Monday, September 26, 2011

Adventures on Lake Como

Our weekly schedule is nothing to complain about.  Perform from Saturday to Tuesday, and the rest of the week off.  Three consecutive days off each week, coupled with an easy to handle train system out here and Ryan Air flights charging for a whole flight what Delta charges in baggage fees, makes for some great travel opportunities.
This weekend we finally took advantage of the situation and headed to Lake Como and Milan for a few days.  We booked a hostel about an hour north of the city of Como in a quiet town called Menaggio.  Unless you are an eighty year old German couple, I doubt you’ve ever been to this quaint lake front village.
View from our balcony in Menaggio
The hostel itself had some great amenities.  Friendly staff, great chef, access to bikes and kayaks, and a ridiculous view from the bedroom balcony.  We took the kayaks out on the water one morning and explored the area around Menaggio and Bellagio.  The lake itself is stunning.  Surrounded by mountains on all sides.  Magnificent villas scattered along the waterfront.  We took the kayaks out early enough where it seemed like we had the whole lake to ourselves.  Not another boat was anywhere near us. Between taking our own little boat around Ischia a few months back and another day private boating in Venice not that long ago, we’ve had some great adventures on the water so far.
The rest of the trip to Como will be known as the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly...

Round 2 at Panna e Cioccolato
The Good:  Walking the main square in Menaggio could easily be confused with taking a tour at Universal Studios.  It feels like a movie set with the lake being the star of the show.  The piazza is filled with coffee shops, boutique clothing stores, and even has a little train car that takes tourists all around the town.  While strolling around the square we stopped to get some gelato after lunch one day and this tiny nondescript shop changed our gelato world.  After consuming an average of two gelatos a day out here, we’ve both become very well versed in what makes gelato good or great (there is no such thing as bad gelato in Italy).  This place, Panna e Cioccolato, has no rival.  All the gelato was made from fresh, all natural ingredients and in season fruits.  The consistency was not as creamy or heavy as most gelato.  It had more of an icy texture so when we finished we felt like we could have eaten another one...which is exactly what our little piglet selves did.  About an hour after finishing, we headed back to the same spot for round two.  We showed up with big smiles on our faces and the owner just kind of shook her head in a way that said, “I know my gelato is good, but you two are ridiculous!”  Who can blame us though.  We will most likely never go back to this town, so why not enjoy it while we had the chance.  While we were leaving, we saw an article from Lonely Planet posted outside stating that it was the best gelato in Italy.  Apparently we weren’t the only ones who recognized the quality of this small town gem. 
**We actually went back a third time the next morning before we headed to the train station for round three but it was closed.  Don’t judge would have done the same thing.
The Bad: This could have been much worse than it turned out, but we fortunately made a quick decision that saved us from a real mess.  For those of you who know Sadie well, you are aware of her tendency to get motion sickness at certain inopportune times.  Well, one of those episodes presented itself on the bus ride back from Menaggio to Como.  
The ride is about an hour long on a bus that is way to big for the tiny roads we were driving on.  We got on the bus in great spirits.  We felt revived from our days on the lake and were ready to head back to Venice.  That high was shattered about two minutes into our ride.  At the next bus stop, two guys got on both contributing unfathomable stenches to the bus’s interior.  Guy one, set up shop in the seat in front of Sadie and situated himself so that his arm was hugging the seat next to him.  This was not good.  The intensity of BO that was emanating from his arm pit was at a level I’ve never been exposed to before.  Imagine sitting in the middle of a rotten onion patch on a hot summer day and you get a taste of what we are talking about.  Guy two was in front of guy one, and his stench of choice was a bag which I can only assume was a mixture of cough medicine, manure, and cheese.  Just awful.  I have a fairly strong stomach, but even I was getting a little queazy after a few minutes.  Couple that with poor ventilation and a bus driver who was honking his incredibly annoying horn every six seconds and Sadie’s motion sickness was kicked into gear.  
