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NYU Florence Expores Museums, Memory and Politics: Educating about “Difficult Knowledge”

How do museums serve as sites of memory? What is at stake in the politics of representation and education? Our guests will discuss these issues looking specifically at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York; the Civil and Human Rights Center in Atlanta, Georgia; the Memorial to the 1968 My Lai Massacre in Vietnam; and the Museum of Deportation near Florence, Italy.

The NYU Florence La Pietra Dialogues. will explore these themes and more on 19 February. Program details below.

6:00 pm Introduction. ´Politics and Memory: Staging a Public History of the Civil Rights Movement: The Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia´. Joyce Apsel, Professor, Liberal Studies, New York University.

6.05 Museums, Memory and Politics: Educating about “Difficult Knowledge”

´Dialoguing with the Site of Oppression, From Practices of Mourning to the Politics of Reconciliation: The Twinning of Prato and Ebensee and the Museum of Deportation´Davide Lombardo, NYU Florence

´Memory Politics in the National September 11 Memorial Museum´. Amy Sodaro, Associate Professor of Sociology, Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York

´Memorial to the 1968 My Lai Massacre in Vietnam: A Paradigm for Bearing Witness to the Inhuman´. Roy Tamashiro, Professor, Multidisciplinary Studies Department, Webster University (USA)

7:00 Q&A

Politics and Memory: Staging a Public History of the Civil Rights Movement: The Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia

Joyce Apsel introduces the concept of politics of memory in the context of the last decades’ museum memory boom and its link to the politics of education. Her presentation focuses on how the U.S. civil rights movement is remembered in the Civil and Human Rights Centre in Atlanta, Georgia. Through interactive displays and staging, the Centre attempts to balance depiction of the sacrifice, struggle and martyrdom against segregation, lynching and other forms of racism with a message to inspire activism and hope today.

Dialoguing with the Site of Oppression, From Practices of Mourning to the Politics of Reconciliation: The Twinning of Prato and Ebensee and the Museum of Deportation

Davide Lombardo looks at the unexpected story of the twinning of the Italian city of Prato and the city of Ebensee in Austria and the result: the Museum of Deportation in Figline di Prato near the site of an execution of partisans. Italy is a country where there is a long history of the practice of top-down politics of memory, from the celebration of Risorgimento for Nation building purposes, to the Fascist appropriation of the First World War, The museum in Figline di Prato is Recon an example of recent politics of memory founded on grass root activism on the part of ex deportees at Mauthausen, Their early vision of the need of a politics of reconciliation resulted in 1987 in the twinning of the city of Prato with the town of Ebensee in Austria.

Memory Politics in the National September 11 Memorial Museum

Amy Sodaro, author of the recently published Exhibiting Atrocity: Memorial Museums and the Politics of Past Violence, provides a comparative global analysis of how politics influence the depiction of past violence. Her presentation discusses the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City situating the site within the broader “memorial landscape.”

Memorial to the 1968 My Lai Massacre in Vietnam: A Paradigm for Bearing Witness to the Inhuman

Dr. Roy Tamashiro explores how the Sơn Mỹ Memorial and Museum in Vietnam memorializes the 1968 Mỹ Lai Massacre. He describes how the museum provides space for reflection and bearing witness to the profound suffering in the Massacre. Facing the inhuman at the museum then provides the opportunity for transformative learning, for personal and societal healing, and for reclamation of human dignity.

NYU Florence Student Interviews Recent Alum about Contemporary Art, Dialogue, and Studying Abroad

Feiran Lyu, current NYU Florence student, was recently in conversation with Andreas Petrossiants,
NYU ´16, Global Liberal Studies. This piece by Feiran shares highlights.

