Archive for April, 2010

At the AAR’s Villa Aurelia 4-6 May, Three Concerts by the Scharoun Ensemble of the Berlin Philharmonic

April 28, 2010

What a week. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 4-6 May, the Academy’s Villa Aurelia will see three concerts performed by the Scharoun Ensemble of the Berlin Philharmonic. The concerts—each starting at 9 PM—will feature music by Fellows in Musical Composition at both the American Academy in Rome and the American Academy in Berlin: Lisa Bielawa (Frederic A. Juilliard/Walter Damrosch Rome Prize Fellow at the AAR [4 May]), Don Byron (Samuel Barber Rome Prize Fellow at the AAR [5 May]), and Andrew Norman FAAR’07 (Berlin Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin [6 May]). Also on the week’s programs are compositions by George Crumb, Erwin Schulhoff, Guillaume Dufay, Sofia Gubaidulina, and chamber works of Brahms, Schubert, and Mozart. For a complete program of the three concerts, and composer biographies, see here.

The Scharoun Ensemble Berlin was founded in 1983 by members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in honor of the architect Hans Scharoun (1893–1972), who designed the Berlin Philharmonie. The ensemble, which comprises the standard octet instrumentation, is one of Germany’s most distinguished chamber music ensembles. Two concert bonuses are in store from the current Rome Prize Fellows: Lisa Bielawa is soprano soloist in her composition, Hurry, while Don Byron will perform along with members of the Scharoun Ensemble in Brahms’ Serenade no. 1. (more…)

AAR April Walks and Talks 4: Hadrian’s Villa near Tivoli, Plus the Hillside Town of Ciciliano

April 27, 2010

Looking toward Tivoli, from the hillside town of Ciciliano

The great villa constructed by the Emperor Hadrian near Tivoli between AD 118 and the late 130s is one of the most original monuments from Greco-Roman antiquity, and indeed in the history of architecture and art. Its emotional power and instructive potential have remained undiminished since its rediscovery in the Renaissance. Set among terraces of olive trees on a vast, uneven tract below Tivoli, the Villa’s remains are spread across an area twice that of Pompeii, with new major finds still emerging. For more than five centuries a long series of architects, artists, and antiquarians have come to draw and study the ruins of Hadrian’s extraordinary retreat, observe the animating role of water in its design, and appreciate its engagement with the landscape.

Among the latest in that series of visitors was an American Academy in Rome group that explored on 24 April a selection of the Villa’s pavilions, several of which count among the most innovative and sophisticated examples of Roman architectural design. Leading the group was Academy Trustee John Pinto (FAAR’75, RAAR’06), currently also a Visiting Scholar at the Academy. Pinto is Howard Crosby Butler Memorial Professor of the History of Architecture at Princeton University, and author—among many other publications—of a major work on the Villa Adriana with William L. MacDonald FAAR’56. That book is Villa Adriana. La costruzione e il mito da Adriano a Louis Kahn, published by Electa (most recent edition 2006), which has its origin in their Hadrian’s Villa and its Legacy (Yale University Press 1995). (more…)

At the American Academy 30 Sep-2 Oct 2010, a Conference on the 1960 Rome Olympics

April 22, 2010

Rome 1960: Greco-Roman wrestling in the Basilica of Maxentius. Credit: George Silk, LIFE/Google

A multi-disciplinary conference hosted by the American Academy in Rome from 30 September-2 October 2010 will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics. The conference focuses on these Games as a cultural turning point, with a significance—for Italy, the United States, the Soviet Union, and many other  countries—that far transcends the actual sporting events, where the level of competition was unusually high. Collaborating with the AAR in this conference are the Centro Studi Americani and the British School at Rome. Organizing the conference is AAR Mellon Professor Corey Brennan. You can find the Facebook group for this event here.

