Monday, October 31, 2022

one last Triestean morning

The luminous view from my window at dawn; some cavorting nymphs on the base of the statue commemorating Domenico Rossetti de Scander - lawyer, intellectual etc. of the late C18th and early C19th;

and the interior of the completely wonderful Caffè San Marco - there since 1914 (though destroyed in WW1 and then rebuilt) - clearly the minute it opened it was the new in place and Joyce, Svevo etc hung out there.  It still morphs into a bookshop ... and serves very good cappuccino.

And then ... a long journey back to Wimbledon, where it's now wild and wet and stormy - another world from the last week.


Sunday, October 30, 2022

more bits and pieces of Trieste (including Winckelmann)

Five miles along the coast, gleaming white in the sun, is the Castello di Miramare - built in the late 1850s for the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Josef Maria von Habsburg-Lothringen (presumably known as Max to his friends) - who became the first Emperor of Mexico for a few years in the 1860s, and was then executed by his Republican opponents in 1867 - it's a long and complicated episode in European intervention in South American politics, and I confess I chiefly knew about him as the subject of Manet's paintings of his execution.  He never really got to live here after it was finished (he'd been a noted naval commander, and wanted a house overlooking the sea).

There are excellent gardens,

although the abandoned greenhouse is decidedly melancholy.

Then back on the bus to Trieste's old town, which stretches up the hill behind the grandiose part, all tangled up with Roman ruins and cat colonies, with a lovely old cathedral with C13th mosaics.

But I had forgotten - or not fully assimilated - that Winckelmann was murdered here! It seems as though it was likely to have been some complicated relationship gone (very) wrong with a guy who was staying in the same hotel - the version that Pater gives (and yes, I sat outside the mausoleum reading this, on my phone) is that he was robbed for a couple of medals that Maria Theresa had given him, but that only seems to be a part of it.  His murderer (even though Winckelmann forgave him [why?] in pretty much his dying words was convicted, and (very Foucauldian) put to death on a wheel -

- just about where I (not in deliberate homage) sat and had a Spritz Hugo.  Much classier than an Aperol Spritz, this is made with elderflower syrup and - because it was a posh cafe - came with Things.

Then - the sunset from the pier, again,

and the view of the Piazza Unità d'Italia, at night.


Saturday, October 29, 2022


I've come to Trieste for the perfectly good reason that I've never been here before.  I was a little shocked to find a huge, huge cruise ship - like the kind that used to sail down the Giudecca like skyscrapers on their sides - moored quite literally in front of my window: I was delighted that it sailed off into the sunset.  And its smaller companion has departed, too, leaving the custom house correctly proportioned.

Trieste is absolutely unlike anywhere I've ever been.  I'd expected more Venetian influence - but no: it's as though a chunk of central Vienna decided to go on a seaside vacation.  I've been reading Jan Morris's book on the place this evening - she manages to be outstanding in her historical evocation and her capacity to call up the belatedness of the city, as ever in her writing (and yes, I know that she has a strong capacity to be nostalgic about what she sees as the more benign aspects of empires, too - but all the same, she knows how to call up place).  So I've been getting a strong sense of its trading history, its cosmopolitan qualities in the late eighteenth, the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries.

This is its own Grand Canal - very short.  Those little white tents - ah, yes, a cheese festival... I don't know the name, but I bought some wonderful dark orange goat cheese...

and the Opera House.

The main, huge piazza is almost unphotographable, because of its shiny breadth, but here's the top of an old insurance company building - Trieste protecting the interests of the (Western) world.

And the Grand Canal, from the other end.

I had better draw a veil over my Mistake of the Day - I went through a door marked "scale" - stairs - quite near my room, thinking this would be a way down that would give me some extra exercise, and very swiftly found myself locked out on the fire escape.  "Scala di sicurezza" is the phrase you need when you're making a call to the front desk for someone to come and let you in again.  You're welcome.

Oh, and a parting glance at Venice from my vaporetto stop this morning.


Friday, October 28, 2022

A Venetian miscellany: Biennale, Kiefer, windows, shadows, and kitsch

Let's start with some gondoliers having breakfast, and their dalmatian.

