Getting Around and Getting It Wrong

If like me you’ve been to Milan, then you’re doubtless familiar with the world’s oldest shopping mall. Even those who’ve never been may well have seen pictures of the intersecting glass roofed arcades that are populated by famous caffé shops and top end fashion houses. McDonalds were famously refused the renewal of their lease, allowing Prada to open a second store in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Galleria Mazzini, Genoa

 

Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa

Genoa also has its galleria, but before you get too excited about a high class shopping experience as part of your visit to the city I should warn you of two problems. Yes, there is a covered shopping arcade; the Galleria Mazzini, but this is a tired affair that suffered from the bombing of the nearby theatre in WWII. Though the Teatro Carlo Felice was restored in the 90’s the intervening decades made the Galleria less attractive, and nowadays the fashion houses can be found in a nearby street.

Exiting Galleria Mazzini to Via Roma, Genoa

 

But then there’s the Galleria Nino Bixio, and the Galleria Giuseppe Garibaldi. Even more disappointing to the keen shopper, these are very different structures but with a very important role to fulfil. Galleria is also the Italian word for tunnel.

Galleria Nino Bixio, Genoa

I’ve described the city’s narrow medieval streets before; streets that are totally unsuitable for modern vehicles and certainly not goods vehicles. Deliveries are made by small, mostly electric carts, but moving produce to and from the port requires good roads. These tunnels were built in the 19th century for trams, but early in the 20th were enlarged to allow other road users to by-pass the rabbit warren of La Maddalena.

There is a more significant traffic artery and one that blights the city. Skirting the edge of the newly redeveloped Porto Antico is a hideous flyover, built in the reconstruction period following the war, and bisecting any view of the city from the port (and vice versa). I’m sure those heading for the beautiful coastal ports of the Cinque Terre are grateful for being able to drive over rather than through Genoa, but for those in Italy’s sixth largest city it’s an eyesore. No matter how much you might try to decorate it.

But if you came for the shopping you probably don’t care about that!

Graffiti (Habana 25)

Where does graffiti become art? What constitutes a mural? When does a portrait become propaganda?

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Mural de Mercaderes

Havana is a city of blurred boundaries, rather like those between the different districts of the city; so you might see more art in Vieja, more obvious graffiti in Habana Centro, and mostly propaganda in Vedado. Or was that just one man’s experience?

Lets look at it another way; this grand mural found in  Havana Vieja is clearly art, but then given that it features important figures from the history of the city, the question must be asked about how the selection was undertaken. Who missed out? Whose inclusion is questionable? What part did politics play in those choices?

The portraits on the pillars of a bar are outstanding, but what is the symbolism of a pirate and a man who appears to be a barman or shopkeeper?

The political messages that promote how great Cuba is in the eyes of its citizens and fellow communists around the world are surely just that? But then the crumbing walls that they adjoin subvert their message.

Its no easy feat to separate art from politics.

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The Far Pavilions (Venezia 247)

To celebrate the Silver Wedding Anniversary of King Umberto I, the Venetian City Council decided to create a biennial art exhibition for works of Italian art.  That was in 1893.

Shortly afterwards it was agreed to include works by artists of other nationalities and the Venice Biennale was underway.

Nowadays the park which hosts the exhibition has pavilions which are owned by another 29 countries and managed by their respective departments of government with responsibility for the arts.  That’s not the end of it though, other countries that don’t own pavilions have been offered spaces around the city in a smart move that provides for the restoration of important buildings so that in 2012 Mexico were allocated the church of San Lorenzo in Castello for nine years on condition that they restore the building.

There are also occasionally unofficial pavilions that spring up, and in 2011 there was an internet pavilion too.

All of which explains why I found this piece of graffiti amusing…

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La prima faccia (Venezia 98)

Is it a feature of human nature to be so fixated with faces?  As the most facially expressive of creatures, are we hard wired to seek the stimulus of seeing faces?  I know as a photographer I love to shoot candid portraits with the range of expressions and appearances that result (you’ll see many examples during the course of this Venezia project), and there are websites dedicated to objects, cars, buildings and more that look like faces.

For the next few days I’ll share some of the facial imagery that I found in Venice, starting with this…Venezia-20

Scratched (Venezia 82)

The word graffiti derives from the Italian word for scratch; as early examples were scratched into the plaster coverings of buildings across the ancient world, or in some cases into the stone itself.  Though they were carved several centuries later, the discovery of runes inscribed into the marble of Hagia Sofia by the elite bodyguards of Byzantine Emperors is evidence of their Scandinavian origin.

Back in Venice the origins of the writers are probably even more diverse though less historically significant; unless Robert, Alessandro, Vicky, or Jose amongst others have a story they’d like to share…

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Moda Turistiche – a local view (Venezia 54)

Just following on from yesterday’s post about tourist dress, it seemed appropriate to share this piece of graffiti which seems to sum up how the locals see the typical visitor!

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Modern Mural (Venezia 50)

I heard a radio programme recently celebrating the work of the graffiti artists who sprayed and inked upon every available surface of the New York subway in the 1970’s.  There was an implication that these acts of “artistic vandalism” were ground breaking and set the direction for the likes of Banksy to follow.

I’ve no doubt they were influential, but they overlook something.  The word sounds Italian because it derives from the Italian word for scratched; graffiato.  It was part of life in Roman towns 2000 years ago (and can be seen in Pompeii as a result as well as in Ancient Greece and Egypt) and continues to this day.

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