Andreas Petrossiants is an independent art historian and critic based in New York City. He received an M.A. in art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London where his research focused on critical conceptualist art and labor politics of the 1960s. He finished his B.A. at New York University in Global Liberal Studies with a concentration in Arts and Literatures, where he studied at NYU’s La Pietra campus in Florence, Italy for three semesters while researching towards his senior thesis. He is a frequent contributor to The Brooklyn Rail, and has published writing in Senza Cornice, The Daily Serving, among others.

What does Dialogue mean to you?

The workshop that I conducted at La Pietra in October was based on a recapitulation of a broad swath of art historical and theoretical methodologies and I would like to continue such an approach for my answers here. That being said, please excuse the overly pedantic—and already well-documented—nature of some responses.

I believe it is safe to say that “dialogue” has taken on two very diverse (and strategic) definitions: one odious and reactionary, the other idealistically emancipatory. Today, we must understand that “dialogue” implies the tacit expectation of an eventual understanding, agreement, or compromise between interlocutors or groups. This potential has become—to my mind—severely overstated and ineffectual. Like other various progressivist tools—such as protest or grassroots activism—dialogue, and its goals, have been usurped by reactionary groups and tendencies to legitimize fringe groups and actions. Such groups have targeted identity politics, “political correctness,” and other strategies of forging and protecting identity, and distorted such protections to say: “our free speech has been infringed upon, we are no longer permitted to say the [horrible] things we would like to say.” That being said, I understand my response seems to be an indictment of free speech, and that is surely the grounds on which a member of such a group would disagree, but my point is only an indictment of hate speech masquerading as legitimate (political) dialogue. This is all to say, sometimes we don’t need to hear “both sides” when what only appears to be legitimate free speech comes into fierce conflict with other civil liberties. This is particularly important to consider given the current economies of clicks, likes, posts and the incredible proliferation of media and information. (A recent talk by Judith Butler, “Limits on Free Speech?” republished on the Verso Books website, is an example of a important way of reconciling all of the above).

All this notwithstanding, I should make clear that I am not referring to “dialogue” in the way La Pietra Dialogues invokes it, both in practice and in name. This is where the emancipatory potential can still function as a very real method for pedagogically bringing attention to what is not right, and to discuss courses of decisive action to counter this. For this reason, I consider LPD to be one of the most important organizations I was lucky enough to engage with as a young student. In many ways LPD stands as an example of the power of free speech, and especially dialogue, to create new discourses, new intersectionality, and new interdisciplinary. It is not farfetched or hyperbolic to say that LPD is a model of programming dialogue that much mass media should take due note from.

What role does contemporary art play today?

This is, perhaps, an even broader question that deserves much more attention than I can presently give—though that is not to say that more than ample attention has not been already been given. Firstly, one must distinguish between the term “contemporary art” as a placeholder for art after year x (the year decided by a particular institutional authority), art made now, and all the other ways of giving the contemporary era a temporal “origin” point—itself a very fraught historiographical action. Some authorities point to the multiple “deaths” of painting in the late 50s; others to the “dematerialization” of the art object coinciding with the “conceptual turn”; others yet, begin with the political activity of May 1968 or the fall of the Berlin Wall and the USSR.

On the other hand, a term like “Postmodernism” denotes a variegated, though still more specific, series of cultural tendencies and models; in the artistic context related to the rejections of authorship, the original artwork’s “authenticity,” and notions of teleological “progress.” See Frederic Jameson’s writings for the term’s early theorization, especially his seminal essay: “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.”

The definition of “contemporary,” etymologically at least, has little to do with the way the term is used in branding, historicizing, or spectacularizing art. Take, for example, the recent blockbuster record breaking auction sale of a Leonardo da Vinci painting that made headlines last month. What does this have to do with contemporary art? Not so much. However, it has everything to do with the contemporary hyper-inflated art market, our contemporary era of rampant financial speculation, and so on. So, my roundabout answer can only bring attention to a “broken” dialectic between history and contemporaneity, as they collapse into one another, and to the multiple meanings “contemporary” can take when used as a mechanism for history-writing, as a placeholder for no-longer applicable taxonomies, or as a direct provocation of our everyday. E-flux published a very useful reader titled What is Contemporary Art? (2010) that is a good place to start; I especially recommend Martha Rosler’s “Take the Money and Run? Can Political and Socio-critical Art ‘Survive’?” and Cuauhtémoc Medina’s essay “Contemp(t)orary Art: Eleven Theses,” both in the book.