Then on to the Giardini part of the Biennale, and all the pavilions ... my favorite by far was the Nordic pavilion, which has been transformed into The Sámi Pavilion, in honor of Sápmi, the Sámi homeland that spans all three - and of course is fragmented by the national boundaries, different power relations when it comes to indigenous peoples, and so on.  So much representation of Sápmi spirits, materials, discrimination, healing --- I wish I'd been able to go to another show, Pera + Flora + Fauna  yesterday - about indigenousness and nature - but it was closed - unexpectedly, no reason given, so I didn't try going back - yesterday.  In the background of this is the firmly shut and guarded Russian pavilion.

The countries' names are hidden behind a curtain of birch bark.

But other than that - I was glad to have seen the women and surrealism mini-exhibition, but became a little weary of forms of transformation - there was too much that was just obvious.

But I loved the shadows whilst waiting for the bathroom;

and this window on the way back;

and another lamp-post shadow;

and a couple of views from the Palazzo Ducale.

I'd gone there for the Anselm Kiefer installation, Questi scritti, quando varranno bruciati, daranno finalmente un po' di luce (These writings, when they are burned, will finally give off a little light) - which was huge - in size - and stunning, and terrible: it seemed to reference the end of Venice, and environmental apocalypse, and the inferno, and memory, and the lagoon, and wasteland.

My iPhone, which has been in a thoroughly temperamental state since I left, refused (as it did yesterday) to upload a whole lot of pictures that I took close together - I'm missing the most terrifying images of the lot, just as (and more irritatingly) I'm lacking some kudzu close-ups.  (And for that matter, it's dropped all my Contacts).

But this may give a sense ...

And then - some real Venice kitsch, and, finally, the view this evening, just outside my front door.


Thursday, October 27, 2022

Kudzu, the Biennale, and Views

This was the major motivation for my visit: Precious Okoyomon's To See The Earth Before the End of the World.  It references the fact that kudzu was first introduced to farms in Mississippi in 1876 to try and stabilize soil, which was being eroded due to the cultivation of cotton ... and then it took over.  So on the one hand it becomes a metaphor for the entanglement of slavery, racialization, and diaspora within the natural world, and yet also holds the capacity for change and revitalization - or so the catalog entry puts it, rather drily, considering the wild abundance of this installation. The difference between the installation pics at the opening and now are huge!  

[photo Roberto Marossi, in April]

Of course, there was (as ever with the Biennale) too much to take in at once, and not all of it exceptional, but I'd single out a truly disquieting video by Diego Marcon, The Parents' Room (2021), 

and then (harking back to Bethlehem, and steel mills), Marianne Vitale's Bottles and Bridges: Advances in Collective Obliteration (2021): she creates models of American bridges, railroad tracks, and so on - and then burns them, and casts their charred skeletons in bronze.

I could go on for an age about the Biennale ... and then, of course, there's the rest of Venice.  Here are some favorites from today ...

Also, according to my wrist, I've walked  28,000+ steps today, so I'm going to bed now.


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

out of my window

This is possibly my favorite ever Airbnb, just off the Campo San Barnaba, in Venice.  It's very basic and pretty small - what was once one big room turned into a living room and bedroom - with a kitchen and bathroom off - but it's perfect for one person; would be fine for two; and is quiet (apart from church bells, feet, and the occasional passing boat).  I'm here for a couple of days to look at some Biennale stuff: I wish I could stay for a month, and think, and write.  The top two pictures are the views looking up and down the canal;

this is just a couple of hundred feet up - and I love (look closely) the pumpkins.


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

i Macchiaioli

The Palazzo Blu in Pisa - no need to guess why it's so called.  It's holding the most comprehensive exhibition of the Macchiaioli (who were painting in Tuscany in the 1850s-80s) I've ever seen - though they feature in my MA dissertation (on Social Realism in C19th Italian Art), I didn't pay them a huge amount attention, and I was left wanting to rethink them, after seeing rooms and rooms of their painting.  (1 a.m., so, alas, not much more time to ruminate on this tonight).