Forty thousand silent people standing together is extremely eerie. The tension in the air was so palpable as everyone waited for the horses to come out. My Sienese friend was visibly nervous, holding herself in a tight anxious grip. Finally the cannon went off, the horses came out, and the silent crowd of 40,000 transformed into a mass of cheering people.
The crowd quieted down again for the mayor’s naming of the horse’s positions. Everyone hushed until there was silence, which the mayor broke with when he spoke the name, “Aquila”. After each Contrada name was called a short murmur followed. I was standing in the Nichio section, whose members collectively let out sighs of relief for the first 3 names called, but the tone of their voices got steadily less and less optimistic as the numbers 4,5,6 went by, then downright angry as all the other Contradas were called, leaving Nichio last.
The Contradas all jockeyed for position, a lot more aggressively than they did in the Provas. For 20 long minutes, 40,000 pairs of eyes were fixed on the starting line, mostly silent except for collective groans when the horses broke rank and had to start over. Then, at long last, the rope dropped, and everyone cheered as the race began. My eyes were fixed on Giraffa, the horse I bet on. He started in 2nd behind Leocorno, but pulled ahead in the second lap. I was silently cheering him on for the next intense minute, as he led the pack and finshed first. I jumped in the air and cheered, then found Matt and Travis, to celebrate winning money with them. The area near the finish line erupted with waving flags, while a massive brawl broke out near the Palazzo with the short tower. The Campo was filled with so many emotions: Joy, fear, anger, disapointment, and triumph.
Saturday 8/13/11 - Monday 8/15/11
Lottery and Provas
On Saturday morning I headed to the Campo for the lottery that officially starts the Palio races. After a grand display of trumpeters in uniform, the mayor came out to randomly match each Contrada with a horse. The first horse that was chosen was #6, and an eerie hush of anticipation went through the crowd that at the time escaped my comprehension. The Mayor said “Giraffa” and the Contrada went nuts, cheering and yelling, and they ran to collect their horse and marched out of the Campo singing their song and pumping their fists in the air. I assumed they got a good horse, because each Contrada had a different reaction to their assigned horse. Notably, Nichio and Torre were not happy, and Aquila cheered, but not quite as loud as Giraffa. I found out later that Giraffa’s horse had previously won 2 Palios, and so I chose to bet on him in the studio pot.
Later that night was the first Prova, or practice race. I chose to stand near the starting line and nearly got my ears blown out when the cannon went off to signal the horses to come out of the Palazzo Publico. The mayor, standing on a bridge over the street in that corner of the piazza, announced the order of the horses, and they maneuvered themselves into position along the rope. This took a while as they “jockeyed for position” and finally the rope fell and the horses raced 3 times around the track. As soon as the race was over each Contrada ran to collect their horse before anyone else could touch it, and each organized themselves into a group with the horse and Jockey in front, and they marched one by one out of the Campo singing their song. This is when I could tell the passion the Sienese people have for their Contradas. I could tell by the looks on their faces that they took these events so seriously.
On Sunday there was another Prova in the morning, which was pretty much the same as the last one, except I got a better view because there were fewer people there. The Prova that night, however, ended very differently. When the race ended, two Contradas ran into each other and a huge brawl broke out. At least 50 people were punching each other in a flurry of fists and bloody faces. I was taking a video with my camera, when someone grabbed my arm, pulled the camera down and angrily shook his head at me. That scared me enough to stop filming.
On Monday there were two more Provas, and at the nighttime one, the Carabinieri, the national police force, performed a cavalry charge through the Campo at full speed with swords drawn as everyone cheered. It was really impressive, and a nice preview of the parade the next day.
Pop up Piazza
Having the Campo was a little intimidating, but I think I pulled it off. I came up with a great way to make the topography of the piazza, but it only worked on the thin paper I used for the study models. When I made the final model, the watercoler paper was too thick to pinch along the 8 lines that divide the piazza. I think the pop up horses make a nice finishing touch to the model.
Good + Bad Government Collage
Compositionally, I emulated Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s fresco very closely. I rejected the 2xA3 format in favor of 2 pieces of cardboard that proportionally matched the segments of the original painting.
The “Bad Government” board is divided into a tripartite composition representing the countryside, the city, and the members of the government. The countryside is constructed from plain newspaper cut in the shapes of rolling hills. The gray and black rows imitate dead, barren fields, while thunderclouds loom overhead. Rioters and rebels, representing unrest and lack of security, sit at the base of the hills, as an atomic bomb explodes in the distance, embodying war overseas. The city is constructed of lifeless steel structures, some of which are burning. There is no connection to the countryside, other than a line of congested cars and several polluting factories. On the right are the members of government sitting on top of a pile of gold and money, signifying greed. The leader sits in the center, while the ugly face of corruption hovers overhead. He is flanked by members of his government who embody various sins and vices. Overall, the tone of the collage is dull and gray, sharply contrasting the bright colors of the board’s counterpart.
The “good government” board, like Lorenzetti’s original, is divided into 2 halves: the city and the country. The city is composed of buildings both traditional and modern, with a festive city life. Public space is amply provided, as is investment in green technology. Music and art embody the lively culture of the city, while the shop represents active commerce and entrepreneurship. The bookshelves with the smiling child signify education, while the ambulance shows the government’s care for the people’s needs. The countryside is lush and green, with a man harvesting grain representing farmers. The train shows the importance of investment in infrastructure, and the people running and biking signify an active lifestyle and connection to nature. The colors are bright and lively, with a bright blue sky overhead, the antitheses of the “Bad government” piece.
Monday 8/8/11 - Thursday 8/11/11
This week was mostly spent working on assignments for class. Our Good + Bad Government collage was due Wednesday and the Pop-up Piazza was due Thursday. Along with that, we still had to work on our studio projects as well. I did have a little time to enjoy myself, however. A trip to the ruined church of San Galgano on Thursday was a great experience.
Friday 8/5/11 - Sunday 8/7/11
My time in Venezia was incredible. It is simply the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. Every little street and alleyway is a feast for the eyes. On top of that, seeing all the most contemporary art from around the world made the experience just that much more magical. I love this city.
Wednesday 8/3/11 - Thursday 8/4/11
On Wednesday I began studying the facades of the buildings in the Campo for my pop-up piazza. As I was sitting in the Campo sketching, I got my first taste of the Palio culture when I saw a group from the Oca contrada parading around their Palio flag and singing.We also were given an assignment to study a fresco in the Palazzo Publico called “Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government” and produce a modern collage version of it.
On Thursday we had Peter’s third and final history lecture, and then we had another lay down of our work so far.
Monday 8/1/11 - Tuesday 8/2/11
On Monday, we had a pin up (lay down) and showed our work so far. One of the maps we made was a map of the the symbols on the walls of buildings in Siena and the meanings behind them. Another showed the sectional conditions of the city.
On Tuesday, Jim assigned everyone their pop-up piazzas. He singled me out by giving me the Campo. I hope I can pull through with an awesome model…
Thursday 7/29/11 - Sunday 7/31/11
On Thursday I planned a last minute weekend trip to Cinque Terre with Michelle, Jenni, and Amanda. The next morning was almost a disaster as a passport was lost and then recovered. Once we finally got there, I was stunned by the beauty. This was by far the most elegant beach I had ever been to. We took the long hike through all the five towns and up the cliffs, and the views made the pain completely worth it. On Sunday we relaxed on the beach and went swimming before catching several trains back to Siena. It was a wonderful weekend adventure.