Sadie held out strong until the last possible minute.  We made it about ten minutes from Como and Sadie had had enough.  All her breathing techniques and attempts at sleeping had failed and she was on the verge making a mess on the bus.  The bus driver pulled over in a tiny town and we hurried off as quickly as possible.  She went off for a few minutes to compose herself and when she came back the sickness had passed.  We had managed to escape the situation, but we were now stuck in a little town outside of Como.  Fortunately, this situation remedied itself fairly quickly once we found a secondary, non smelly bus that took us to the train station without further incident. 
The Ugly: Sadie and I had to sleep in separate rooms because the hostel we booked didn’t have any available mixed rooms.  We were both upset about this arrangement, but I’m glad she was not around after what happened in my room night one.  The room had eight beds, bunk style, all filled with travelers from across the globe.  After having traveled all day, we headed to bed early that first night.  The first few hours of sleep were without incident.  Beautiful breezy night on Lake Como.  At around 2:00am, the last roommate entered the room and this is where the night turned for the worse.  He got to his bed in a drunken stupor and immediately woke me up as he settled in for the night.  I’ve traveled to many a hostel over the past couple years, so I’ve seen my fair share of drunken travelers.  This guy was another breed.  He was ogre like.  In fact, from this point forward he will be referred to as Ogre.  Ogre was about 6’8”, weighing in close to 350 lbs.  When he laid down in the bunk with his head up against the headboard, his feet hung a good foot and half over the end of the bed.  His body was covered in what were probably huge freckles, but they looked more like scales.  He also had bar piercings through both nipples that were comparable in size to the dumbbells I use for my daily workouts.  The guy was enormous.  When he finally managed to maneuver himself into bed he instantly began the trademark breathing rhythm of a person with severe sleep apnea.  It goes something like this.  1) Struggle to inhale to the point that anyone who is around you thinks you are clearly choking and in need of immediate medical assistance.  2) Suddenly and dramatically catch your breath in a way reminiscent of someone winning a hard fought underwater breath holding competition.  3) Exhale loudly releasing all air, similar to that annoying exhale they teach you in a yoga class.
Imagine this going on in the bed five feet from your own.  Now, imagine Ogre is the one with the apnea.  Not a pretty sight.  Even this was something I would have had no problem sleeping through.  What made things even more interesting were his night terrors.  In between his breathing, he began screaming a combination what sounded like Latin and an impressive case of tourettes.  Ogre was frightening me with his unbelievable levels of profanity and impressing me with his Latin all at the same time.  To make things even worse, he started sleep walking around the room while he was having these terrors!!  I tried to pretend like I was sleeping, but I was too interested to see what he was going to do next.  All of the other travelers in the room were awake at this point trying to figure out what to do.  Nobody dared to approach Ogre, so we all just tried to ride it out.  And ride it out we did. I watched the sunrise over Lake Como with Ogre serenading me with choking sounds and f bombs.  Quite a night...
Duomo in Milan
On the way back to Venice we stopped for the day in Milan, which was having its fashion week.  We only had a half day to explore, but we made the most of the time.  Toured the Duomo.  Did some shopping around town.  Took in a fashion show.  Walked the grounds of an ancient castle...
Roof of Duomo
We ended up walking close to ten miles, but we had a great time in Milan.  The craziness of the city was a nice change from the serene days at Lake Como.  

We’re back in Venice now and will be heading on our next adventure in a couple days.  Next stop...ROMA!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hand Update!


Some of you have showed some concern over my hands after I posted my football field incident, so we wanted to give a little update on how they are healing up.  This pic was taken a few days ago and as you can see, even though it looks pretty nasty, the skin underneath is looking good.  My other hand has a similar blister as well, but I've already performed a couple of times on them and they hasn't given me any problems.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Barn Party