Another way to approach answering this question is by looking at what is alternately called “socially-engaged art,” social art practice, relational aesthetics, and so on. Claire Bishop’s Artificial Hells, provides a strong critique of the validity of much of the work/theorizing that constitute such tendencies.

This year’s Venice Biennale was (for the most part) yet another startling example of art system escapism in the face of incredibly pressing and disastrous global political circumstances.

What is the relationship between contemporary art and culture?

Again, I worry about answering this question in brief. But a short answer might be that the former commodifies the later or that the former constitutes the latter (in part). The culture industry, as it has been organized, is a complex web of institutions ranging from academia, museums, and kunsthalles, to corporate art firms, auction houses, and for-profit galleries, and furthermore those institutions more distant from the rarefied “art system,” such as political parties, media structures, and so on. The recent (many) controversies following in the wake of documenta 14 are clear examples of the above. In such complicated webs, there are the many goings-on that together produce (mass) culture. But, one must be very careful not to ascribe the entirety of culture to what can be seen, bought, or read in a history book, and to not discredit various cultural phenomena that constitute our contemporary moment. (Once again this word haunts us). It is important to understand who is defining culture and from what position that definition is being produced and subsequently disseminated.

How did your experience in Florence influence or help your work?

This is a very personal response, and might not be the same reading of the city and its multiple cultural scenes that someone else might have. So, get out your grains of salt!

After working for two years at a for-profit art gallery in New York, my move to Florence allowed me to distance myself from a fast-paced profit-centric art system. That is obviously not to say that there are no for-profit galleries in Florence, nor that there is something inherently “wrong” with the concept. Different models of exhibition-making allow for their own specific benefits and hindrances.

My time in Florence allowed me to take in broad sections of the city’s many cultural scenes as a quasi-outsider: I interned at the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi (before the opening of the Museo Novecento and the arrival of another institution to show modern/contemporary art in Florence), I visited the contemporary section of the wonderful Museo Marino Marini, and got involved in the music scene at venues on the other side of the Arno, and so on. My undergraduate research and thesis-writing—which of course now I would like to amend and takes Florence as a case-study for analyzing how diverse art practitioners define the term “contemporary,” and how it can mean so much and so little at once. Florence’s production of simulacral history or idealized “authenticity” makes it an especially great place to view the culture industry on a smaller scale, and to understand how a façade (even a remarkably beautiful one) can deceive the eye, and can subdue historical analysis for a mystified imaginary. (Professor Lombardo’s course on the histories of urban planning and architecture at NYU Florence was an important introduction to getting past this façade). All that being said, the city was incredibly important for my development, both academically and personally.

In what way does art history help understand contemporary art?

Contemporary art constitutes art history, perhaps at the very moment that it is produced. Though, what is most important is to acknowledge how art history itself is created, consecrated, and venerated. Marcel Duchamp’s famed 1957 lecture “The Creative Act” is a great start. He describes how the spectator, or “art historical posterity,” completes the work of art upon its being viewed, experienced, heard, etc., and how the accompanying process of history-making is very selective. Those who write history create the narratives that are remembered and subsequently taught; but, they also choose those that are potentially “reopened” for historical revisionism and those that are forgotten. This question has only become more relevant as information systems and technology have proliferated in all aspects of life. As the Italian autonomists describe, the primary commodity of our time is information.

What do you think is the major difference between the European contemporary art world and the U.S. contemporary art world?

