, according to him “in the United States there is a different kind of freedom: in Italy it is difficult to find room [for independent artists]. There are many situations that create limitations, and meritocracy is often not as clear as one would wish. When those at the Department of Arts and Culture work as painters as well, we could say that a conflict of interest arises. I work a lot with the private compartment; also the monument to the fallen Carabinieri was commissioned by the private sector, even though of course I have the support of the administration. I try to put together the private and public sectors.”
     

    It would seem that even for the arts, as for many other fields, meritocracy in the Italian public compartment works in mysterious ways.

  • Life & People

    Art Your Food: Who Can Make the Tastiest Work of Art?

    Italian food has always been one of the most appreciated and well-known aspects of the Bel Paese’s culture. Strong of a tradition reaching back in time over the centuries, Italian chefs were among the first artists to make themselves appreciated in the New World, as countless Italian eateries testify today. Furthermore, Italian cuisine is not only an occasion to showcase Italian talent abroad, but also a cultural meeting point for those who left their country.

    The International Migration Art Festival (IMAF), at its first edition, wants to celebrate this Italian tradition in relation to migration with an international art contest: Art Your Food.

    On October 26 a press conference held at the Italian Cultural Institute in New York illustrated and inaugurated the project. Riccardo Viale, Director of the Institute, was present at the event and opened the conference stressing the importance of Art Your Food for the city of New York. Lucia Pasqualini, Deputy Consul, conveyed Consul General Francesco Talò’s best wishes to the manifestation.

    The rules and structure of the contest were explained by organizers Rossella Canevari, René Manenti and Elena Maria Manzini, introduced by Simonetta Magnani, Attaché for Cultural Affairs, Art, and Cinema at the Italian Cultural Institute.

    They also explained how this idea was born: food can be a bridge between nations. It invites people from different nationalities and cultures to sit at a table and experience tastes and aromas together, while sharing ideas and points of view in a convivial setting. This power of food is something unique and deserves to be celebrated, and this is precisely what IMAF wants to do.

    The Festival has the support of many organizations, such as the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Milan’s local and provincial government, the Italian Cultural Institute and the Consulate General of Italy in New York, as well as the Italian Cultural Institute and the Consulate General of Italy in Los Angeles.

    Art your food will present artists active in the fields of Film, Literature, Visual Arts and Music,

    competing in three different cities: Milan, New York and Los Angeles. Anyone can sign up for the competition online from November 1, 2010 to March 1, 2011 for the New York and Los Angeles editions, from September 15, 2010 to December 10, 2010 for the Milan edition.

    All submissions will be visible online in order for the public and the jury to vote.

    Forty finalists (10 for each category) in each city and 5 winners will be selected (1 for each of the four categories and 1 from the public vote). Finalists and winners will be awarded the opportunity to showcase their works and meet influential professionals in their field.

    The award ceremonies will take place on March 20, 2011 in Milan, April 2011 in New York and May 2011 in Los Angeles.

    The conference was followed by a sublime performance by violinist Victoria Voronyansky who played music by Bach and Piazzolla related to the IMAF theme.

    Artist Michela Martello, member of the IMAF organizing committee, improvised painting on paper and was so appreciated that her work was sold to a private collector immediately after the event.

  • Events: Reports

    Vinitaly World Tour hits New York. A Celebration of Italian Wine in the Heart of NYC

    Amarone, Verduzzo, Aleatico, Greco di Tufo, Cannonau, Verdicchio. If you are wondering who these Italians are, then you should open your calendar and mark the date of October 25. These are actually Italian wines, and they are just a few of the hundreds of different denominations and labels that make up the Italian wine landscape, which goes well beyond the better known Chianti or Barbera. Italian wine is what will be celebrated on October 25.