Contributions are encouraged on a broad range of topics that touch upon the XVII Summer Olympics, going far beyond sports history to encompass fields such as cultural politics, urban planning, architectural history, and media studies. It is anticipated that there be twelve speakers in all, chosen by an American Academy committee in response to this international call for papers. The schedule will be designed to accommodate short film presentations and ample discussion, in addition to a site visit to various points in the city important to the history of the 1960 Games. (more…)

AAR April Walks and Talks 3: Academy History in Rome’s “Protestant Cemetery” with Librarian Emerita Christina Huemer

April 20, 2010

“‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”, once wrote Benjamin Franklin. On the morning of Thursday 15 April, having already submitted tax returns to the US Internal Revenue Service, a group from the American Academy rounded out the equation by meditating on death. The venue could hardly be bettered—one of the most historic and heartachingly beautiful burial grounds in the world, Rome’s Cimitero acattolico. The Non-Catholic (or, popularly, “Protestant”) Cemetery is located near Porta San Paolo alongside the Augustan-era Pyramid of Cestius and a section of the Aurelian Wall. Buried there are Keats, Shelley, Antonio Gramsci, and literally hundreds of other notables. A full database to the Cemetery can be found here.

Leading the group that morning was Christina Huemer, Drue Heinz Librarian Emerita of the AAR, who developed an expert’s knowledge of the site in her decade and a half (1992-2007) at the Academy. On the walk Chris Huemer took care to point out the numerous individuals with a connection to the American Academy in Rome buried in the Cemetery—some of whom already had come to life in Huemer’s memorable 2005 exhibition “Spellbound by Rome”, that treated the city’s Anglo-American community in the years 1890-1914. One member of Huemer’s tour was Jessica Helfand, who with her husband William Drenttel are current Henry Wolf Residents in Graphic Design at the AAR. Helfand has since posted an eloquent illustrated general appreciation of the Cemetery that April morning on her award-winning blog, the Design Observer, that she co-edits with Drenntel. Below you can find glimpses of thirteen memorials to the most important figures specifically in the history of the American Academy, all now reunited in the Non-Catholic Cemetery. (more…)

AAR April Walks and Talks 2: Rome’s Foro Italico

April 14, 2010

1930s-era electrical power controls from the Piscina Coperta, Foro Italico

On Wednesday 14 April Academy Fellows and Visiting Artists and Scholars explored the monumental area of Rome’s Foro Italico, originally planned (starting in 1927) and executed as Foro Mussolini by the architect Enrico Del Debbio, with important contributions by Constantino Constantini and (especially) the crucial figure of Luigi Moretti. The visit was a timely one, given that Moretti is soon to be the subject of a major exhibition in Rome to inaugurate the new MAXXI space.

Paolo Pedinelli, historian of the Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano (CONI), accompanied the AAR group in its visit to some of the most significant aspects of the area, including the Obelisk, the Stadio Olimpico, the Piscina Coperta (with its ex-Palestra of Mussolini, designed by Moretti), the Stadio dei Marmi, and the ex-Accademia di Educazione Fisica (with the Salone d’Onore del CONI). The group then made its way to see the exterior of Moretti’s rapidly deteriorating masterpiece, the Casa delle Armi (= Fencing School), and Del Debbio’s wonderfully preserved Foresteria Sud (1931-1937),  now Rome’s last remaining youth hostel. (more…)

AAR April Walks and Talks 1: Roman Aqueducts From the Inside, Plus Palestrina and Subiaco

April 14, 2010

An AAR group visits the Triangolo Barberini near Palestrina

In the course of two days (Saturday 10 and Tuesday 13 April) Academy Fellows, Residents, Visiting Artists and Scholars, and friends took a close look at three sites in Lazio: Palestrina (35 km east of Rome), the Roman aqueducts near Vicovaro (45 km northeast of the city) and Subiaco (still further east of Rome, in all 70 km).

