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Articles by: Benedetta Grasso

  • Life & People

    Triennale New York City: Italian Design in the Big Apple

    In the Spring of 2010, right in front of MOMA, on 53rd street between 5th and 6th avenue, there will be a new addition to the artistic landscape of the already bustling NYC cultural life.

    Scheduled to open in May, the TNYC (The Triennale Museum in NYC) born from a collaboration of Artlivingny and the original museum in Milan, is also going to become a new showcase for Italian identity-related events and products and to tighten the relationship between Milan and the Big Apple. TNYC was designed by Pier Luigi Cerri and Michele del Luchi, two Italian architects and CUH2a, JLL Project Manager and Sciame Constractor Manager.

    As the former director of the Italian cultural institute, Professor Renato Miracco pointed out that Italians, especially those living in Milan, are familiar with the Triennale Museum and its display of innovative design and exhibits, but people here in the United States are not necessarily acquainted with Triennale. Therefore, “this will be an opportunity to integrate American design with Italian design, and focus attention on both. People will be coming out of the MOMA and can explore a more specific or unique exhibit right in TNYC”.

    At RAI Corporation, on January 25 2010, the project for the new museum was presented and the architecture was shown through pictures on the wall as well as a 3D simulation of the rooms and sections.

      The museum is comprised of four floors of 18,067 square feet where “more “traditional” culture will mix with modern technology”, as Massimo Magliaro, president of RAI Corporation, said. He underlined how “this won’t just be an episodic collaboration, but an organic one with the possibility of many events organized together and a reinforcement of the “Italian System (Sistema Italiano) in NY”.

    The first exhibit will be dedicated to the Internationally famous designer Giò Ponti and will be curated by Germano Celant and the scientific committee of the Triennale Milano. TNYC will work on creating a calendar full of interesting events, in the realm of fashion, cinema and art.

    The museum’s top level has a coffee shop and a wine-bar, a space for the visitors of the museum to sit and relax, and eat and drink as well, either for a tasty breakfast or a sophisticated happy hour.
     

    Around 12:30 PM eastern time, the President of RAI Corporation Massimo Magliaro, the General Consul Francesco Maria Talò, the President of Artlivingny Roberto Manzoni and the banker Rocco Zullino, who financed the project, connected live with Milan, sent their greetings and expressed their enthusiasm for the project; at the same time in Milan, there was the inauguration of the Roy Lichtenstein exhibit (Roy Lichtenstein: Meditations on Art, 26 January-30 May 2010). Through a webcam on a big screen the two rooms could see each other and celebrate this future inauguration together. 

     

    The Consul, Mr Talò, emphasized the importance of looking at Italy, with its diversity of regions, tastes and folklore and “Italianità” (Italian specificity) as a bridge between the local and the global (“Glocal”). He underlined how Milan and NYC have similar energies and life-style,s and they are already aligned in their view of the world, work and culture; a view that allows people to project themselves globally and go beyond their regional limits.

    Roberto Manzoni explained how the “illumination” for this project came to him: walking outside of the MOMA, seeing the actual location in front of his eyes and feeling enthusiastic for something that can “conquer” New Yorkers and Americans in general.
     

    New York is the first and maybe the most important step in expanding the Triennale Museum franchise, being the metropolis that is most devoted to Art, particularly Modern Art. The goal of the organizers is to open even more museums in Moscow, Berlin, New Delhi and in other cities.

    Rocco Zullino recounted the reasons for his involvement through the Hottinger Group Bank. He immediately liked the concept and the possibility of representing cultural and artistic ideas, but especially the opportunities that this museum will open for big and small businesses and Italia societies and “made in Italy” products.
     

    In order to coordinate the different speakers, Renato Miracco, who translated and showed his excitement for TNYC, played a central role, hoping that “the exhibits will alternate between Italian and American artists and will merge the efforts of both countries towards design, not just focusing on one or the other.” In regards to RAI Corporation’s involvement, Miracco, who, over the years, has always contributed to promote cultural events, said that it will be interesting to see how the space can host different projects and if there will be an exchange of video and media-related events linking the different contributors behind this enterprise. 