    Mirroring the incredible variety of the Italian wine scene, Vinitaly is the biggest wine show in the world, held in Verona every Spring. Its commitment to spreading knowledge about good wine (and related food) beyond the borders of Italy was the spring that triggered the organization of Vinitaly World Tour, this year in its 12th edition. This itinerant event visits the main cities of the world every fall. Last year it took place in locations such as New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and Moscow. This year the American leg of the event has been expanded to include a stop in Philadelphia on October 27, and a grand finale at the Italian embassy in Washington DC on the 28th.

    However, the expansion of the American tour is not the only addition to the Vinitaly World Tour 2010. The previous editions were marketed toward the beverage, specifically the wine trade and the press. This year, for the first time ever, the expo will be open to consumers.

    And what better setting for this event than the new Italian food megastore “Eataly”, on 23rd Street and 5th Ave? This Monday, from 6 to 9 pm, Eataly will open its doors to wine enthusiasts who, at the price of 55 dollars, will be able to immerse themselves in the world of Italian wine with tasting sessions of the best enological products Italy has to offer. It will be a one of a kind opportunity to discover some of the nearly infinite declinations of flavor and aroma found in this industry, from the intense Amarone to the sweet Muscat.

    This change of pace from the previous editions of Vinitaly comes in aid of two different needs: on the one hand the organizers of the manifestation want to bring new excitement to the American wine industry which is getting used to, and maybe even bored by the way enological shows are presented and marketed; on the other hand Vinitaly feels the need to involve consumers in the expo, making this the first strategic attempt to target a broader audience.

    The Italian food industry has always been about healthy products and, in tune with this commitment to quality and health, all the proceeds from the consumer event will be donated to the American Cancer Society.

    The partner of Vinitaly for the show is The Wine Enthusiast, an American publication devoted to spreading wine culture throughout the United States. Ettore Riello, President of Veronafiere – the company that organizes Vinitaly – commented on the partnership: “The event in New York at Eataly marks the first time we have ever had a consumer tasting component as part of the Vinitaly World Tour. Given Wine Enthusiast’s popularity with both wine trade and American wine drinkers, we think they are a perfect fit to help us achieve our goal: promoting Italy’s best wines to American wine lovers”.

    I-Italy is going to cover the event, and if you are intrigued by the world of good wine you should do the same. You will have the opportunity of tasting the best the Italian market has to offer, and maybe the next time you hear “Est! Est!! Est!!!” in a restaurant you will not mistake it for some tipsy Italian fighting with his iPhone’s compass.

  • Life & People

    Talking about… l’Aquila nel mondo. Palmerini at NYU's Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò

    Over a year has passed since the dramatic earthquake hit Abruzzo in the spring of 2009, and over this time many books have commented and remembered the tragedy – and the response – of the inhabitants of the devastated capital city of Abruzzo.

    One of these is L’Aquila nel Mondo, presented at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò on the evening of November 14 by Goffredo Palmerini, a journalist and politician born and raised in L’Aquila. This volume is a collection of his articles, but also a number of pieces about L'Aquila written by Italian journalists living outside of Italy.

    Palmerini has an interesting political history that sees him focused on the cultural management of L’Aquila. First town councilor, then advisor and eventually vice-Mayor, his production encompasses articles and essays that earned him many awards. He is also a representative of ANFE, the Italian National Association of the Families of Emigrants.

    His great interest for Italians abroad brought him after many years to build and nourish a network of journalists living abroad - mainly from Abruzzo - whom he keeps constantly informed.

    This is a true E-mail network daily updated with articles and images from all around the world.

    The elegant setting of the library of Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, in Greenwich Village, radiates culture but also a cozy informality and is perfectly in tune with the spirit of the speakers: Palmerini, Letizia Airos, i-Italy's Editor in Chief, and author of the book's preface, and theatrical writer Mario Fratti, all from Abruzzo.

    A discussion arose with the public and touched the aspects of the political management of the earthquake’s aftermath as well as the reaction of the inhabitants of L’Aquila, and of what is being done about the physical and moral reconstruction of the city.

