Once, when I was in New York, on a cold and rainy day, I went to the Morgan’s Library in pursuit of some rare paintings from Renaissance and a Gutenberg’s Bible. There, I saw a letter hanging on a panel under a soft light. There were some precious items hanging on each side in the main room surrounded by hundreds of books, jealously kept behind a wire mesh from the ground to the ceiling. This letter, kept in perfect condition, was written on a single sheet of paper with a sharp and beautiful calligraphy. Ludovico, Michelangelo’s father, had written to his famous son a letter in the Autumn of 1516. He was warmly dissuading Michelangelo from visiting him, assuring Michelangelo that he was in good health and asking him to keep focused on his search for the perfect marble to complete Julius II’s Tomb in Florence. Actually, Michelangelo’s father was at this time, at the point of death. Despite being fully aware that he would never see his son again, Ludovico insisted that Michelangelo stay in Carrara, where the marble quarries are, to finish his work. Michelangelo heeded his father’s request. This letter spoke straight to my heart. Carrara, a small City in Tuscany that dates back to the Roman Age, is renown for it’s white marble. As one drives along the highway, one might think the tops of the surrounding mountains are snow-covered, but they are in fact topped with marble. The purpose of my trip to Carrara wasn’t solely to find a link with Michelangelo’s work, which is mostly located in Florence and Rome, but to catch something in the air, something out of time that makes me feel concern for the reality of this specific place. Carrara is a town that has resisted the global market economy, has avoided being branded, keeping old stores in their orignial state as if nothing would ever change (although some anarchist organizations have been openly located in town since the end of 19th century). Generations of quarry workers have been slowly creating the story of this place since Michelangelo. White and blue-gray marble. This is what this city lives for and off. The contrast between this hard land, surrounded by ominous mountains, and the perfect milky skin of the rocks is what attracted me. I’ve been told that some artists are still working with Carrara’s marble, but I must admit that the only "sculptor" I saw this time was a computer controlled laser-head machine which cut stone like butter in an attempt to get academic and standardized shapes. I’ve been up into the mountains to Colonnata, to where the blocks of marble are extracted and loaded. I’ve heard the sounds of trucks and caterpillars at work through a foggy and silent day. I’ve seen the inky sky pourring down upon the quarries, creating dozens overtones of grey polished oxidized rocks under the light, as if the whole landscape had turned to marble. I’ve been down to the valley, walking through the streets of Carrara, and have found a poor likeness of Michelangelo’s slave in the Academy of Arts, standing alone in a dusty corner. One thing brought me back to my first thoughts of New York: it had been a chilly and rainy day in Carrara…
BAGNI PARADISO, an Italian Seafront Walk
There is the Italy of dreams, of Baroque and Renaissance cities, saturated with architectural beauty, frescoes and painting collections. There is in counterpoint, that other Italy, where you dawdle the length of the Ligurie beaches or on the Adriatic coast, in winter or just at the end of the season, when the public places no longer resound to the cries of children, the laughter of young people from the café terraces or Vespa horns. I like this abandonment of places, when silence prevails over agitation, and the vide that gives them a strangely poetic envelopment, makes me think of Michelangelo Antonioni's films. They are like ghost towns which can be experienced with nostalgia for the happy times whilst waiting for the next season. These places, as if abandoned by a population fleeing the announce of an imminent catastrophe, put time on hold, it is in this condition that they appeal to me.
PARADE, Cannes Film Festival
Each year, for more than half a century, life in Cannes is put on hold for two weeks, as if it is suspended from the Croisette during the film Festival. It is open season on nabbing a stars portrait and it doesn't interest me. I walk about this little town which, for two weeks becomes as chock-a-block as a private club. Everything is a game of appearances under the sun and the sparkle of sequins and the night under the sunlights. I attend the parade of girls in evening gowns, men in suites, all exhibiting themselves with the conviction of belonging to the place and the event, of being unique at the heart of the legend amongst the luxury cars, the rented jewelry and the gleaming yachts. It is like an open air circus that performs every year, the myth of eternal youth, beauty, fame and wealth. I attend the ballet of rushing people who cleave the crowd, change direction, shout and disappear under the whistle-blows of the police, the roaring Ferraris, the paparazzi flashes : it is like a fairground, a world of illusions, of artificial beauty... Finally, in front of the Festivals Palace steps, a few feet from the red carpet, I attend the frenetic waiting of fans venerating their idols. It is this fauna hypnotized by the vanity game and the decor it is performed in that fascinates me. You will not see stars who have made and will make festival news in this series, but those who they make fantasize about them and the ballet of their attempts to get closer to their dream. The last day of the Festival, a Japanese film crew wished to interview me. I think I disappointed them a little by admitting that I wasn't looking for stars. What are you looking for then? I answered : I observe the parade.
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