The Reason I Dressed
All of Italy is a buzz with the latest large scale environmental installation from American artist Christo on Lake Iseo. Have you heard of this installation? maybe I should take a moment to bring you up to speed on the artist and his work.
Christo Vladimirov Javacheff is an old man. Born on June 13, 1935 he is now 81 years old. To be perfectly honest, I think we discount the importance of his artwork in this day and age because we live in a “been there, done that” society, lest we forget there was once a time for FIRSTS, for revolutionaries, for….innovation.
Christo met his wife Jeanne-Claude in Paris in 1958. Born on the exact same day, I can only image what their relationship was like; a relationship where they created ground-breaking artworks and a completely new form of artistic expression. They worked together until 2009 when Jeanne died, and yet all of the signage for their pieces, which were jointly created, still give credit to Jeanne-Claude.
Most people my age heard of Christo in 2005 when the project “The Gates” was installed in Central Park in New York City. 7,503 Saffron colored fabric gates were placed along paths in Manhattan, however, their massive installations gained notoriety in the 60s, 70s and 80s (in fact The Floating Piers was conceived in the 70s!).
I did a double major in University which I’ve blogged about before. One major was in visual arts, specializing in performance art; which means that once upon a time I may or may not have removed body hair with a girlfriend in front of an audience at the Ontario Art Gallery in a sandbox filled with raw rice……yeah, performance art is not for the shy! I’ve also done site-specific artworks in rivers, streams and forests throughout Toronto and one of my biggest inspirations was Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
Actually, I’ve always had a love / hate relationship with their works to be perfectly honest and this time was no different! There has been quite a bit of controversy around the latest work by Christo which happens to be conveniently located only a few hours from my house on the Lake Iseo near Brescia.
The Floating Piers
One of the principal tenants of all artwork by Christo and Jeanne-Claude is to remain un-political, meaning it is art for purely aesthetic purposes and not because of a political interest. They want to make people look and interact with familiar landscapes in a new way and they always succeed.
All of their works are temporary, fleeting interventions in the life and history of a space that exist for a brief time and then are dismantled and completely recycled. The only thing that remains are photographs…and memories, of course.
Another interesting fact about Christo is that he claims to have never received government subsidies or funding from sponsorships for his artwork. It is all self-sustained….*cough cough*, pardon my inability to believe this! There are many ways to fund an artwork and I honestly don’t think any less of artists who openly accept sponsorships or government funding, I find there is a lot of integrity in honestly and openness.
One of the controversies around The Floating Piers project is the amount of “support” that Christo received from the Beretta Family. The Beretta’s are household names in Italy because they own one of the largest weapons producing companies in the world, they also happen to have a private villa on one of the island that The Floating Piers is connected to. So you do the math….it is expected that many world leaders will attend the event in private viewings, so I suppose that a visit to the Beretta Villa could easily be arranged, and hey while they are there why not discuss the buying and selling of weapons. I don’t see any issue with this, I just think that for an artist who doesn’t want to create politically charged works, who also claims to be completely self-funded that a bit of openness goes a long way!
Now onto the Experience…..
It was magical.
It was a scorching hot day last Saturday, when my husband and I left our 4 year old with his grandparents and headed out on the road to Brescia. My man has been exhausted lately and he’s been working 15 hour days every SINGLE day for the past month (but more like 6 months!). The other day he actually apologized because he is never around and I’ve gotten so used to being alone. I was worried about asking him to go to this with me because I knew the trip would be brutal and exhausting for him but he SAID YES!!
Actually he said that when he first heard about it on the radio he immediately knew I would love to go. And so this is a special thank you to Marco for bringing me because I would have never seen it without him! Grazie Amooooour!
I had read online that there was a 7 euro train from Brescia to the entrance of The Floating Piers which is in the town of Sulzano on Lake Iseo. Sadly, when we got to the train station all trains were blocked as part of an effort to curb the flow of people to the small town, which was inundated with tourists for the brief event.
The highway exit to the town was also CLOSED. No one could have anticipated the amount of people from all over Italy, Europe and the WORLD that would have made the “pilgrimage” to see The Floating Piers, and a small town that although fairly well organized just could not handle the sheer constant flow of visitors.
HOWEVER, after a bit of investigative work, driving to nearby towns, and finally paying for a private group transfer to the entrance we finally MADE IT!
The second the saffron fabric, which was a silky polyester, was under my feet I just felt so ecstatic and happy, as though I was a part of something. A part of something, big.
The lineup once we were at the actual entrance was only about a 30 minute wait ( I was anticipating at least 4 hours), but thanks to the limitation of tourists to the city it was all very bearable. Not to say there wasn’t a sea of people, because there was, but it was manageable.
I couldn’t help but think what the crowds, lines and confusion would have looked like had they not cancelled the trains! It was an exodus of people, and it did oddly have a very biblical feel.
Aside from the obvious “walking on water” references, it felt as though we were all on Noah’s Arc, moving and bouncing in the water in synch with a very rhythmic and constant flow.
The scenery was gorgeous and it was eery being on the same level as the lake and thinking that there were no barriers from big waves and strong winds. The weather, in fact, played a huge role in the success of The Floating Piers. A strong enough storm on Lake Iseo (which is one of Italy’s largest lakes) could have easily thrown people off balance. There was a storm warning that day and I will admit a little part of me panicked that we would be stranded for the night, leaving our little man to wonder if we were coming home ;(
I don’t know how many visitors realized the importance of what they were experiencing from a modern art perspective. I mean, the man is 81, who knows how many other installations of this scale will be installed. It could very well be that what we collectively experienced what was one of the last Christo and Jeanne-Claude works! Among the criticism heard during the day was the likes of “the Romans used to tie barrels and boats together to build bridges all the time, he’s created nothing new” and also “I could have thrown some fabric over a dock and called it art”.
But what people fail to remember is that this is just the succession of work begun in the 1960s, from two artists who were the FIRST to interact with the environment in this way. I would guess that a small percentage of the visitors had never heard of Lake Iseo and that even fewer had ever visited. The Floating Piers which ends the first week of July for the general public, has brought thousands to experience this rather anomalous Italian lake in a dynamic and different way.
People WANT new experiences. They need guidance in order to look around them and open their eyes to the beauty that surrounds them. One thing is for sure, we also need to document the experience. EVERYONE had cellphone (s), cameras and even video cameras in hand to capture the moment….yours truly included! I think the next evolution in artwork should be experiences that do not allow electronics!! How’s that for revolutionary!
What I Wore
I knew it was going to be HOT, because the summer has officially arrived. And by hot, I mean sweating at 8 am kind of hot! Lately I’ve been pulling my hair back tightly to avoid the extreme sweating and frizz that comes with naturally wavy hair in the summer. As fun as it was having short hair last summer, I actually suffered a lot because it was always touching my neck. Dear ponytails I have missed you dearly!
My matching two-piece outfit is from Asos.com and although I was a little worried it was too short when it first arrived I actually love the length now…..as part of a new found stint into being more self confident!
My sandals are also from Asos.com and are very comfortable and actually perfect for a day of long walks under the hot sun. My bag is a prototype in python for our new bag collection, which is taking a bit longer to launch than anticipated because a major brand asked if we could produce these for them (which puts food on the table!!) and so right now my husband has been really busy finishing the production for them.
All in all I felt really comfortably dressed for a day of being out on the lake….literally. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and despite the fatigue of getting there and criticism, the piece is well worth the visit and I’m glad that with the help of the Beretta family, Christo was able to realize The Floating Piers in Italy and that I can say I experienced it first hand.
THE RTD MAGAZINE
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