  • Life & People

    Triennale New York City: Italian Design in the Big Apple

    In the Spring of 2010, right in front of MOMA, on 53rd street between 5th and 6th avenue, there will be a new addition to the artistic landscape of the already bustling NYC cultural life.

    Scheduled to open in May, the TNYC (The Triennale Museum in NYC) born from a collaboration of Artlivingny and the original museum in Milan, is also going to become a new showcase for Italian identity-related events and products and to tighten the relationship between Milan and the Big Apple. TNYC was designed by Pier Luigi Cerri and Michele del Luchi, two Italian architects and CUH2a, JLL Project Manager and Sciame Constractor Manager.

    As the former director of the Italian cultural institute, Professor Renato Miracco pointed out that Italians, especially those living in Milan, are familiar with the Triennale Museum and its display of innovative design and exhibits, but people here in the United States are not necessarily acquainted with Triennale. Therefore, “this will be an opportunity to integrate American design with Italian design, and focus attention on both. People will be coming out of the MOMA and can explore a more specific or unique exhibit right in TNYC”.

    At RAI Corporation, on January 25 2010, the project for the new museum was presented and the architecture was shown through pictures on the wall as well as a 3D simulation of the rooms and sections.

      The museum is comprised of four floors of 18,067 square feet where “more “traditional” culture will mix with modern technology”, as Massimo Magliaro, president of RAI Corporation, said. He underlined how “this won’t just be an episodic collaboration, but an organic one with the possibility of many events organized together and a reinforcement of the “Italian System (Sistema Italiano) in NY”.

    The first exhibit will be dedicated to the Internationally famous designer Giò Ponti and will be curated by Germano Celant and the scientific committee of the Triennale Milano. TNYC will work on creating a calendar full of interesting events, in the realm of fashion, cinema and art.

    The museum’s top level has a coffee shop and a wine-bar, a space for the visitors of the museum to sit and relax, and eat and drink as well, either for a tasty breakfast or a sophisticated happy hour.
     

    Around 12:30 PM eastern time, the President of RAI Corporation Massimo Magliaro, the General Consul Francesco Maria Talò, the President of Artlivingny Roberto Manzoni and the banker Rocco Zullino, who financed the project, connected live with Milan, sent their greetings and expressed their enthusiasm for the project; at the same time in Milan, there was the inauguration of the Roy Lichtenstein exhibit (Roy Lichtenstein: Meditations on Art, 26 January-30 May 2010). Through a webcam on a big screen the two rooms could see each other and celebrate this future inauguration together. 

     

    The Consul, Mr Talò, emphasized the importance of looking at Italy, with its diversity of regions, tastes and folklore and “Italianità” (Italian specificity) as a bridge between the local and the global (“Glocal”). He underlined how Milan and NYC have similar energies and life-style,s and they are already aligned in their view of the world, work and culture; a view that allows people to project themselves globally and go beyond their regional limits.

    Roberto Manzoni explained how the “illumination” for this project came to him: walking outside of the MOMA, seeing the actual location in front of his eyes and feeling enthusiastic for something that can “conquer” New Yorkers and Americans in general.
     

    New York is the first and maybe the most important step in expanding the Triennale Museum franchise, being the metropolis that is most devoted to Art, particularly Modern Art. The goal of the organizers is to open even more museums in Moscow, Berlin, New Delhi and in other cities.

    Rocco Zullino recounted the reasons for his involvement through the Hottinger Group Bank. He immediately liked the concept and the possibility of representing cultural and artistic ideas, but especially the opportunities that this museum will open for big and small businesses and Italia societies and “made in Italy” products.
     

    In order to coordinate the different speakers, Renato Miracco, who translated and showed his excitement for TNYC, played a central role, hoping that “the exhibits will alternate between Italian and American artists and will merge the efforts of both countries towards design, not just focusing on one or the other.” In regards to RAI Corporation’s involvement, Miracco, who, over the years, has always contributed to promote cultural events, said that it will be interesting to see how the space can host different projects and if there will be an exchange of video and media-related events linking the different contributors behind this enterprise. 

  • Life & People

    Fratelli d'Italia? Remembering Platform 21

    Have you ever heard of “Binario 21”, the track at platform 21 in Milan’s main train station (Stazione Centrale)?