The major difference is in funding models for art institutions. Many countries in the EU have much higher percentages of their budgets allocated for cultural institutions of all sorts. Of course, the entrenchment of neoliberal economic models in the U.S. and in Europe has meant serious cuts to such public cultural spending in recent decades. Much of the art system in the U.S. is funded by corporate sponsorships, private donors, foundations, and the like; publicly funded projects are few and far between. This model is being applied in many European countries as well, especially now as right-wing governments take political control—either by winning elections, or by shifting policy (and the “center”) further to the right by becoming more extreme.

What do you think is the most important responsibility of art critics nowadays?

There are many that argue that (art’s) criticality, or its potency for any structural change, has been neutralized and made ineffective by an implicit complicity with the systems one critiques. I do not think this interview is the place to grapple with such a broad and difficult claim. I will say, however, that one very important approach (of many) that a critic must take is to shine a light on spaces, artists, groups, and moments that have been traditionally left out of art discourse. It is important to understand the mechanisms at work in creating history, a point that not surprisingly keeps coming up in this interview. For one very important and well-known example, Linda Nochlin’s brilliant and seminal essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” (1971) exemplifies such an approach. We must continue in Nochlin’s path; today, perhaps, more forcefully than ever. We must not shy away from difficult questions.

Read some of Andreas´ recent articles in The Brooklyn Rail:

“José Leonilson: Empty Man”, December 13, 2017

“Resistance Across Time: Interference Archive”, November 2, 2017

And Senza Cornice: Rivista Online di Arte Contemporanea e Critica:

“A Painting by Hans Haacke: Dematerializing Labor”, n. 17, December2017/March 2018


This piece was originally published on the La Pietra Dialogues website and is available here.

NYU Students and Faculty from Florence and New York Brief European Parliament on Race, Racism, and Xenophobia

NYU students and faculty preparing just before the conference in the European Parliament.

9 November, 2017 was not a typical day for the European Parliament. That day, the Parliament’s Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup hosted NYU’s third conference on Race, Racism, and Xenophobia in a Global Context. Members of Parliament and the public heard from NYU faculty and students considering these issues through scholarly discussion and artistic expression.

This conference grew out of NYU’s unique willingness to allow students to grapple with the complicated issues they confront when studying away. The first conference, structured as an All-Campus Teach-In at NYU Florence on March 24, 2016, was developed by a student committee convened by NYU Florence Director Ellyn Toscano. As students observed the ongoing debate about “European identity” and migration, racism and Islamophobia, and as they also saw increasingly public racial violence in the US and student protests in response, they wanted to consider theses issues in a meaningful and informative way.

As the planning for the conference evolved, Ellyn explained the premise became that “the scope of this discussion on racism and intolerance be transnational and comparative. Racism must be understood as it operates in different historical and geographical contexts, reflecting local tensions and prejudices and intersecting with other important issues of class, gender, religion, nationality, marginality, citizenship, globalization and globalization.” The questions posed for the first conference included:

How does racism and discrimination operate in different geographical contexts, reflecting local tensions and prejudices and intersecting with issues of nationality, class, gender, religion, marginality, citizenship, and globalization? How does location affect the way in which we think about the social constructions of race and race relations? What role do historical experiences of slavery, discrimination and colonialism play? How does the current migration crisis in Europe and mounting Islamophobia help us better understand the similarities and differences between the U.S. and Europe?

Excited or Nervous? Students arriving at the European Parliament.

Asking those questions lead to a continuing dialogue and a second conference in New York on October 28, 2016. A diverse group of students has been involved in all three conferences, starting as freshman and sophomores in Florence, they presented and performed in Brussels as juniors and seniors. The students introduced and moderated conference panels in addition to providing live performances – song, poetry, monologue. A short student film was also shown. With faculty from both New York and Florence present, it was, according to NYU’s Senior Vice President for University Relations and Public Affairs Lynne Brown, a “unique opportunity to showcase students and faculty” which is at the core of NYU’s mission.

