Alan N. Shapiro, Autonomy in the Digital Society

Blog and project archive about media theory, science fiction theory, and creative coding

I Love Bologna, Italy

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Bologna, Italy: Teatro Comunale

Most tourists – for example, American tourists – go to Venice and Florence. Between those two fascinating cities lies the undiscovered gem which few tourists visit: Bologna.

Università degli Studi, Economics Department

Bologna is the home of the oldest university in Europe. In the first century, A.D., the great Latin poet Martial called Bologna Culta Bononia (“Bologna the erudite”). In the fifth century, Byzantine Emperor Theodore II called Bologna the future center of Roman Law. This prophecy came true in the eleventh century. The University was founded in 1088.

Mural in University Zone from Student Movement of 1977

In 1977, a student uprising took place in Bologna. The student movement expressed itself through art. It was a “cultural revolution,” similar to the student uprising in Paris in 1968. Anarchists, situationists, and “metropolitan indians” ruled the day.

Cinema Odeon in Via Mascarella

One of the centers of the cultural revolution in Paris in 1968 was the Cinema Odéon in the Latin Quarter. Near the University in Bologna is the Cinema Odeon. I posit the existence of a secret wormhole corridor between these two cinemas: we will time travel back and forth between 1968 and 1977, nurturing, cultivating, and developing our dreams becoming reality.

Leftist Bookstore, Via Mascarella

Did you ever read the novella “Trout Fishing in America” (1967) by Richard Brautigan?

Plaque for Francesco LoRusso, Via Mascarella

Francesco LoRusso, a student and a member of the leftist organization Lotta Continua, was killed violently on March 11, 1977. “Francesco lives and struggles together with us.” The Wikipedia article on LoRusso mistakenly says that he was killed during the events of March. It was more like his death triggered the anger that triggered the events. He was killed before the events.

Alan Shapiro par lui-même

In the shadow of Jean Baudrillard.

Piazza Maggiore 1

Il Sistema degli oggetti.

Piazza Maggiore 2

A living painting.

In the Shadow of the Twin Towers

Another secret connection: What really happened on September 11, 2001?

In Porta Ravegnana are the famous twin towers (“le due torri”) of Bologna: Asinelli and Garisenda. They were built in the twelfth century.

Piazza Maggiore 3

I love it when they replace something historical with a pictorial simulation of itself. They did that with the famous upper deck façade at the old Yankee stadium. They did that with “old-fahioned-looking buildings” destroyed during the Second World War in the main square of Frankfurt am Main.

But who is this “they?”

Piazza del Nettuno

Outside the Palazzo del Nettuno is the Piazza del Nettuno and the Fontana del Nettuno. The fountain was built by the Flemish sculptor Jean Boulogne De Donai (Gianbologna) in 1563, based on a design by the architect Laureati. Mythical creatures such as sirens and dolphins are exquisitely represented. It is an amazing piece of public art.

To resist the bewitching song of the Sirens which lures sailors to their doom, Odysseus stopped up the ears of his crew with wax, and had them bind him to the ship’s mast. He wanted to hear the divine sensuous vocals and soak up the knowledge of “whatever happens on this fruitful earth” that the Sirens’ song imparts, without being led astray to his death.

A strange Charles Bukowski-type memory: The first time that I ever set foot in Bologna was in 1976. I was twenty. A young man gave me a ride in his van from Milan to Bologna. When we arrived in Bologna, he took me to this bar. We sat at that table there on the left. Unfortunately, this guy was a heroin addict. I remember that, as an effect of the heroin, he kept falling asleep, although he was smoking a cigarette. He would fall asleep, the cigarette would fall from his mouth onto the thigh of his jeans, the burning sensation would wake him up, he would put the cigarette back in his mouth, and the cycle would repeat itself, and on and on. I thanked the young man for the ride from Milan and gratefully disappeared into the night.

Shades of the perpetual motion machines of Alfred Jarry.

“Devices of Illumination”

Have you read “Illuminations” by Walter Benjamin?

Italians love to gesture with their hands. It will be most important for the Honda ASIMO robot team to study this pattern for the design and building of androids.

If I had spent my childhood in Italy…

… these would be the candies that I would love. Instead I grew up on Long Island, and I love Chunky Bars, Bottle Caps (a sugary liquid that came in many different colors), white Candy Cigarettes, Doscher’s French Chew, Jujubes, Pixy Stix (the sugar powder), Chuckles, Atomic Fireball, Bazooka Gum (with little comics inside), Tootsie Rolls, Sugar Daddys, Payday, Peppermint Patties, and Debbie’s Fudge Brownies.

my lifelong best friend

Marc Silver, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Modena, resident of Bologna, co-director of the Italian-Chinese university-academic exchange programme, author of many books on discourse analysis, graduate of Cornell University, Ph.D. from Lacanian school in Paris.

I am very proud to say that my best friend of my entire life is named Marc Silver. Marc and I have known each other since 1970 (I was 14). Marc went to Great Neck South High School and I went to Roslyn High School. We met through our mutual friend Steve Stein.

Marc and I were close friends and roommates at Cornell. We took a lot of history, literature, and political science courses and seminars together. We were both students of the great ones: LaCapra and Roopnaraine.

Marc and I went to Italy together in 1976.

I always beat Marc in ping-pong.

4 Responses

Hi there,
you seem well acquainted with Bologna, I will be there for a half day soon and was wondering if you could point me to a couple of points of interest to leftists, a collective farm, a radical bookstore, some sort of monument or coffee shop anything really. I am definitely visiting this bookstore pictured above. If you have a minute. Thank you.

Kind regards

  • I’m doing my PhD thesis on authorial voice and have just read an article on voice in stance by Marc Silver. His writing style is amazing! Normally academic articles are quite dry and voiceless but Marc is a master of written word. Beautiful! I was so impressed that googled him and found this blog entry. 🙂

  • Thanks for that! I just told Marc about your comment.

  • Olga, thanks for the overly generous praise. I’d be interested in seeing your work when you’re done.