Writing on the Wall

Last night, Jenny Holzer projected her art (text in English and Italian) on to the Fontanone dell'Aqua Paola and the American Academy in Rome. There were about 200 people standing around trying to read and understand the significance of the rolling text. I was enjoying eavesdropping on their opinions.

Sadly, the majority of the comments I heard (both in English and Italian) were negative such as:

"Again, Rome fails at showing good contemporary art. This is shit."

"What the hell is going on? Is it a blog? So lame."

I don't particularly care how passe' or uncomprehensible Holzer's piece was. I don't care if you had no clue about what was written. If you don't like contemporary art because it isn't pretty (yes, I've heard that many times). If you don't like contemporary art in Rome because it is never "good". Or if you thought it would have been better to simply spray paint the super-clean fontanone. I liked it. It was neat, as my friend's sister said.

In fact, really neat. Words, who cares what they meant, scrolled slickly up the Fontanone and the American Academy. On the balcony at the Spanish Embassy, the quintessential Roman make-out spot (I know from experience), onlookers stood gazing at the Fontanone instead of at each other. Motorini that normally speed up the curve on Via Garibaldi towards Porta San Pancrazio slowed down and even stopped to get a good look at the Fontanone. From below the Gianicolo like Lungotevere Sanzio and far away, white letters moved upwards, clipped by the curlicues of the scrolled facade-- creating an incandescent nightscape of the Fontanone.

Nutshell: people were stopping and looking around instead of passing by.

Isn't that the very first requirement for art, regardless of whether or not is it "good"? The projections illuminated the buildings, visually and conceptually as if to ask you to take a look at the city -- not just as where you live, as a tourist destination, as ancient as Vatican but as the perfect backdrop for a cosmpolitan canvas.

Tonight Piazza Tevere, 9 pm
Wednesday Teatro Marcello, 9 pm

Thursday Castel Sant'Angelo, 9 pm