Author: Melissa Pignatelli

The Bill Viola exhibit in Florence and a short video of The Deluge

From 10 March to 23 July 2017 the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi introduces Bill Viola, a significant exhibition celebrating this unchallenged master of video art, presenting works that span his long career, and which resonate with the architecture of Palazzo Strozzi. In order to create a unique experience, the exhibition will also include masterpieces of the Renaissance, such as, Pontormo, Masolino da Panicale, Paolo Uccello and Lukas Cranach.  Born in New York in 1951, Bill Viola is internationally recognised as one of the most important contemporary artists, producing video installations, sound environments and performances that offer the public profound experiences of immersion in space, image and sound. In exploring spirituality, experience and perception, Viola observes mankind itself; people, bodies and faces are the leading players in his works, with their poetic and strongly symbolic style in which man is called on to interact with such forces and opposing energies of nature as water and fire, light and dark, the cycle of life and the cycle of death and rebirth. As the artist has stated: “I am so happy to be returning to my Italian roots and …

“Fire at Sea”: the italian take on the refugee crisis

“Fire at Sea” (Fuocoammare) by Gianfranco Rosi is the italian film chosen to compete for Best Foreign Language film at the Academy Awards: it’s a brave choice taken by a selected few at the Italian National Film Industry Commission (ANICA). Easier stories could have been picked from the shortlisted ones, but the elitist group of people representing the various branches of the industry decided to stick their necks out for a cause. The cause is a humanitarian and historical one: “Fire at Sea” tells the true story of unimaginable journeys to escape foreign bombs and survive thirst, now, in our highly-civilized, super-progressive and hyper-connected 2016. The choice has received large support by the italian public opinion (#fuocoammare), Italian PM Matteo Renzi was proud and national television screened it on October 3rd: Italy being represented by Fuocoammare for the Oscar competition is a choice seen like a patriotic support to what italian nationals are doing to save lives in the tiny mediterranean island of Lampedusa in Sicily. In fact Italy is the only country to have a National Day to Remember the Victims of Migrations and rise consciousness on Hospitality, and it’s October …

Poetry, Art and Diasporic Iranian Women

Defining one’s own identity as a diasporic self in foreign country is a complex issue. But poetry came helpful to Shirin Neshat and Maryam Habibian: they used Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad to express themselves in a context where they hadn’t grown up. In an interesting article Jasmin Darznik explores the legacy of Forough Farrokhzad (1935–1967) in the Iranian American diaspora. The abstract of her study reads: “At once political and poetic, particular and universal, Farrokhzad’s oeuvre has in recent years become a vital coordinate for a number of contemporary Iranian American women exploring issues of gender, faith, social justice, and human rights across historical and cultural boundaries”. She argues “that the imaginative recovery of Farrokhzad by Iranian immigrant women writers and artists not only complicates the West’s frequently reductive contemporary representations of Middle Eastern women, but marks a bold and evolving interface between modernist Iranian literature and contemporary Iranian immigrant literature”. Thus Darnznik makes an interesting point: migrants to the United States working as artists, use the important literary tradition of their own roots for their work of art. …

Migrant Mothers

Italy, like many “advanced” countries, relies on migrant women’s labour to manage modern family lifestyles. The particular phenomenon, yet little studied in the italian immigration scene, is that women’s collaboration in family work, is implemented in ways that engage information technology and has an impact on the organization of the migrant’s original family, and society. In Global Families, Paola Bonizzoni, a researcher at the Department of Social and Political Studies, University of Milan, shows how the weight of the shortage of work, or couple’s problems are often faced with the departure of the woman. Often already a mother, migrant women work in situations that require them to help another’s family life. They experience distress situations due to forced separation from their own children and loved ones. In the transnational migration phenomenon studied by Paola Bonizzoni through the lens of global families, women still seek to maintain active roles in the management of the family of origin, implement complex forms of care; and, balancing suffering with embracing new challenges, still keep a grip on the texture of their …

M.C. Escher, Writing Hands, Rijksmuseum Collection, Amsterdam

Writing

Today scholars of all disciplines have realized that how their research is presented is at least as important as what is presented. Questions of voice, style and audience – the classic issues of rhetoric – have taken the front scene in matters of writing a report. Writing is intended as a communicative act between author and reader. Thus, when a text is released and goes public,  meanings writers may think they have frozen into certain words, may melt before the eyes of active readers. “Meanings are not permanently embedded by an author in the text at the moment of creation. They are woven from the symbolic capacity of a piece of writing and the social context of its reception. Most crucially, different categories of readers will display systematic differences in their perceptions and interpretations of the same writing”, says Van Maanen in his reflections on writing ethnography. Thus writing combines elements of the real, in a certain world, at a certain time and from a certain position, and reaches out for a meaning in relation …

The Diver

Suspended in the air, dynamic but still, concentrically plunges Ernesto Michahelles’ diver.  The sculpture, in patinated plaster, currently exposed at Palazzo Strozzi for the exhibition on the Thirties, is the draft for a bronze casting to be displayed at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  However, the IOC asked the artist to create a smaller sculpture, 160 cm instead of the almost 3 meters of this original project, and later Thayaht himself could not afford to pay for the metal fusion. The diver’s balance and the effort are brilliantly reproduced in the work, anchored on a single pin below the hands. The metal circles are independently set as a base, and each time the sculpture is mounted, its needs to find its own balance again, its own perfect alignment. Linear artist with eclectic skills, Thayaht is a particular character in the art world. Sculptor, painter, goldsmith and fashion designer , Thayaht, was born in Florence in 1893. He grew up in his grandfather’s house at Poggio Imperiale, and his years in Paris, designed clothes for the atelier …