A number of NYU faculty have also been involved in all three conferences, including members of the faculty committee Deb Willis and Dipti Desai, Awam Amkpa, Jason King, Pamela Newkirk, Paulette Caldwell, and Ann Morning. NYU Florence faculty included Deborah Spini and Alessandra Di Maio. In opening the conference, NYU Steinhardt Professor Dipti Desai noted that the motivation for all participating is furthering the conversations necessary to create “a world that is more just and equal.”

MEP Kyenge and NYU open the conference.

Italian Member of the European Parliament Cécile Kyenge participated in the first Race, Racism, and Xenophobia conference in Florence and the second in New York. A member of the Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup, Ms. Kyenge was so impressed that she invited NYU to organize a conference for the European Parliament and the public in Brussels. During her opening remarks on November 9, Ms. Kyenge praised NYU’s interdisciplinary efforts, noting that the university does not “stop at scholarly discussion, but also takes a creative approach.”

That is in part what the students found inspiring. Helen You, a CAS senior who has participated in all three conferences, described the vibrancy of the event. “As someone who is both an IR major and potentially going to law school, but who danced and played music throughout my life, I really appreciate just how diverse we have made this conversation. I mean, we have everyone from the Law School to Tisch siting in this room to talk about issues that span across all departments and that is just amazing.” She and other students expressed their gratitude for the professors and administrators helped to make the conferences happen. Helen also especially thanked NYU Florence Director Ellyn Toscano on behalf of the students, saying, “So often, students have a passion and an idea in their heads, but they don’t have the opportunity to explore it and create something meaningful. You gave us the confidence and the voice to share our stories and make this conference a platform for change and we never thought that something like this could happen. Thank you so much for everything you have done for us and your support.”

The students with MEP Kyenge.

The conference was well-received in Brussels, with Parliamentarians and other participants very engaged. Even if you missed the opportunity to participate in Brussels, New York, or Florence, this is not the end of these conversations at NYU. According to student participant Eilish Anderson, “I sincerely hope that we were able to inspire the people watching the conference to take action in fighting against hate in the world, particularly through policy change. Even after the third edition of this conference, it’s still just the beginning. Where will we go next?”

The conference program is available here.
A live stream video of the Brussels conference is available here.

NYU Florence Professor Gallo Appointed to Italy’s Court of Auditors

On October 3, 2017, Professor Giampiero M. Gallo was appointed to the Italian Corte dei Conti by the President of the Republic, following a proposal by the Prime Minister. This Court of Auditors is a constitutional body supervising public expenditure both ex ante and ex post. Professor Gallo will join the Regional Budgetary Control Committee in Milan to supervise regional laws and report on yearly budgets from both the regional and the municipal administrations. He will be applying econometric methods to estimate effectiveness and efficacy benchmarks of public spending to evaluate individual administration performances.  As the new position as a Judge is incompatible with other forms of public employment, he will resign from his position at a local university. Professor Gallo will continue conducting research and and will continue to teach at NYU Florence.

NYU Florence Live Streaming Inside American Politics Conference

On October 19-20 NYU Florence will host its annual​ ‘Inside American Politics’ conference. The conference brings together top American political​ experts and insiders, both Republican and Democrat​,​ and media ​experts ​for a discussion of the current situation in American politics. It is always an informative and lively gathering. This year it will also be live streamed and NYU students around the world, along with the public, can participate.

This year’s speakers include: Jonathan Capehart, Journalist, Editorial Board Member The Washington PostRon Christie, Republican political analyst, veteran senior advisor to the White House and Congress, founder and CEO Christie Strategies LLC; Rob Collins Republican political strategist; Todd Harris, Media and Communications Strategist for Senator Marco Rubio and other top Republican elected officials; Steve McMahon, Democratic Strategist, co-founder and CEO of Purple Strategies, LLC, and Adjunct Professor at NYU Washington D.C.; John Anzalone, President at Anzalone Liszt Research; Elise Jordan, ​Writer and political commentator; Doug Thornell, Managing Director ​ at ​Public Affairs Firm ​SKDKnickerbocker; Jay Newton Small​, Journalist, Time magazine.

