Sunday, November 27, 2016

Il Mio Percorso Artistico - My Artistic Journey - in Italia!

Doing a sounding exercise inside Terzo Paradiso at Cittadellarte, Biella, Italy 

Earlier this year, I saw a listing online for an art program in Biella, Italy, it looked so interesting I decided to apply - and I got in! I decided to make the most of it by adding on side-trips to Milan and Rome (to look at art, of course!). Actually, it would be a dream come true.

First and foremost, something about the art foundation, school and program. The place is called Cittadellarte Fondazione Pistoletto, located in the Piedmont region of Biella, Italy. Cittadellarte was created by the contemporary artist Michelangelo Pistoletto (famous in the Arte Povera movement) who decided in 1998 to create what I would call a little town-within-a-town, based on his artistic vision and ideologies which are rooted in positive change through art. Citadellarte is housed on the expansive grounds of a re-purposed 19th century wool factory and includes art galleries, studios, residencies, work spaces, and even a shop and a restaurant. One of the ongoing programs at Cittadellarte is UNIDEE, University of Ideas, where artists and creatives from all over the world are invited to come and participate in week-long programs called "modules." The module that I attended was created by Aria Spinelli a brilliant curator, currently completing her PHD in Loughborough University in the UK. Her module was entitled, "Expanding Time in Expanded Artwork. Practices of the Unconscious through Means of Activism." Aria invited a contemporary artist named Nuria Guell to come from Spain and spend a few days with us, in order to use one of her works (La Feria de las Flores [2015-2016]) as a kind of case-study for the topics we were exploring, such as affectivity arts activism and the subconscious, among other things.

After much anticipation, the day finally came for me to get up and go to Italy. I flew nonstop from JFK overnight on Saturday, November 5th (which was great because I slept most of the way) and I arrived in Milan Malpensa airport on Sunday, November 6th. Now came the anxiety - I had to get from there to Biella. I took TrenItalia from the airport (easy enough) to Milano Centrale, and another train from there to Novara and still another train to the small town of Biella. Yes, that's three trains. Thankfully, Cittadellarte's friendly taxi driver, Mr. Massimo had been messaging me on WhatsApp along the way, so he was there to pick me up and drive me to the center. The whole trip (from my house to the doorstep of Cittadellarte) took 16 hours. Needless to say, I was beat! By the time I arrived it was about 4pm on Sunday evening and besides the woman who was checking me in, there seemed to be no one around. It was getting dark outside and all I could see beyond the walls of the citadel were the mountains overhead. After a small fiasco where I blew out the electricity of the entire residence floor with my power adapter (never mind that!) I found out that there were actually other people there. I settled in for the night and by morning time, the place was teeming with people - including Aria, Nuria and our module cohort: Olmo, Nuvola, Annalisa, Miguel and Giulia. Breakfast time!

First things first. We got a tour of Cittadellarte by the expert tour-guide Alice. Starting out with the art galleries, we had a chance to see work made by artists who were residents of Cittadellarte as well as Michelangelo Pistoletto's art (both older and newer works) - plus his private art collection (full of works by his colleagues in the Arte Povera movement)! From there we walked along the Cervo River to an annex area where there are more galleries as well as a room dedicated to Pistoletto's incredible Terzo Paradiso (Third Paradise). This giant play on an infinity symbol (but with three parts), is not only an art piece, but also symbol and concept he promotes world-wide which represents "the third phase of humanity, realized as a balances connection between artifice and nature... a passage to a new level of planetary civilizations... a [reforming of] the principals and the ethical behaviors guiding common life... myth that leads everyone to take personal responsibility in the global vision." This lofty vision carries on throughout all of the programs at Cittadellarte: from visual art, to sustainable fashion design, architecture and other fields: it is basically a giant creative laboratory. Did I mention that Pistolleto lives there too? To me, it was incredibly inspiring to see that an artist's dreams could be realized and manifested in a self-determined and successful way.

