After the riots…

After the wonderful concert on Thursday evening in Piazza Duomo and a spectacular opening ceremony for Expo on Friday morning, Milan was filled with hope and happiness! There was definitely a sense of triumph and pride that finally Expo was here and a fun party atmosphere!  However this was to be short lived, as Friday afternoon protesters took to the streets of Milan and whilst some were there as peaceful  protesters, others were there to riot and quickly it turned into guerilla warfare.

IMG_1022

The left-wing protesters, who came not only from Italy but other European countries too, included anti-globalization and environmentalist activists as well as students and anti-austerity campaigners. Many of whom see Expo as a symbol of corruption (there have been accusations of Mafia involvement) and waste.

IMG_1010

It is unfortunate they cannot spell ‘system’!

IMG_1007 IMG_1003

Whilst I sympathise with some of their ideas, I cannot accept violence as a form of protest and yesterday evening the city was in a state of shock and the sense of hope had been replaced by anger and sadness.  They set fire to cars, broke bank and shop windows and defaced many buildings throughout the city. To make matters worse, when interviewed some of these so called ‘protesters’, seemed unable to string a sentence together to defend or rationalise their actions, but instead stated it had been a great experience.

IMG_1019

‘Against power, against the authorities’

IMG_1017

IMG_0998

I saw a few cars which had been damaged during the riot, but by the afternoon most of the debris had been cleared away.

But today, as the sun shone brightly there has been an immense clean-up effort and a new sense that Milan will not be defeated and the people of Milan will take back their city!  In fact a ‘meeting’ in Piazza Cadorna (where a lot of the worst damage happened) has been arranged for Sunday afternoon with the hashtag #NessunotocchiMilano #NoonetouchesMilan. The people of Milan will gather to show support for the city and Expo and help in the cleaning up effort! The facebook group already has more than 9000 likes. There is definitely a sense of community here today and I feel proud and thankful for all the people who are working and volunteering to help revive the city!

IMG_0974

IMG_1015

IMG_0987

IMG_0995

Anna

The Seven Heavenly Palaces

A little while ago when I went to see the ‘bau bau‘ exhibition at Milan’s Hangar Bicocca, I also visited (once again) my favourite permanent exhibition there, I Sette Palazzi Celesti.  The Seven Heavenly Palaces by Anselm Kiefer was a site specific installation created for the opening of the Hangar in 2004. The name of the installation comes from the ancient Hebrew treatise Sefer Hechaloth – the Book of Palaces/Sancturies.

Kiefer is one of the best known contemporary artists and his work pays reference to ‘German philosophy, Romantic symbolism, Germanic mythology, Judaic-Christian religiousness, alchemy as the ability to transform the world and the metaphor of art and its role in interpreting reality’.

The Seven Heavenly Palaces, made using reinforced concrete, each weighing 90 tonnes and varying between 14 and 18 metres in height are supposed to interpret the ancient religion of Judaism, while representing the ruins of the West following the Second World War and movement into the future, while asking us to consider the ‘ruins of our present’.

towers

Each tower is themed and named individually:

1.) Sefiroth  – representing the ten instruments of God in Hebrew mysticism of Kabbalah

2.) Melancholia – featuring glass and strips of paper at its base, which signify “falling stars”

3.) Ararat – this tower takes its name from the mountain where according to the Bible Noah’s Ark ran aground. It symbolises peace and salvation.

4.) Magnetic Field Lines – features a film of lead running down the tower – a material which repels light and therefore stops any image being created. In the exhibition guide it suggests this represents Kiefer’s own idea that each new piece of work cancels out the previous one.

5 & 6.)  JH&WH – these letters join together in Hebrew phonetics to form the word Yahweh meaning God, but which Jews consider too holy to verbalize.

7.) Tower of the Falling Pictures – the name of this tower is quite literal, it features picture-less picture frames, some shattered on the ground.

towers3

towers4

Sefiroth Tower

towers5

towers6

Sefiroth Tower

towers2

glass

Glass and Paper strips with numbers on which correspond to the classification of heavenly bodies used by NASA – at the foot of the Melancholia Tower

The reason I find this installation so fascinating, is the sheer size of it! When you stand in the Hangar amongst these giant, overwhelming towers, you feel very insignificant and small. It does as the artist intended, make you think about the ruins of the Second World War, but also stays relevant to our ‘ruins of the present’ as it could easily be the remains of a modern building in any of the war torn countries in our world. It certainly makes you reflect upon what you are seeing, and as the space is so immense, the sound in the Hangar as you walk around is quite eerie. Whilst there is no music, you can hear your footsteps and the whispers of other visitors reach you around the corners of the towers, but the way they are positioned, often restricts your view of the speakers.  Whilst you wouldn’t immediately think that reinforced concrete would be the most aesthetically pleasing material, there really is beauty in the towers and they way they are lit and what they are supposed to represent.  Definitely worth a visit!

Have you visited the exhibition or another by Kiefer? What did you think?

Anna

(All pictures are my own except for 1 and 6, for which I must thank my friend Anna! :))