Before we headed out to Italy, Sadie and I were in search of a space in Venice where we could work on some silk skills and possibly put a duet routine together.  If some of you are not aware, Sadie is an incredible contemporary circus performer.  Here is her website if you want to see
For obvious reasons, the search for just about everything is slightly more difficult in Venice, so you can imagine what it was like trying to find an open space with high enough ceilings, appropriate rigging setup, and one that is reasonably priced.
After putting out some feelers to different contacts in Italy, one of my close friends from the Italian Olympic team, Igor Cassina, put me in touch with a woman, Wanda Moretti, who has an incredible aerial dance company based out of Venice.   After various unsuccessful attempts at getting in touch over the past few months, we finally had our first encounter this past weekend, and it was a memorable first meeting.
Wanda and her dance crew had just returned from being on tour and threw a homecoming party at her studio in Mestre (first town on mainland outside of Venice).  Like all Italian hosts she went out of her way to make us feel included even though we had never met.  In Italy, if you are a friend of a friend, you are family.  We thought this would be great first meet.  See the space.  Meet the other performers and some new people.  Get off the island for a while and see something different.
Just getting outside of Venice was an adventure in itself.  The total distance we had to travel was at most, two miles.  An hour boat ride, 20 minutes on a bus, then on foot for about forty five minutes and we made it.  It was that easy!!  I guess it could have been simplified a bit if we had known where we were going.  We walked in circles for close to an hour when we got of the bus, not knowing which direction to take.  We came very close to just turning around and heading back home, but alas, the eighth person we asked for directions gave us some useful clues.  The dance space was in this park, which I’m sure is very beautiful during the day, but when you are lost in the middle of the night it feels way too much like a scene out of Nightmare of Elm St.  We walked down this deserted path in the woods for a while without any contact with another human being.  With each step we took, Sadie began digging her nails deeper into my arms.  Could this possibly be where the party is at??  We kept walking.  Up ahead, we could vaguely make out the silhouette of a body hanging in front of us.  I have to say, it was definitely a little disconcerting seeing that image in front of us at that point in the journey (Sadie freaked out a bit too, which made things even more interesting...haha).  As we got close we realized it was only an unnecessarily frightening sculpture and that we were safe...for the moment.
Just as we pass the statue, we begin to hear some music and the sound of people laughing.  PLEASE LET THIS BE THE PARTY!!  We walk around one last building and hallelujah, we had made it.  
Amongst the crowd, we find Wanda, who gives us a tour of the space.  It’s perfect.  It has the feel of an old barn that has been transformed into an aerial  space.  We see some ideal spots for rigging up the silks we have shipped from the States.  As we are looking around the space, Sadie notices a hoop (known as a lyra in the contemporary circus world) sitting in the corner.  She lets Wanda know of her affection for hoop and that she has done some performing with it in the past.  Within five minutes of hearing this, Wanda is able to convince Sadie to do an impromptu performance for the whole party, and already has an outfit picked out for her to wear.  I had been outside stuffing my face on some prosciutto and cheese and by the time I went back in, Sadie was already warming up in her new costume.  At this point, the other guests could sense something was happening and they began filtering in one by one.  Sadie picked out a song for her performance (Back to Black by Amy Winehouse) and the show was on.  It all happened rather quickly...
The 100 or so guests were enthralled from start to finish.  Sadie hadn’t performed hoop in a quite sometime before this little show, but it didn’t matter.  That music came on and she went in to performer mode.  It was amazing to watch, even for me who has seen her perform quite a few times.  It only lasted about 3 minutes, but she had captured the audience in that short amount of time and they were in awe.  As she finished, they showed their appreciation with thunderous applause and had her come back out for three curtain calls.
After the swarming crowd subsided a bit, we decided to head back home.  The party had just started, but we had to perform at the Biennale the next morning so we had to miss out on the rest of the nights festivities.  It almost felt like we were at the party specifically to perform!  Sadie had done her act for the night, so we could go home...

Getting back home was a lot easier and we both agreed that the night had been well worth the difficult trek out there. 

Here's a video I took of Sadie's performance.  The quality isn't that great, but you'll at least be able to get the idea...