    Even if you go around asking people, even if you take a train departing from that same track today, it will be hard to find it, to see it clearly in front of your eyes and even harder to tell its story.

    Certain stories, in fact, certain places, certain parts of history are hidden, kept under the surface, brought to ground level only when someone digs deeper and suddenly discovers that right below his feet there’s a whole different track belonging to an older black and white world, a colder reality made up of stories now only few people can tell.

    To some people these stories are not so hidden. They were bedtime stories, conversations around the table, or emotional moments of passage of family traditions, and tales from one generation to the other. These people are the children and the grandchildren of those who actually saw that dark colder reality: they are young and the only ones who can pass this story onward.

    On January 30, 1944 from platform 21 leaves the first train from Milan to Auschwitz. Of the 605 people that are forced on it, only 20 will survive. From then on, other trains with Italian Jews left from that same track to also go to Fossoli (a concentration camp near Carpi, Modena), Bergen-Belsen, Bolzano.  

    As a way of commemorating this tragic day, a documentary has been made in 2009 that takes on these issues in a very original, unique and groundbreaking way. “Fratelli d’Italia?” (directed by Dario Barezzi, written by Mariella Zanetti and produced by Andrea Jarach and Movingimage) is a movie that retells what happened on January 30, 1944 through the words of a small group of high-school and college students, descendents of the few survivors or related somehow to people who were deported and killed. The film is aimed at young people, but it doesn’t talk down to them nor does it simplify the issues. It’s also interesting because it uses the modern setting and technology of the train station of the 21st century, with its digital screens, the PA system and luminous panels and colorful trains to project old documents, witnesses’ and survivors’ accounts, and radio messages. Not only do these elements help combine the past with the present, they also create an interactive experience for the curious commuter, the tourist, and the people stopping by.

    The title relates to the Italian national anthem and, in a way, it’s essential in understanding something that is often felt even by immigrants or people living in the United States: how do your roots, your religion and ethnicity affect your national identity?

    For many Italian Jews in the 30s and 40s, being Italian came before being a Jew. Nobody could even imagine that there would be laws that separated the Jewish race from the Italian race. They went to school, worked with everybody else and identified with Italy’s values and culture. Reassured at first by Mussolini, they didn’t know what was going on and didn’t feel radically different from their friends and even some non-Jewish family members.  

    After 1938 what was applied wasn’t just a set of simple bureaucratic policies: the names of the Jews were even deleted from phonebooks and put in other lists, lists that much like platform 21 linked Italy with Auschwitz and the Final Solution.

    The young men and women in the documentary tell their personal stories, connecting them with the actual footage of the interviews with survivors like Liliana Segre, for example, who is still able to remember every detail of that terrifying journey from the prison of San Vittore, to a train crammed with people and hay, to the concentration camps.

     

    What this documentary focuses on is the “indifference” and the “forgetfulness” of the Italians. If in the 40s few people knew or did something to help, it’s even more disheartening that today random people interviewed in a station barely know what the Holocaust in Italy was about.

    Focusing on young people is not just a matter of keeping the memory alive, it’s also a bridge to discuss the issues that are still problematic today and kids face every day in school, in soccer stadiums, on the web, and on the walls of their cities. Words are twisted around and anti-semitism is not completely dead, but often re-worked into modern political ideologies and quasi-pluralistic messages.

    One of the young men involved in the documentary, Davide Ortona, 21, says that the most beautiful aspect of the project was to “work side by side with the survivors. When we were shooting a scene it struck me that they looked at us, with complete attention as if they were silently trying to tell us: we won’t be around for long to remember; now it’s all up to you”.

     

  • Life & People

    Fratelli d'Italia? Remembering Platform 21

    Have you ever heard of “Binario 21”, the track at platform 21 in Milan’s main train station (Stazione Centrale)?

    Even if you go around asking people, even if you take a train departing from that same track today, it will be hard to find it, to see it clearly in front of your eyes and even harder to tell its story.

    Certain stories, in fact, certain places, certain parts of history are hidden, kept under the surface, brought to ground level only when someone digs deeper and suddenly discovers that right below his feet there’s a whole different track belonging to an older black and white world, a colder reality made up of stories now only few people can tell.