The conference live streaming is available here. Join!

NYU Florence Hosts Journalist Discus North Korea

On September 20, NYU Florence will host Imma Vitelli, an international correspondent with Vanity Fair Italy. She recently spent time in North Korea and will share her experiences. She will also host a journalism workshop on September 21-22 for NYU students. The workshop will consider questions such as: How do you report in a totalitarian state with three government minders, two “guides” and a photographer who takes photos of you taking photos of North Korea? How do you come up with a story in a country where you have no freedom at all? Ms. Vitelli will teach what to do, what to avoid and how to see what the state will rather hide.

“Last May, I spent ten days in North Korea, and it was by far the most bizarre experience I have ever had. The idea was to report on the elites supporting the paranoid regime of President Kim Jong-un. We saw champagne flowing in spite of sanctions and children singing the glory of the nuclear program. We dined on a yacht by the river in Pyongyang and felt like we were in a lost galaxy, or in East Berlin, in the 1960s.”

– Imma Vitelli

NYU Florence Announces The Season – A Summer of Creative Events

Rehearsing at NYU Florence

New York University Florence announces the 13th edition of The Season at Villa La Pietra (Via Bolognese 120, Florence), a summer celebration of creative collaborations conducted throughout the grounds of the 15th century villa and its extraordinary and scenographic gardens from May 31 through August 4, 2017. World-renowned actors, writers, musicians and artists will gather to work collaboratively across disciplines to present a range of professional performances including classical compositions and concerts, theatre performances, the reading of new works and a visual arts exhibition.

As part of the worldwide celebrations of Monteverdi’s 450th birthday, The Season presented Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in PatriaMay 31, excerpts from the opera, performed by the acclaimed Italian ensemble La Venexiana. English actor Richard Emerson brought portions of Homer’s original text to life from a script adaptation by American theatre director Erica Gould. A collaboration with Salon/Sanctuary Concerts.

Internationally celebrated fiction writers and poets read from their works during the Writers Reading with Mark Bibbins, Maaza Mengiste, Alexander Chee and Catherine Barnett on June 6 – 6:00 pm.

The Season continues on June 7 (7:00PM) with La Scolta and Le Passioni dell’Anima, two ​works by composer Roberto Scarcella Perino: “La Scolta”, a world premiere concert by the women’s choir Solensemble, soloist contralto Marcella Ventura, and pianist Iolanda Franzoso based on the text by Gian Maria Annovi, and “Le passioni dell’anima” from a libretto by Federica Anichini. The evening will be ​introduced by a reading by ​poet ​Gian Maria Annovi. The Writers’ Season/La Stagione degli Scrittori, dialogues and readings with poets Guido Mazzoni, Mark Bibbins, Vivian Lamarque and Catherine Barnett and fiction writers Alexander Chee, Igiaba Scego, Maaza Mengiste and Gianluigi Ricuperati, are scheduled for June 8 and 9 (6:00 pm). Dialogues, translated in Italian and in English will be moderated by Raoul Bruni and Diego Bertelli. On June 19 (6:00 pm) Villa La Pietra will host The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pia reading and performance by poet Eugene Ostashevsky.

In their eleventh year of participation in The Season, the Continuum Company of New York presents The Odyssey – Everyone’s Seeking Something, June 12 (9:00 pm) a new theatrical adaptation of Homer’s epic poem, directed by Jim Calder. To mark the 30th anniversary of Primo Levi’s death, on June 16 (9:00 pm) Jacob Olesen performs Primo, a stage reading of If This Is A Man, Primo Levi’s powerful account of survival at Auschwitz (in Italian with English subtitles.).