As far as the module is concerned, Aria had us hit the ground running. Our workshops took place every day, Monday through Friday from morning 'til evening (almost 40 hours total, not counting our daily two-hour, two-course lunch breaks with amazing food). Through the week we went over the required readings together, essays about affect, by Massumi, Butler and Jasper. These essays helped provide the framework about Affect Theory which is (in a nutshell) about how we actually experience and learn through our bodies (which is different from learning through our "higher senses" or perceptions) and why physically coming together within particular spaces (in protest, for example) has a particular kind of impact. We did exercises together utilizing dream work, "sounding" and "deep listening" which helped us to access our subconscious and viscerally understand and experience the effect of affect, as it were. We also watched videos about Nuria's piece La Feria de las Flores (2015-2016) and deconstructed her work and process as it pertained to what we were learning about affect, art and activism. I was really impressed by this woman whose art is so powerful and provocative. Nuria is an artist who harnesses her talent and power to spark change and she puts all of herself into it, with so much integrity.

At the end of the week, Aria asked us to produce something as a final group project, which we could decide on ourselves. Before that, we had one last discussion about the readings and key-words that we had discussed and from that we created a visual map, using Post-it's on the wall. With that map, we put the words together in a way that ended up morphing into sentences, which we then deemed our manifesto:
Articulated affectivity, suspension, virtual and intensity are presence. The imaginary embodiment and presence within the pubic space and institution cause the activation of shared processes. The micro-politics of bodies in alliance within architecture question authority. The togetherness of failure allows presence of harmony, connectivity and autonomy.
As a group we then decided that as our presentation, we would like to do a sounding exercise (which entails each of us making impromptu sounds that turn into a sort-of chorus). The happening would be located inside of an art installation structure (on the roof of Cittadellearte) and the sounding would start with our reading the words of our manifesto which would then turn into a chorus of sounds. So up to the roof we went! Aria watched (along with Kristen, one of the artists-in-residence) as we began sounding and moving through the space organically, connecting to each other through, and creating an environment of, sound. It was quite amazing. I felt that it was a perfect example and embodiment of so much of what we had learned about throughout the week. I was affected!

The next morning, we all had to leave Cittadellarte and go our separate ways. I took the train out of Biella and down to Milan for the weekend and then down to Rome for three days. For this leg of my trip I was alone and being a pure tourist. I walked every day in both cities, for miles and miles, just taking everything in and seeing as much as I could possibly see in each city. I also got a 48-hour ticket for a hop-on-hop-off double-decker tour bus in Rome so that I could travel easily go to the Vatican Museums, Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum (plus I got guided tours) and managed to get to the Borghese Gallery too. Being in Italy and seeing so many of the artworks and monuments that I had read about in my art history books was a really big deal for me. I won't bore you with all of the details of my tourist experience, but since "a picture is worth a thousand words" - I will post some of my favorite shots below.

I am really happy that I applied (that I was chosen to attend UNIDEE) and that I had the opportunity to take this trip to Italy. There were some personal challenges along the way (mostly the traveling solo part), but in the end, it was a totally life-affirming experience. I am grateful to Aria, Nuria, Olmo, Nuvola, Annalisa, Miguel, Giulia (and everyone at Cittadellarte/UNIDEE) for all that we learned and experienced with each other. The things I learned can be applied to my art practice, work and life overall. Being able to travel and experience the art and culture of Italy (for the first time, hopefully not the last) is something I will carry with me for a lifetime.

(Thanks to Aria, Miguel and Olmo for additional workshop pics. To see more of my art and travel pics goto Instagram @Whippedhoney) 

Art installation on the rooftop of Cittadellarte

Alice giving us a tour of Pistolleto's galleries

View through a window at Cittadellarte 

Walking along the Cervo River, looking up at the mountains of Biella

Inside of Terzo Paradiso 

"The Apple Made Whole Again"

Having lunch at the Cittadellarte restaurant 

Key-word mapping

(Most of) our workshop group

Working on our word map

Doing a group exercise 

Group dinner at Manabrea restaurant

Great pizza and vino in Biella

My certificate of completion from UNIDEE

Arco della Pace, Milan

Il Duomo, Milan

Fondazione Prade, contemporary art museum, Milan

 Spanish Steps, Rome

Trevi Fountain, Rome

Super moon over Piazza della Republica, Rome

Castel Sant Angelo, Rome

"Laocoön and His Sons," Vatican Museum, Vatican City, Rome

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum, Vatican City, Rome

Raphael' "School of Athens," Vatican Museum

Inside of the Vatican

The Colosseum, Rome

The Colosseum, Rome

Trees on the Palatine Hill, Rome

That's me at the Roman Forum, beneath Palatine Hill - Rome, Italy.

The Roman Forum

Arco di Tito, Rome

The Roman Forum

Galleria Borghese, Rome

Bernini fountain in Piazza Barberini, Rome

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