    To some people these stories are not so hidden. They were bedtime stories, conversations around the table, or emotional moments of passage of family traditions, and tales from one generation to the other. These people are the children and the grandchildren of those who actually saw that dark colder reality: they are young and the only ones who can pass this story onward.

    On January 30, 1944 from platform 21 leaves the first train from Milan to Auschwitz. Of the 605 people that are forced on it, only 20 will survive. From then on, other trains with Italian Jews left from that same track to also go to Fossoli (a concentration camp near Carpi, Modena), Bergen-Belsen, Bolzano.  

    As a way of commemorating this tragic day, a documentary has been made in 2009 that takes on these issues in a very original, unique and groundbreaking way. “Fratelli d’Italia?” (directed by Dario Barezzi, written by Mariella Zanetti and produced by Andrea Jarach and Movingimage) is a movie that retells what happened on January 30, 1944 through the words of a small group of high-school and college students, descendents of the few survivors or related somehow to people who were deported and killed. The film is aimed at young people, but it doesn’t talk down to them nor does it simplify the issues. It’s also interesting because it uses the modern setting and technology of the train station of the 21st century, with its digital screens, the PA system and luminous panels and colorful trains to project old documents, witnesses’ and survivors’ accounts, and radio messages. Not only do these elements help combine the past with the present, they also create an interactive experience for the curious commuter, the tourist, and the people stopping by.

    The title relates to the Italian national anthem and, in a way, it’s essential in understanding something that is often felt even by immigrants or people living in the United States: how do your roots, your religion and ethnicity affect your national identity?

    For many Italian Jews in the 30s and 40s, being Italian came before being a Jew. Nobody could even imagine that there would be laws that separated the Jewish race from the Italian race. They went to school, worked with everybody else and identified with Italy’s values and culture. Reassured at first by Mussolini, they didn’t know what was going on and didn’t feel radically different from their friends and even some non-Jewish family members.  

    After 1938 what was applied wasn’t just a set of simple bureaucratic policies: the names of the Jews were even deleted from phonebooks and put in other lists, lists that much like platform 21 linked Italy with Auschwitz and the Final Solution.

    The young men and women in the documentary tell their personal stories, connecting them with the actual footage of the interviews with survivors like Liliana Segre, for example, who is still able to remember every detail of that terrifying journey from the prison of San Vittore, to a train crammed with people and hay, to the concentration camps.

     

    What this documentary focuses on is the “indifference” and the “forgetfulness” of the Italians. If in the 40s few people knew or did something to help, it’s even more disheartening that today random people interviewed in a station barely know what the Holocaust in Italy was about.

    Focusing on young people is not just a matter of keeping the memory alive, it’s also a bridge to discuss the issues that are still problematic today and kids face every day in school, in soccer stadiums, on the web, and on the walls of their cities. Words are twisted around and anti-semitism is not completely dead, but often re-worked into modern political ideologies and quasi-pluralistic messages.

    One of the young men involved in the documentary, Davide Ortona, 21, says that the most beautiful aspect of the project was to “work side by side with the survivors. When we were shooting a scene it struck me that they looked at us, with complete attention as if they were silently trying to tell us: we won’t be around for long to remember; now it’s all up to you”.

     

  • Events: Reports

    A Roman "Toccata e Fuga" in NY



    Welcome to St. Patrick’s Cathedral...in Rome! Forget the cold New York City winter, the giant American flags at Banana Republic, the yellow cabs honking on 5th Avenue and imagine the palms in Piazza Di Spagna, the warm summer breeze over the ancient ruins...  

     
    On January 21, in fact, if you happened to be walking around 50th Street and 5th Avenue you might have heard a famous aria or a popular Italian folk song sung on the cathedral's steps. You might have stopped for a moment, curious, and perhaps even shocked to see pictures of the capital of Italy in the heart of the Big Apple.   

     
    Hearing the first notes played by the pianist outside, the crowd at noon grew and included churchgoers, tourists, some Italians surprised to recognize the tunes, enthusiastic opera fans, and many interested people who stayed for little while or remained for the entire event and were entertained by four opera singers in the mobile show called “Toccata e Fuga.”  
    The City Council of Rome usually holds these shows in Italy and Senator Mauro Cutrufo (Deputy Mayor of Rome) explained that this event was held to honor more than 2 million American tourists who every year visit the most important attractions in Rome, and to bring some of the best Italy can offer abroad. 

