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Our Residency Prize for Emerging Artists

We’re taking part in the upcoming Venice Glass Week with the third edition of our Autonoma Residency Prize, the annual award we have financed and supported since 2020, created together with Pilchuck Glass School.

The Jury — including Benjamin Wright, Tina Aufiero, Alma Zevi, Caterina Toso, Alice De Santillana and our artistic director Marcantonio Brandolini — will select the most innovative and creative glass work among those produced by the 20 international artists and designers under the age of 35, exhibiting at Palazzo Giustinian Lolin’s hub from 17 to 24 September. The winners will have the opportunity to join a two-month residency for emerging artists at the Pilchuck Glass School near Seattle, Washington.

Autonoma Prize’s ambition is to promote and inspire the work of young generations of glassmakers. The award will be assigned on Sep. 24, and we can’t wait to announce the winner next month.

In the meantime, discover the Autonoma Prize here.

Celebrating Our Connection to the Stars

Humans have always looked up to the stars. Our ancestors used to watch the night sky to chart paths, track astronomical events (phenomena such as meteorites and comet strikes were not rare at the time), or keep a record of time. Recent findings have shown that 40,000 years ago, humans were already familiar with zodiac signs. The Phoenicians, who were brilliant navigators, relied on the stars’ reflections on water for orientation. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey have plenty of references to constellations such as Ursa Major, Orion, the Pleiades, proving the ancient Greeks had discrete cosmological knowledge.

Astronomy is probably the oldest –- and most widespread – of all sciences. Yet, our connection to the stars goes beyond history. From the iron in our blood — and our skyscrapers – to hydrogen and phosphorus, an essential molecule in the composition of our DNA, scientists have found that everything on Earth was formed by the same atoms that once made up distant stars.

But how did those particles manage to fall from cosmic grace into our world?

As astrophysicist Margherita Hack put it, stars “are big gas balloons” kept together by the tension between gravity and the energy of the burning matter. They have their own life span, usually billions of years, and when they die, they eject a large amount of energetic particles into space. Called supernovas, dying stars make the hottest, brightest and most powerful light in the galaxy before exploding. When they do, helium, hydrogen, iron, phosphor and other nuclear products from the star’s birth-and-death process are released to form new galaxies, including the chemical elements that are essential to life.

"From the stars to the mind, these are the extremes of our parable: we are the only product of the universe that has developed the ability to observe and understand the universe that created us," Hack writes in her book Il Mio Infinito (“My Infinite”).

We are the products of stardust. What better time to celebrate our cosmic origins than August – the stars’ month – whose pitch-black nights allow the best view of our galaxy? We’re honoring the universe with a limited-edition release: our new STELLA tumblers, made up of starry melted murrine over a night-blue glass sky, are finally available.

Like Snakes Under the Sand

Among the summer habits that Venetians have acquired to break away from the crowds and the heat, bathing at Lido is a classic. While tourists stroll along the canals to soak in the city’s architectural beauties, locals sail toward the 12 km-long barrier island best known for the Venice Film Festival, which it has hosted every year since 1932. Lido opened its first beach establishment in 1857, but it remains a rich natural oasis too, having one of the best-preserved dune habitats in the Adriatic Sea. The wildest area is Alberoni, with bare beaches and hardy vegetation, home to several protected animal species.

For its entire length, the island’s sandy coast is covered in row after row of cabanas, the hut-like structures that residents use to store their beach essentials and share mid-day lunches when facing the sea. Cabanas mostly serve as meeting places for friends and families. However, we’ve recently discussed alternative roles and functions for these mini houses with our friends from the Venice-based design studio X-UP.

What if cabanas were used to enhance solitude instead?

This August, we supported X-UP designers in a process blending architecture with the natural landscape. The result was a complex of cabana-inspired shelters intended as individual spaces for meditation.

The raw wooden “camouflage” structures hide in the surrounding environment “like snakes under the sand”-- as Marcantonio put it. They invite their temporary inhabitant to reconnect with nature, paying attention to the sounds, colors and textures that the ecosystem offers. As author Jenny Oddell suggests in her book How To Do Nothing, losing ourselves to nature might help us develop the environmental awareness and care that are key to our survival.

The project – which is still in progress – will offer a benchmark for recording the landscape’s transformation over time, to be documented in a future publication that will conclude the project in a year or so.

