We The Students

«Istruitevi, perché avremo bisogno di tutta la nostra intelligenza. Agitatevi, perché avremo bisogno di tutto il nostro entusiasmo. Organizzatevi, perché avremo bisogno di tutta la nostra forza.»

“Instruct yourselves, because we will need all our intelligence. Stir yourselves up, because we will need all our enthusiasm. Organize yourselves, because we will need all our strength.”

(Antonio Gramsci, the first issue of L’Ordine Nuovo, May 1 1919)

On the evening of Wednesday, April 13th, over thirty NYU Florence students gathered around a banquet table in Villa Sassetti to participate in a discussion around the mobilization of identity and revolutionary activism. Among the students sat two great political activists and scholars: Angela Davis and Gina Dent.  “We the Students” created by Wendy Koranteng was the first student-organized La Pietra Dialogue of the semester.

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Artist Patricia Cronin at Villa La Pietra

Born in 1963 in Beverly, Massachusetts, Patricia Cronin was educated in several art schools, including Brooklyn College of The City University of New York for her M.F.A and Rhode Island College for her B.F.A. From solo exhibitions in various countries (including The Lab Gallery in Dublin, Ireland and La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy), to publications such as The Zenobia Scandal: A Meditation on Male Jealousy (2013), her work is internationally renowned and is becoming increasingly popular. She has received numerous fellowships and awards, including the New York Foundation for the Arts (Deutsche Bank Fellow) Artist Fellowship in 2007, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art Rome Prize in Visual Art between 2006-2007. Read more

Days 47-54 of the Trump Administration

This week in Trump’s presidency brings up a stock of new issues with WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of documents detailing the C.I.A.’s hacking operations and techniques. According to The New York Times,There is no evidence that the C.I.A. hacking tools have been used against Americans,” but WikiLeaks affirm that both Apple and Android smartphones have been compromised. According to WikiLeaks, their source’s agenda was to begin a public debate on “whether [or not] the C.I.A.’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers,” but an argument has been made that the source was instead an outside power that took the documents and gave them to WikiLeaks in order to either weaken national security or to release the code to foreign hackers. The F.B.I. and C.I.A. have opened up a criminal investigation into the leak’s origins, and some officials told CNNthat the documents published so far are largely genuine.”

In other news, President Trump has continued to accuse former President Barack Obama of wiretapping phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. After tweeting Saturday “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” Trump asked for an investigation into his allegations as he continued to tweet inflammatory accusations about the Obama administration, about which Mr. Obama has remained quiet. A presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley, told The Wall Street Journal that the fact that “a sitting president would charge his predecessor with a felony…creates a feeling of instability in the United States.” Since then, the Department of Justice has not submitted any hard evidence to President Trump’s claim for the House Intelligence Committee to review. Rather, they have requested and received an extension for the deadline on a date before the hearing on Russian involvement in the U.S. election on March 20th. Sunday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain told CNN that “The president has one of two choices, either retract or provide the information that the American people deserve…I have no reason to believe that the charge is true, but I also believe that the president of the United States could clear this up in a minute,” and that following Monday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to clarify that President Trump was neither being literal or specific in his accusations. Read more

Middle East Now: Initial Reactions

A crowd of people were already overflowing onto Via Camillo Cavour from the packed Cinema La Compagnia when I arrived. It was strange to see the area so lively, especially on a Tuesday night. April 4th was the opening of this year’s Middle East Now film festival in Florence. Marked by a musical performance by Bachar Mar-Khalife and a screening of Last Men in Aleppo by Firas Fayyad (the winner the Sundance film festival), the festival had drawn in Florence and all of the seats in the cinema were filled from 9pm to midnight. I could go on for hours about the rollercoaster of emotions Last Men in Aleppo put me through, but I think it is better for everyone to watch it for themselves. Read more

CHNDY: The Middle East, As Shown By A Middle Eastern Artist

On April 3, La Pietra Dialogues invited Mohamed Al Kindi, known professionally as Chndy, to host a students-only discussion on the filmmaker, photographer, and visual artist’s past and current projects.  Students gathered in Villa Sassetti to listen to Chndy’s insights on art, creativity, and identity. In addition, videos and photography were viewed and reflected upon during the question and answer portion.

Read below for photographs taken from the artist’s website, along with more information about the dialogue.
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“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” — Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison. Photo Credits: Athena LeTrelle

In April of 1952, Ralph Ellison, an African American writer, highlighted numerous social and intellectual issues regarding black identities, black nationalism and racial policies that have been existing in the American society with the publishing of his iconic book Invisible Man. In April 2017, 65 years later, we are going to reflect on these issues again by re evaluating the book onto the unsolved problems proposed there. Read more

Performance by Bachar Mar-Khalifé at the Middle East Film Festival: Tuesday April 4 @ 8 PM at Cinema La Compagnia

 

At 8 years old, Bachar Mar-Khalifé and his family fled their civil war torn country in Lebanon to France. In France, Mar-Khalifé developed his musical skills as an instrumentalist and singer-songwriter. He graduated from the Conservatoire de Paris and has released three albums since. His debut album, “Oil Slick,” (2010) took ten years to complete, while his latest album, “Ya Balad,” (2015) took him 10 days to complete. In “Ya Balad” (“Oh, Country”), he responds to the Lebanese Civil War and his country’s remnants of destruction and political turmoil. He reflects on his family’s need to flee their country, and the current state of Lebanon.

In this album, the multi-instrumentalist experiments with different sounds and instrumentals that make it impossible to put his music into a specific genre. His music merges jazz, indie, folk, rock, electronic, and classical to create a unique sound. Through his music, he is able to draw forth feelings of peace, fear, confusion, and desperation. In this very personal album, Mar-Khalifé sings in Arabic but, is able to convey strong emotional and political messages regardless of this language barrier.

His album sparked controversy for containing underlying sexual messages and other messages that were believed to go against God, and was even censored in Lebanon. His song, “Kyrie Eleison” (meaning “God have mercy” in Greek) was highly controversial and Lebanese authorities stated that he would not be allowed to promote his album in Lebanon unless this song was deleted from the album.

Mar-Khalifé has spoken up about this issue on Facebook, releasing a statement in Arabic, French and English on April 13, 2016: “I sang KYRIE Eleison, and more powerfully as ever, exactly as I sang it in Beirut and as I will sing it wherever I want to scream at the political and religious institutions who want to govern our lives as if we are still living in the Middle Ages. I scream for my humanity against the processes that repress the spirit. I scream against the cultural and intellectual poverty imposed by a model of society where money is the sole reference. I scream for my being, refusing to be submitted to anyone or anything. I doubt, I seek, I question, I sing, I surrender, I do not surrender, I let it go, I continue, I sing, I like, I drink, I dance, I do wrong, I live.”

The inner conflict that Mar-Khalifé undergoes regarding his national, religious, and political identity can resonate with those who feel repressed in any aspect of their identity.

Mar-Khalifé will be performing this album on April 4th at Cinema La Compagnia (Via Cavour, 50r) at 9 PM for the Middle East Film Festival. His album is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud. Take a listen and join us for this exciting event!