     
    From a tourist’s perspective, it was the ideal mix of songs like “O Sole Mio,” “Nessun Dorma,” and famous arias from Le Nozze di Figaro. 
    To highlight the religious connection between Rome and St. Patrick’s Cathedral there were sacred pieces like “Ave Maria.” As a tribute to American composer Henri Mancini, “Moon River” was performed.


     

    Find more photos like this on i-Italy
     Toccata in fuga. St. Patrick’s Cathedral


     
    This tribute to the music traditions of Italy, a sampling of the most well-known pieces, was indeed an atypical experience for those who were just passing by, and even more so for a non-Italian audience who was less familiar with the music.  

     
    If the event’s intention was to promote Rome and fascinate New Yorkers even if only for a moment, it definitely worked: a distracted truck driver missed the green light twice while poking his head out of the window to listen to the music and stare dreamily at the singers…


  • Events: Reports

    Presentation of the Italian Fiction Week. And See Rome Tomorrow at Saint Patrick's Cathedral

    Rome, much like New York, is one of those cities that has become part of our collective imagery and memory. Even when someone is in Rome for the first time, there’s a somewhat familiar feeling, and walking around feels like déjà vu as if the movies, the pictures, the art, and the famous icons have influenced and shaped a person’s imagination of a city and a country. 
     

    Media, in fact, do change how foreigners and tourists approach a city and that’s why the event that took place on January 19 at RAI Corporation in NY, which promoted both culture and tourism while celebrating the city of Rome, will have a strong impact on Americans as the organizers had hoped. 

    In sophisticated surroundings, guests received beautiful gift packages as they filled a screening room at RAI headquarters in NYC to attend a press conference and then watch Zeffirelli’s Homage to Rome. Among the guests were some of the most prominent Italian directors, artists, journalists, and actors such as Beppe Fiorello. The conference was organized by RAI, Regione Lazio (Lazio Regional Council) and Comune di Roma (Rome City Council). 

    This was the first of many events and screenings that are part of the fourth annual RAI Fiction Week that runs from January 19 through 22. The festival began in 2006 and has steadily grown over the years. The director of RAI Corporation, Massimo Magliaro, reminded the audience that this was a symbolic and important time for him since January 20, 2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of RAI Corporation. What started as a simple deal signed on Madison Avenue has now become one of the leading media companies in the world, rooted in North American and the main vehicle for Italian culture abroad. Magliaro also announced that there will be celebrations and events marking this anniversary over the next few weeks. 
     

    While the focus of the conversation remained on how to represent Italy abroad, the speakers
    also reflected on the role of the television mini-series as a medium to reinvent and export the image of Italy. Television mini-series are very successful in Italy; they are well-received by the public and often capture important national themes, as Paolo Galimberti, President of RAI, pointed out in his speech. He said that history, literature, contemporary issues, as well as the popular genre of detective stories, are all represented in the movies and television mini-series screened this week.
     

    Galimberti also emphasized RAI’s role as a public service aimed at spreading culture. Francesco Gesualdi, president of the Foundation Rossellini, reinforced this point by saying that this is a genre that needs to be recognized and appreciated by critics as well as the general public. 
     

    Senator Cutrufo, the deputy mayor of Rome who was attending on behalf of the Commission for Tourism, said that he wanted to “thank all those people who work for RAI and ENIT and show a slice of Italy abroad.” He stressed the connection between the two people, Italians and Americans, and the “affection” in their relationship over the course of history. He described the event Toccata e Fuga – Roman Holidays, which will take place in front of St. Patrick’s Church at 12 p.m. on Thursday, January 21. This will be a memorable, interactive show with song, music, and dance used to promote and explore tourist itineraries just as it has been performed in many Roman piazzas for thousands of spectators.  