Wanda Moretti-Vertical Dance Company:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Gloria: The Opening

So what exactly are we doing out here in Venice? Not the easiest thing in the world to explain, but we’ll try.  We are bringing to life the artistic concepts of Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla.  The idea revolves around the melding of the modern dance world with artistic/rhythmic gymnastics.  Add to that wood and steel sculptures in the exact design of business class airline seats, and you have the general idea.  Our pieces are called “Body in Flight” and they play with the idea of gymnasts flying through air on sculptures of objects meant for the air themselves.  We’re aware it can be a little difficult to picture, so hopefully the pics from the last post will help.  We worked for months putting the routines together that incorporated exactly what the artists were looking for with each separate routine.
All the performers with Rebecca, our choreographer 
Let me just say that this project started out as a part time gig and slowly began to consume both of our a good way.  All of the other performers who helped with the creation (Olga Karmansky, Rachel Salzman, Matt Greenfield, Mike Moran) and of course our amazing choreographer, Rebecca Davis,  played important roles in bringing the concept to reality.  We used Chelsea Piers as a rehearsal space for a while, but then moved to Circus Warehouse in Long Island City for the majority of our training time.  **We have to give CW some love because they were incredible for us during the creation process.  We took over a good chuck of their space for a few months and they couldn’t have been nicer about having us there.  Thank you CW!!  After months and months of trying different concepts, the routines were set, approved by the artists, performers, choreographer, and museum we represented (IMA) and we headed to Venice to wow the art world.
 As you might imagine, we were in fantasy land when we arrived in Venice. Let me set the scene for you...
Venice, Italy.  One of the most enchanting cities in the world.  End of spring brought impossibly beautiful weather.  The ultra rich and their mega yachts in town just for the opening of the exhibits.  Endless amounts of Bellinis calling our names from every direction.  Italian men on their best behavior, only hitting on every third girl, which is a drastic change from their normal habits of going after every woman in their line of sight.  It was paradise, and we were there to showcase what we had been working endlessly on for such a long time.  
Our first full day in Venice was Sadie’s 25th birthday, which we looked at as a positive omen.  Buuuuuuuut, our positivity soon changed once we headed to the US pavilion at the Biennale later that day.  It was the first time we had seen the real sculptures and as you might expect, we both got a little over excited.  We jumped all over the pristine works of art and began showing off our stuff to the artists, curator, photographers, Guggenheim museum workers and interns, IMA get the idea.  There were a lot of important people there.  Within the first 20 minutes I pulled my hamstring and Sadie ripped her brand new shorts almost in half while showing off her crazy flexibility.  Great start!!!
The first official performance we did was for the jury.  Who are these jurors you ask?  They are a committee of five people from around the world (the countries represented on the jury this year were Egypt, China, France, Italy and the USA) who are given the task of going to each nations pavilion and selecting the recipient of the Gold Lion Award for best national pavilion.  
Sadie and I were given the honor of performing for this group, and we were more than ready.  They would watch the tank performance (USA Track and Field runner on a treadmill fixed to the tread of an upside down army tank) then Sadie, then myself.  (NOTE: Along with the three performances pieces of the American pavilion, there are three other works as well.  A stand alone sculpture when you first walk in, a video playing in another room, and a huge custom made organ hooked up to an ATM machine that plays various melodies as you withdraw money).  