Capturing “A Moment in Venice”

Argentinian photographer Claudio Fleitas, who is based in Paris, celebrates his “Moment in Venice'' with a photo shoot capturing details of our everyday life in the office, featuring some of our most iconic glasses.

Shooting his Memory of fire series on analog film, the photographer compares the process of glassmaking to that of creating a photograph: “The glass melts in the fire to take a shape. The film needs contact with light to become an image, letting the light become a work.”

View Fleitas’ work in our Gallery.

A Floating Cinema Offers a Shifting Perspective of Venice

One of the best things to do in Venice at the end of the summer, alongside more institutional events like the Venice Film Festival and Venice Glass Week, is spend the evenings at a floating cinema – the Cinema Galleggiante – where a full movie screen is surrounded by nothing but water and the sky. Developed by Paolo Rosso, founder and curator of the Venice-based organization Microclima, the project aims to offer an unconventional perspective of the Venetian landscape — one that is far away from traditional tourist routes, delivering a curated program based on mostly independent, carefully-selected footage.

The following is an extract from a conversation I had with Paolo last year in which we discussed the past edition of Cinema Galleggiante, named Acque Sconosciute.

What is your relationship with Venice?

I always say that the reason why I still live here is my boat. I bought it as soon as I arrived here from Pavia, and it helped me a lot. At first with logistics, but most of all it made me pay attention to the surreal environment I was living in. I realized I was observing thousands of absolutely refined human creations from the water’s point of view. Boating also let me escape a horrible side of this city: being so special, Venice has been transformed into a kind of theme park. The boat let me enter another dimension, away from the souvenir shops. Looking at the city from the water’s point of view is always an amazing experience.

Your Cinema Galleggiante project — and its name, Acque Sconosciute (Unknown Waters) — made me think of the unexplored border between the city and the wilder natural space of water. Is this something you had in mind?

Absolutely. Edoardo Aruta and I had the idea of creating a cinema in the middle of the lagoon for years. We imagined it as a dreamy, surreal film festival. When we first proposed it, both the municipality and politicians agreed it was “impossible.” However, when the pandemic broke out, something changed: the concept of drive-in movies started spreading again. And the boat drive-in idea thus didn’t sound so absurd anymore. Then, the project went from being impossible, to — at least — standing some chances of seeing the light.

The floating cinema was eventually made possible thanks to collective action, because we managed to put together international and well-known institutions with very small, local realities. Thus, the curatorial idea changed a bit: at that time, everyone was wondering how we would reshape living together in the urban context. That’s how we came up with the name Acque Sconosciute, recalling an unexplored metaphorical new space. The relationship between the city and its most boundless lagoon part was (and is) very important to us. Because of its iconic status, Venice has always been burdened with countless stereotypes about “Venetianness.” Instead, our goal was to build a relationship with natural elements: we made sure to orient the pontoon (the floating platform supporting the screen) towards the lagoon, so that the public would have water as the only view. In this scenario, some apocalyptic glimpses from the industrial pole of Marghera are visible too.

Where did you install the Cinema?

We placed the platform on the rear side of Giudecca island, between Palanca and Saca Fìsola. We wanted to break away from the city and invite people to reflect on the natural elements that are also part of Venice’s surroundings. Participants would come at sunset: we deliberately chose this moment of transformation, with the aim of creating an alienating feeling that would help people break away from routine.

Is the Cinema an invitation to escape from the stereotypical side of the city and to discover another Venice?

Absolutely. Much of our work is based on a shift in perspective, and with Cinema Galleggiante we’ve made it explicit.

How did you build the Cinema? I mean, practically. It seems like a bet against logic.

We collaborated with some institutions that have supported us. On our first edition, Laguna~B was one of them. In 2020, we also produced a short trailer for the company — about Offset — together with We are Here Venice. This short film became effectively part of our program; it was broadcast every night. As for the construction, we received a lot of help from amazing engineer Nicola Ferrari. He has a sweet, fascinating personality and he’s kind of a mythological figure. He started his career building the floating stage for the Pink Floyd concert in '89, which is remembered as a controversial event. So Nicola became the “architect of impossible,” often working with artists, Christo among the others. He followed the project for the Cinema for free, and even signed it in the end. It’s important to remember that the project is a result of collective action. From cafés and bars to meeting places, for many years, we’ve heard people suggesting how great it’d be to have a floating settlement in the lagoon. Cinema Galleggiante is a community invention that only Edoardo and I were stubborn enough to make it real.