    It is not the first time that L’Aquila is the stage for such tragedies. The city’s colors were chosen after the earthquake of the February 2, 1703. That day was a religious holiday (the “Candelora” day) and the quake hit right during the procession, causing over 6,000 casualties.

    It is not the first time that L’Aquila is the stage for such tragedies. The city’s colors were chosen after the earthquake of the February 2, 1703. That day was a religious holiday (the “Candelora” day) and the quake hit right during the procession, causing over 6,000 casualties.

    Palmerini, while confirming the effectiveness in the short term of the extraordinary measures taken by the Italian government after the tragedy (allowing the construction over the summer of proper houses for most of those who had lost their homes), underlined some lesser known and, especially, darker situations completely unknown beyond the city limits also because of the silence of the Italian press.

    The project “Aquila 2” (the construction of a new city) – luckily aborted, although by chance – is one of the issues that have most preoccupied the writer. The idea was not to rebuild the destroyed houses, but to create a brand new satellite city. The problem in this case would have had two sides: on the one hand, the residents’ social relationships, developed over years of living next to one another, would have been wiped out as they would have found themselves living in a whole new city, with new neighbors, new landmarks and new aggregation spots; on the other hand this project would have compromised the urban soul of the first city in the world designed from scratch, by the 99 castles that administered the territory before the creation of the settlement.

    Palmerini pointed out how the centralized management of the crisis by the government, while effective under some points of view, is indeed threatening to compromise L’Aquila’s historical soul. An alternative to such centralism could have been the option followed by the territory of Gemona (in the north-east of Italy) after the devastating quake of 1976. On that occasion the crisis was handled by the local government and the original urban fabric remained relatively unspoiled.

    Today, the small village of Onna is an exception. This settlement of 400 people lost 10% of its population in the catastrophe. Thanks to the help of Germany, who had a debt with Onna since the end of World War II, when the retreating Germans slaughtered most of its inhabitants, the village self-managed the reconstruction and succeeded in preserving its original structure.

    Onna is an exception not only to the management style of the crisis, but also to the general situation of the smaller villages around L’Aquila. In these other fractions very little, if anything, has been done not only about the reconstruction, but even simply about putting in safety the stricken buildings.

    Another topic was the decision of moving the G8 meeting from the Sardinian island of La Maddalena to L’Aquila. With this move the government managed to focus the world's attention on the city, previously virtually unknown outside of Italy. Various countries made many promises of help however, as of today, according to Palmerini only China, France, Russia and Azerbaijan kept them. United States still hasn’t acted.

    On the contrary, great participation and tangible solidarity came from all the people of Abruzzo, and many other individuals, living abroad who gathered consistent funds to help their fellows.

    L’Aquila’s main problem today is that its full reconstruction would cost 30 Billion Euros, however the government allocated only 6 Billion, plus 500 Million from the European Community. The problem of lack of funds is aggravated by the economical crisis created by the earthquake: L’Aquila is a student city and after the tragedy many of them abandoned the University. Today the school has 8,000 vacant seats, with important repercussions on the town's economy.

    Nevertheless Palmerini managed to see something positive in this catastrophe: thanks to it L’Aquila acquired the international visibility that a city of such historical and artistic importance deserves.

    Furthermore the quake was the source of an abundant artistic production that goes beyond the limits of chronicles and essays (counting more than 50 publications about this topic), and touches theatrical productions (Valentina Fratti, present at the event, was mentioned for her piece about the martyrs buried in L’Aquila awoken by the earthquake) and cinema (a production of the Accademia Cinematografica dell’Aquila – L’Aquila Film Academy – about the earthquake was presented and acclaimed at the Venice Film festival).

    Palmerini's hope, certainly shared with all the people living in L’Aquila, is that the town not fall into oblivion, but that this dramatic experience will be an occasion of rebirth and growth, always following the strict historical and artistic guidelines inherent to such a culturally important city, becoming better known outside of Italy's border.

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