All in all, if we hurried they would be able to get through our pavilion in an hour.
They gave us 20 minutes for everything.  SON OF A BEE STING!!  Plan B was quickly set into motion with a flurry of activity going on at the same time.  Tanks running, gymnastics being performed in two separate rooms, video going, and organ playing strange noises throughout.  Not quite the ideal way to see grasp the entire concept.
Our time slot was 10:00am.  Everything was in position for a seamless execution of all that we had to offer.  The jury shows up and for a reason out of our control, our fearless curator, Lisa Freiman, asks for a five minute push back of our start time.  Let’s just say that this minor request was not appreciated very much by the jury.  Ok, they were furious.  Who did we think we were asking for more time??!  So, they left.  Moved on to the next pavilion without seeing ours at all.  Our whole set up was crushed.  For the next nine hours, Sadie and I stood, in uniform, by our sculptures, adrenaline working overtime, waiting for the jurors to return.  What made it even worse was that every half hour someone would run in saying, “THEY ARE AT THE PAVILION NEXT DOOR!!! THEY WILL BE HERE IN 5 MINUTES!!!!”  Lies...all lies.  
At ten to 7:00pm, the jury strolled back to the US pavilion.  At this point we could barely stand up.  Waiting around all day, getting ready to perform, only to be told no time and time again, sapped us both of our energy.  By the time they walked in the pavilion doors I was working off fumes.  They nonchalantly watched about three minutes of both of our routines, took a quick peek at the remaining sculptures, and left.  They stayed 10 minutes max.  DAMN!!!
Needless to say, we were all pretty devastated.  The Golden Lion was presented a few days later and was given to Germany.  
Cipriani Party
Fortunately, we all settled in pretty well after that.  We used the first week to get adjusted to the time change and consume disgusting amounts of gelato.  The days had a pretty consistent flow to them during the opening few weeks.   We’d take the vaporetto (water bus) from our island of Lido to the Giardini every morning and start preparing for the days performances.  The opening week was so packed with people that we were performing every hour, on the hour from 11:00am to 5:00pm.  Being that our pavilion was so unique and performance based, we regularly had a line hundreds of people long waiting to get in every hour.  And the people would just hang out for hours until they got their chance to view our performances. 
When things had settled and the media/critics left town, the mark we made was pretty evident.  The jury might not have appreciated our pavilion, but the critics and media loved it.  In a lot of ways we were the hit of the Biennale.  This art crowd is pretty far removed from anything athletic, so watching us perform was like going to the Olympic Games for many of them.  They just could not wrap their heads around the idea that the human body could do what we were doing.  
Along with all our time spent at the pavilion performing, we also got a glimpse of Venice in a way I’m certain neither of us will ever experience again.  Each night for that opening week we would finish our shows for the day, make ourselves presentable, then head to some ridiculously extravagant, over the top party.  Appertivo at the Guggenheim?  Just an ordinary Wednesday.  Dinner at Cipriani with the who’s who of the art and music world?  Why not.  Drinks and dancing at the Palazzo Pisani Moretta ?  I guess we can fit it into our schedule.  We tried to blend, but I’m pretty sure it was clear to everyone that we were a bit out of our element.  Nevertheless, it was an incredible way to view the most romantic city in the world.  We’re both just praying for a reason to come back to the next Biennale in two years to experience everything again...