The festival’s theatrical theme continues on June 22 (7:30 pm) with Sogno Rapporto di Colore, a journey of dreams in illuminated colors, a site-specific ​performance of art, dance, drama, music, and meditation​.​ Created in collaboration with visual artist Peter Terezakis, choreographer Allyson Green, Dean of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, actor John Gutierrez, choreographer Indah Walsh, British composer Alan Stones​

On June 25 (9:00 pm) the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Commedia dell’Arte students present The Imaginary Invalid, a crazy ride into the characters and plot twists of one of Europe’s most beloved playwrights, Molière. The Limonaia at Villa La Pietra will be the stage for The Merchant of Venice, June29 (9:00 pm), with four actors playing over fifteen characters in this scrappy production of Shakespeare’s dark comedy. Originally staged in a Chelsea textile warehouse, this production of The Merchant of Venice confronts how “just” justice can be in a world rank with prejudice. NYU Tisch School of the Arts Commedia dell’Arte students will perform Medusa, June 30 (1:00 pm – Courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi), a musical procession retelling the story of Medusa with a modern feminist twist.

Besides literature and theater, The Season will present Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me, on June 20 – 6:00 pm, world Première – a PBS biographical film from the acclaimed American Masters series, to be broadcast in the winter of 2017, directed by Sam Pollard and written by Laurence Maslon. It is the first documentary to examine the personal and artistic identity of this extraordinary entertainer in the context of social and racial evolution of the 20th Century. Followed by a conversation with Laurence Maslon.

​New to the offerings of The Season is Regarding Women in the Acton Collection, ​an exhibition of the work of international artists Zoe BuckmanAlessandra CapodacquaPatricia CroninBärbel Reinhard, and Deb Willis, ​who will discuss their work at the exhibition opening on June 26 (6:30 pm), ​followed by a performance by Karen E. Finley, New York-based performance artist.

Karen Finley makes her Villa La Pietra debut with this performance of The Genital ElectionFinley will present excerpts from her recent performance Unicorn Gratitude Mystery that examines pathological power, projection and gender in the US presidential election. In one excerpt Finley will perform as Donald Trump, embodying blonde feminine desire and degradation while unleashing psychosexual motivations for his presidential run against Hillary Clinton. Karen Finley is an award-winning artist of varying mediums, from her installations, music, painting, and writing to her most notable work as a performance artist. Her career brought her all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1998 in a landmark case, National Endowment of the Arts v. Finley. Finley is known as one of the NEA 4, a group of artists defunded by the National Endowment of the Arts in the United States for their frank depiction of controversial and taboo issues in their work. Since the 1970s, she has pioneered in her field, recalled by many as “the chocolate smeared woman.” Her visceral work depicts issues surrounding sexuality, gender, violence, and celebrity. She is a Guggenheim fellow and recipient of the New York State Council on the Arts fellowship and the prestigious Richard J Massey Foundation Arts and Humanities Award. Her work has been featured internationally at the most esteemed venues (The Bobino in Paris, The ICA in London, Lincoln Center in New York). Her performance follows the inauguration of the exhibition Regarding Women in the Acton CollectionUsing the Acton Collection as both a productive and discursive site, this exhibition examines the depiction of women with a transhistorical perspective, adding into the Villa’s collection contemporary responses by artists and poets in an effort to investigate, challenge and expand upon received art historical categories of iconography, patronage, material and function. Regarding Women in the Acton Collection is inaugurated as part of The Season, curated and produced by Ellyn Toscano. The Season was founded in 2004 by Toscano, the Villa’s director, from her vision to set contemporary work in conversation with the Villa’s expansive grounds and eclectic art collection. Since 2004, the Season has produced collaboration and exploration between international artists of varying mediums. In context with the exhibition curated by Toscano, Finley’s performance is sure to be a riveting event that is not to be missed.