    While Toccata e Fuga will take people almost literally through the streets of Italy’s capital, Zeffirelli’s latest work, Homage to Rome, is an experimental virtual tour that mixes famous movie scenes, opera pieces sung by Bocelli, and a dramatic and romantic acting scene between Monica Bellucci and Bocelli. As happens to many people in reality, Zeffirelli allows us to look at the most famous places in Rome with the voices of Gregory Peck or Anna Magnani superimposed over monuments, the shouts of gladiators fill the Coliseum, and glimpses of legends and stories behind what we see. As Giotto once said, “Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, the city of yearning.”

  • Events: Reports

    50 Italians and Anna Frank to Honor Remembrance Day

    As we are approaching the anniversary of January 27 1945 - the day the world discovered the tragedy of the concentration camps and revealed the horrific truth of what was actually going on inside them - Jewish communities all over the world are coming together to reflect on their past, to confront with others and most of all simply remember.

    The International Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet Troops and it’s particularly important for Italy, as it connects with some of the most controversial periods of our history – the introduction of racial laws, the deportation of the Jews and the collaboration with the Nazi. All these topics are still relevant nowadays when the Italian Jewish Community still struggles to define itself, outside of stereotypes, misconceptions and fights for its political and religious goals within a dominant Catholic culture. 
     

    In the occasion of this anniversary and as a way to foster discussion, promote knowledge and provide an original point of view on this issue, the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute (Queens College, CUNY) has organized the screening of two movies on January 20th, as part of the 4th edition of Rai Fiction Week (January 19-22, 2010).

    There are very few movies that depict the Italian Jewish Community. Still too often these two words together, Italian and Jew, sound almost like an oxymoron as it is little known that Italian Jews have indeed contributed a lot to the national culture. Artists like Moni Ovadia have sometimes crossed borders. One of the few movies that have had some success abroad is Vittorio De Sica’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. It shows, in its daily life, an aspect of the country often unknown to most people. Of course, there also was the international success of La vita è bella by Roberto Benigni in 1999. Therefore it is important that the work of Italian artists spread these traditions around be supported.
     
    The first movie presented during the festival is a documentary, 50 ITALIANI. The men who Saved 50,000 Jewish Lives, directed by Flaminia Lubin  and produced by Francesco Pamphili. In Jerusalem, at the Museum Yad Vashem there is a garden for those who, for whatever reason, during the prosecutions, decided to help the Jews and put at risk their own lives to do so. These 50 Italian men, diplomats and generals, found a way to help Jews escape or offered them help of different sort. As described by the authors of the documentary when they started working on it: “We will crisscross through parts of Southern Europe where the 50 Italians were stationed, and where they used all the tools in their possession to avoid handing over the Jews Italian and non-Italian to the Germans. They were the protagonists of a revolt against a cruel, horrific power a revolt which also illustrates the unique personality of the Italians: chaotic, courageous, rebellious and even comic but at their core, a deep sense ofhumanity.”
     

    The second movie, Memories of Anna Frank (directed by Alberto Negrin; with Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, Emilio Solfrizzi, Moni Ovadia) is based on the novel Memories of Anna Frank: The story of the woman who helped to hide the Frank family by Alison Leslie Gold, itself inspired by the worldwide famous Diary of Anne Frank. The Diary had an enormous impact on generations of people, who could read about the Holocaust through the pages of an ironic and naïve 13 years old, in the simplicity of her everyday life, although confined in an atticto hide  from the Nazi.

    The book was published in Italy by the editor Giulio Einaudi, who struggled to get it out and make it accepted in a society still shaken by the war. It’s interesting that recently the book has been put again into question, as Paolo Grimoldi, a deputy belonging to the right-wing party Lega Nord, argued against its reading in public school, on the ground that some of its material are allegedly too explicit and inappropriate.
     

    Both these movies focus on people who decided to help, who stepped out of the “grey area” and made a difference. This is even more relevant today, especially after the Pope’s visit at the synagogue in Rome on January 17th 2010, which was surrounded by the ongoing debate about whether or not the Church did enough to help the Jews during Fascism, and whether Pope Pius XII’s “silence” and lack of action has to be intended as a form of "collaboration" with the Nazi.


    January 20, 2010

     50 ITALIANI. The men who Saved 50,000 Jewish Lives
    (11:30 AM)
    ...
    Memories of Anna Frank
    (06:00 PM)

    CUNY GRADUATE CENTER
    365 Fifth Avenue
    Manhattan, New York

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