The ladies with Max, director of the IMA
Circus Warehouse website:
Guggenheim website:
Palazzo Pisani Moretta website:
Cipriani website:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rehearsal vs. Real Deal

Here are a few before and after pics from our routines.  The pics on the left were taken at Circus Warehouse in NYC and the pics on the right were taken during the opening week of performances in Venice.  We just wanted to give you a little look into the creation process and what it looks like as the final product.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Crisis Averted

Here’s a fun little story (at least it’s funny now) about an incident that happened after I got out to Venice in May.  I’ve never really considered joining the military.  I have all the respect in the world for what our troops do for us, but at the same time I’m grateful to have the choice as to whether or not I want to serve.
Up until a couple years ago, that choice was not available to young men in Italy.  I am well aware of this fact, because about 10 years ago I was stopped at the airport in Rome where two less than helpful machine gun carrying gentlemen detained me for about four hours as they figured out where to place me in the Italian army.  Apparently, they weren’t informed of my American residency which exempted me from serving.  My elementary level Italian speaking skills at the time didn’t help me explain my case, so I resorted to the only thing I could think of on the spot.  I whipped up some tears and hoped that the pathetic sight would be enough for them to just let me go...and it worked!!  
When I got back to the States I spent a week or so at the Italian consulate in San Francisco getting all my paperwork in order to make sure this type of incident would never happen again...
Now, back to Venice a couple months ago.  I thought nothing of it when our landlord asked for our passports one morning.  Apparently, the island of Lido wanted a record of foreigners who had taken up an apartment for a few months.  No problem...until the police showed up at my apartment later that day looking to take me in.  Is my being in the Italian army that important to Italian national security that I must be hunted down?  Italy says YES!
As expected, speaking with the police captain was a futile effort.  He wasn’t having any of it.  My passport had still indicated that I was a prime candidate for the army, so he wrote up my letter for official placement in the army, told me to go to Rome to get my assignment, and that was that.
There was good news and bad news to this situation.  Good news was that I was supposed to be in Rome for my appointment anyway, so it didn’t require me to take an unnecessary six hour train ride down there.  Bad news was that I couldn’t find the papers I had completed 10 years earlier stating that I am exempt from service.  I had my parents searching every inch of my life back home while I ransacked my apartment in Rome hoping that the papers would pop up.  A weeks worth of searching and nothing.  The day before my appointment with the main military offices in Rome, Sadie walks out of the bedroom with an envelope in her hand.  I was skeptical because I had searched every inch of the apartment, but my principessa had found my papers.  I was saved!!!
The last step was going to the offices and showing them that they had made a mistake and I was home free.  
So, we go.  Sadie, myself, and one of my Italian cousins for backup in case any funny business went down.  Here is where things get good.  As soon as we enter the office, we see the first few signs of how things are run at this top shelf operation.  First, the office is pretty sizable with about 10 desks scattered around.  Loose papers everywhere.  Posters of kittens hanging from trees up on the wall.  One computer in the room (I can’t say with 100% certainty, but I’m fairly certain it was a Commodore 64.  The same computer I had when I was 8 years old.  That amazing piece of technology is really only getting better with age!)  Yup, exactly what you would expect from a first world military office.  This is a place where stuff...gets...done.
The scene only gets better when I explain to the women that “Yes, my name is Durante.  And yes, I was born in 1980.”  She leaves the room only to return moments later with huge leather bound book reminiscent of something Harry Potter used for his potions class.  Yes, I’m a big Harry Potter fan...let’s just move on.  The book had “1980” emblazoned on the pen.  The women uses all your might to open the cinder block like book and flips to the “D” section.  After a few more flips, she finds the right page, and there is was.  All my information written out by hand in this 12 century text.  Sadie and I couldn’t believe it.  Everyone else in the as usual.  The ancient writing with my information, coupled with my papers from the consulate confirming my US citizenship and residency was enough to turn the tides.  They had understood the situation and were willing to let me be a free man!  They wrote up my release papers (a process that should have taken about six minutes, max) and 3 hours later I was back on the streets.  Durante military crisis number two averted...
I’m back in Italy now, but I’ve duct taped those papers to my leg so I have them wherever I go.  Next time I’m stopped, which I sure will be within the week, I’ll be prepared.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Venice Film Festival

This picture is from last night on the red carpet of the prestigious Venice Film Festival, part of the Venice Biennale.  It is the oldest film festival in the world and just so happens to be down the street from our apartment on the island of Lido. The best picture is awarded the Golden Lion or Leone d'Oro, and this years choice was the film Faust by Russian director Alexander Sokurov. So we bought tickets to see the winning film, and it was interesting...and by interesting I mean crap.  We were both not fans and were fidgeting in our seats after the first hour planning a discreet exit.  I guess I don't really get these high end artsy movies all that much.
The festival itself was full of the things you would expect from a Hollywood opening.  Red carpets, famous people being ogled at from a safe distance, more paparazzi than can possibly be necessary.  Some of the stars that were out here this week were George Clooney, Madonna, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Al Pacino, Kiera Knightly, amongst others.  We didn't get to see or hang with any of them, but they were just blocks from our apartment so by sheer proximity, they are all our new best friends.  No, I can't get you George's autograph, so stop asking!  
People from all over the world come out to see this event, and for us it was great because it was within walking distance from our apartment.  Getting dressed up, going to a film festival on the island you live on in Italy, and having two dollar wine served as you watch a newly released major motion picture is a pretty solid Saturday night...I don't care how bad the movie is.  

**Note: For the picture above, we snuck on to the red carpet at the end of the night and had the only person left around take the pic.  Almost looks as if we are supposed to be there!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Football Field Fail

**If you have sensitive ears, please excuse the curse word at the end of the video.  The video is better with the end 10 seconds included.