On June 28 (8:30 pm) Imani Uzuri ​will ​present her experimental visual, performative, and sonic installation entitled Come On In The Prayer Room, inspired by visual artist, street evangelist, mystic and musician Sister Gertrude Morgan’s (April 7, 1900-July 8, 1980) “all white” Prayer Room​. ​In this work, Uzuri explores the intersection of spirituality, ritual, spectacle, and sound.

The Season will conclude on August 4 (9:00 pm) with The Sir Harold Acton Anniversary Concert, a classical concert by world renowned musicians. (Program to be announced.)

All events are free of charge, but reservation is required for all the dates at lapietra.reply@nyu.edu or by calling 055/5007210.

Villa La Pietra – Via Bolognese, 120 – 50139 Firenze http://www.nyu.edu/global/lapietra/season/

The Transformative Power of Art and Ideas – Exhibition Inauguration at NYU Florence

On April 26, NYU Florence will celebrate the opening of a new exhibition, The Transformative Power of Art and Ideas. The exhibition includes fresco portraits by Fabrizio Ruggiero and projects by NYU Florence students: Angy Aguilar, Delaney Beem, Josefina Dumay Neder, Yuming Lu, Samantha Sofia Sneider, and Allegra Venturi. The exhibition will be in place from April 26 to June 18.

 The exhibition The Transformative Power of Art and Ideas pays homage to nine​ ​individuals​ ​who have​ ​worked for​ ​social justice, equality, and human dignity​ ​and have been recognized as thought leaders by the international community. The artist​ ​Fabrizio Ruggiero​ ​chose the pictorial language of fresco painting​ ​for the portraits, ​that​ he believes ​“forms the ideal medium to portray the human face”.

NYU Florence students worked​ ​with the artist throughout the semester ​​to understand​ ​his​ ​criteria​ ​for selecting ​subjects for his frescos and ​his artistic engagement with the public in a dialogue about the ideas his subjects represent. Students reflected on thought leaders in their own lives and the​ ​criteria they use to determine them.

The portraits were first exhibited in June 2015 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Charter of the United Nations and the campaign “Time for Global Action”.

NYU Florence Student Qixiu Fu Writes on Viareggio Carnevale

Today we hear from Qixiu Fu, a first year student at NYU Florence. She is thinking about majoring in psychology and feels fortunate discovered Florence. So much so that she is considering returning for Fall 2017.

Photo credit – Jasmine Zhang, first year student at NYU Florence

Un Viaggio a Viareggio Carnevale

In two minutes, the sign up for Viareggio Carnevale was full. I was so excited that I got a spot on this free OSL (Office of Student Life) trip to Viareggio to visit one of the fascinating carnivals in Italy. The first Carnival of Viareggio took place in 1873 when there was a small parade of decorated carriages organized by the wealthy people of the city. Other local citizens were annoyed by their display of wealth, so they decided to wear masks to protest the high taxes they had to pay and to show disrespect toward the ruling upper classes.

For our trip, we took a private bus to Viareggio and enjoyed a guided tour about the history of carnevale and this year’s floats. The guide told us that today Viareggio Carnevale keeps its tradition of speaking out. Talented artists, local citizens and tourists are all part of this powerful “protest”. After we received our entrance tickets from the OSL staff, we followed our guide to the parade area where we learned about floats designed to imitate and poke fun at the world’s leaders, politicians, celebrities, and current events.

Photo credit – Jasmine Zhang, first year student at NYU Florence

This year, politics was in the spotlight. What amazed me the most was the dedication each team put into their choice of float design, choreographed dance, costumes, makeup, and music. Before visiting Viareggio, my impression of Italy was stereotyped to its good wine, delicious food and attitude of enjoying life. Then, I saw a different personality of Italy in Viareggio, the active and energetic one. Viareggio is a place where you can relax by the beach and enjoy the chilly breeze of early spring, but it is also a place where you can immerse yourself in the fantasy and surreal colors of carnevale!