Gianni Ponti, Archaeology Liaison to the Academy and a dean at Rome’s IES, kicked off the proceedings on 10 April with an exploration of the rock-cut aqueducts of the Aquae Marcia and Claudia near the ex-monastery of S. Cosimato at Vicovaro, founded by Saint Benedict and built on the banks of the Anio river gorge. The aqueducts there are stunningly well preserved, and the Academy group climbed into them to inspect different techniques used for building aqueducts directly into the bedrock. Also visible (given a little vertical effort) were several cells carved into the rock where Benedictine hermits retreated into prayer. Facilitating the visit was a team from the Roma Sotterranea group, under the direction of Michele Concas. (more…)

In Rome, Visual Artist Abigail Child’s L’Impero Invertito Opens at the AAR 15 April

April 7, 2010

Joseph H. Hazen Rome Prize recipient Abigail Child

Opening at the American Academy in Rome on Thursday 15 April (6pm to 8pm, in the Cryptoporticus) is a multimedia installation “L’Impero Invertito” by Abigail Child, current AAR Fellow in the Visual Arts. Child, the recipient of the Joseph H. Hazen Rome Prize, is an internationally acclaimed film/video artist who has received many notable distinctions, including Guggenheim, Fulbright, and Radcliffe Fellowships. Abigail Child’s original montage pushes the envelope of sound-image relations, exploring gesture as language, and creating radical strategies to rewrite narrative. She is currently a Professor in Film / Animation at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA.

In the last decade, Abigail Child has expanded her vertical montage to multi-screen installation, exhibiting at The Walker Art Museum and Harvard University, among others. In Rome this year Child has been filming scenes from the life of Mary and Percy Shelley in the form of imaginary home movies, utilizing AAR Fellows as actors and the magnificent light and buildings of Rome as “sets” for a feature film whose working title is The Pursuit. (more…)

AAR Resident Mary Gibson FAAR’03 Explores History of Rome’s Prisons after Italian Unification

April 5, 2010

Bell from Mantellate women’s prison, Rome, Museo Criminologico

“The attitude toward history of crime and women’s history—which are my two main fields of interest—has radically changed since I started my dissertation research in the 1970s on prostitution”, explains current Academy Resident Mary Gibson FAAR’03. “At that time there didn’t seem to be much understanding on the part of either archivists or colleagues in the contemporary field on why you would study groups without power.”

For more than three decades, Mary Gibson’s research has focused on the history of crime, criminology, women, and sexuality in modern Italy. Her groundbreaking publications include Prostitution and the State in Italy (1986, second edition 1999; Italian translation 1995) and Born to Crime: Cesare Lombroso and the Origins of Biological Criminology (2002; Italian translation 2004). She also has translated, with Nicole Hahn Rafter, the two major works of the Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909): Criminal Woman, the Prostitute and the Normal Woman (2004), and Criminal Man (2006). Mary Gibson is Professor of History at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC, and also teaches in the History and the Criminal Justice Programs at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. (more…)

Gabii Project, AAR in the News for Lead “Burrito” Casket Study Effort

April 2, 2010

The mysterious Roman imperial “lead burrito” coffin. Photo: Gabii Project

You may have seen the headlines:  “Mysterious lead coffin found near Rome”. “Ancient lead sarcophagus contains Roman VIP”. “Lead ‘burrito’ sarcophagus near Rome may hold a gladiator or a Christian dignitary”. And perhaps most to the point, “What the hell is buried in this half-ton coffin?”

The news story in question has to do with an unusual Imperial Roman lead sarcophagus, excavated 11 miles east of Rome in summer 2009 by the Gabii Project. The Gabii Project for the past three years has been studying and (starting last year) excavating near Palestrina the ancient Latin city of Gabii, a city-state that was once very much a rival to Rome. The University of Michigan sponsors the Gabii Project, which is directed by Michigan’s Nicola Terrenato, with excavations receiving the patrocinio of the American Academy in Rome. (more…)