I had to put this video up.  This is from about a week ago back in NJ right before Sadie and I came back out to Venice.  What you don't see at the end of the video is what happened to my hands.  I can be kind of an idiot when it comes to working out, so it will probably come to no surprise to some of you that I injured myself during this little feat of strength.
This field is a brand new state of the art turf field.  Gorgeous for playing football on, but not so much for walking on your hands in 90 degree weather.  Instead of dirt the field is covered in these little rubber pellets that heat up to temps rivaling that of the center of the sun. To me this meant nothing.  I walked...and walked, slowly noticing that my hands were feeling a little hot about half way through.  In my mind the only thing that mattered was making it across and with Sadie cheering me on the whole way, I thought I had it.
After falling at the 99 yard line, I looked at my hands and saw that the skin on my palms had turned to something that resembled melted cheese.  Absolutely awful!!  I now have the two blisters on my hands the size of tennis balls.  And yes, it gets more disgusting.  They filled with fluid and for whatever reason had little white particles in them.  They looked like two snow globes in my hands for a few days.
My hands have since de-liquified and they are getting back to normal, but hey, at least I got a good video out of it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

La Biennale di Venezia

So, we actually got out to Venice at the end of May for the opening of the Biennale and we’ve had some incredible experiences so far.  We’ll make sure to back track as best we can so we hit all the highlights, but we first wanted to tell you a about what the Biennale is all about...

La Biennale: It is the preeminent contemporary art festival in the world.    Considered the “Olympics of the art world.”  The first Biennale was held back in 1895 and is on display every 2 years from June to December.  Each country selects an artist to represent their country in hopes of not only  impressing the discerning art critics and media of the world, but also to win the prestigious "Golden Lion Award." The award itself is selected on by a jury of five members from all over the world who over the course of the opening few days (known as the Vernissage) tour each of the 84 national exhibits until the winner is agreed upon.  The Biennale has a constant flow of visitors during the extent of the exhibit, bringing in roughly 300,000 art fans from all over the world.  

The Giardini: The Gardens of Venice are a secret haven that most visitors never get a chance to see unless they are aware of the Biennale.  Most people get so caught up in the touristy Venice attractions (canals, St.Marks Square, Murano, etc.) that they never venture to this unique spot.  It's the only section of Venice that has trees/parks and it also houses 30 of the national pavilions for the Biennale.  It resembles an Olympic Village of sorts with each nations pavilion having a very distinct architectural style.  In most cases you can tell which country the pavilion represents just by the outside aesthetic (The American pavilion resembles Jefferson's Monitcello, Russia's pavilion has that very recognizable Russian Renaissance feel, whereas Sweden looks like it came out of an Ikea catalog).

American Artists: There is quite a process that goes into being selected to represent the United States at the Biennale.  Museums from around the country create a proposal for their vision of the American exhibit that they present to the US State Department.  After a thorough review process, one museum is selected to collaborate with the artist of their choice in representing the American entry.  Over the years American artists including Jackson Pollack, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein had their work featured.  
The 2011 American entry was a very unique one to be a part of for a variety of reasons...

  • The museum selected (Indianapolis Museum of Art- IMA) is not from a major art hub such as New York, Chicago or LA, which is generally where the entries have been selected from in the past. 
  • It is the first time the US decided on an artistic collaborative when it selected the couple Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla.  
  • Calzadilla, being originally from Cuba, was the first non US born artist selected.
  • This years concept includes performance art, which had never been done before in the more than hundred year history of the Biennale. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Intro: Europe 2.0

Hey everyone!! I took a long break from my last blog which documented my travels around the world while I was living in Rome, Italy, but I've decided to start things back up again. This time I have a new addition by my side to share in my adventures. I'm living in Venice, Italy right now with my girlfriend, Sadie Wilhelmi, and we are both performing in the American entry for the Biennale di Venezia. We are representing the Indianapolis Museum of Art ( and bringing to life the artistic concepts of the artist couple Guillermo Calzadilla and Jennifer Allora. We've already had an incredible time out here that has given us both some life changing moments that we want to share with you all. Both Sadie and I will regularly blog with new stories, photos, and videos of our experiences out here not only about the Biennale, but also about our travels and other performing opportunities we have in the works. We'll also give you a glimpse into the life of two performers as we live in one of the most unique cities in the world. Stay tuned as we eat, discover, perform, and learn about this part of the world one adventure at a time... Dave and Sadie

**Pics from Biennale were taken by Andrew Bordwin and Type A for the Indianapolis Museum of Art