Italy

On April 29th, 2013, THE DOMESTIC INTEGRITY RUG AND GARDEN…

the last days of Domestic Integrities E02 rug & garden

…here on the Pollinaria farm in Abruzzo, Italy have reached their peak spring moments and final installations as we prepare to leave after a few weeks of living with them. (see lots of new pics posted here)

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On April 21, 2013, WE ARE TRANSPLANTING TO THE CIRCLE…

transplanting to the circle

…all of the wild spontaneous plants we can find growing on the sprawling sloping expanses of the farm that have some domestic use, like borage, mustard, dandelion, chicory, chamomile, mint, cardoon, wild rose, fennel, blackberries, nettles…but our wish list of as yet unfound delicacies includes wild asparagus and native grapes.

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On April 16th, 2012, THE TURNING OF THE CIRCLE…

preparing for the planting circle

preparing for the planting circle

…by farmer Luciano on his big tractor gets the compacted clay soil ready for our planting circle.

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On April 15th, 2013, THE FIGS…

the early spring fig trees at Pollinaria

the early spring fig trees at Pollinaria

…that consumed me – and I consumed so many of – during my summer chapter of Domestic Integrities at Pollinaria, and now just wishful little buds that I won’t be around to taste in a few months.

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On April 14th, 2013, ROME FOR A DAY…

pausing at the Tiber heading from Testaccio to Trastevere

…on the way from Amsterdam to Abruzzo for the final seasonal chapter of Domestic Integrities at Pollinaria is warm sunny summery deep breath of ancient urbanism before we head East for the hills.

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By Fritz Haeg on April 14, 2013 | Rome
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On October 9th, 2012, THE ABRUZZIAN GRAPE HARVEST…

foggy Pollinaria grape harvest

…here at Pollinaria – the farm west of Pescara where Domestic Integrities E01 is being developed through four seasons – has just finished  today, exactly as we are returning for the fall cycle of the project…but at least we managed to scavenge a few beautiful purple bunches left behind on the vine and ground.

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On July 3rd, 2012, A WICKER BASKET WEAVER…

Fernando Marcantonio, his wicker baskets, and broom

…named Fernando Marcantonio, aged 95, residing in a remote small Abruzzian village learned how to make baskets from his father and grandfather when he was young – something that they did by necessity, to contain everything that needed containing at home (ricotta, figs, olives, grain…) – but then he entered into the family’s farming life – went to the war, returned home on foot – and continued farming throughout his life, but a few years ago his wife died and he entered a deep depression, that he didn’t emerge from until he returned to basket making at his son’s encouragement, which seems to have transformed and revived him, keeping him busy and focused all day in his shop creating the classic baskets he first learned to make almost a century ago, then for necessity, but now for pleasure…this story drawing us to make the two hours drive to visit him today for our Domestic Integrities research, arriving unannounced, asking him questions about his work (like “how long did it take you to make this?” while pointing to a simple small basket – to which he responded “a year,” since this long involved complex process actually starts with the planting and tending of various types of cane and plants used for his wicker), but the first thing that really struck me, was the feel of his fingers when we shook hands, clearly those of a man who has been using them all of his life in a way that we just don’t any more.

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On July 2nd, 2012, TREBBIATURA DINNER…

Trebbiatura dinner with figs and homemade spelt bread

…is the annual traditional meal here at Pollinaria farm when all of the grain harvest workers involved in the two-day operation on these hundred acres gather with their family for a celebration feast that overwhelmed us with course after course after course after course after course, including unmentionable meats unappealing to this vegan – but luckily just ripe figs plucked from the tree just over our heads.

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On July 1st, 2012, WASHING OF THE WOOL…

washing of the wool

…consumed most of this very hot day in this cool moist rocky valley stream (found after a three hour drive the other day in search of the perfect place to bring our 80 sheeps-worth of filthy but gorgeous just shorn raw wool for washing al fresco, which proved difficult during these semi-drought conditions of no rainfall in the past month and a half – leaving most of the local streams dry) usually the home a dramatic waterfall, and it’s absence leaving the perfect spot to prepare our bags of wool for carding, felting, and ultimately crocheting into the European Domestic Integrity Field rug.

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On February 19th, 2012, THE ABRUZZIAN KITCHEN…

kitchen at the Museum of the People of Abruzzo

…on display at the the Museum of the People of Abruzzo – and historically found in the farmhouses dotting the local hills – will be of keen interest for the first edition (produced at Pollinaria in the spring) of a new series of projects dealing with the domestic interior.

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By Fritz Haeg on February 19, 2012 | home
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On February 18th, 2012, LEAPINE APICOLTURA BIOLOGICA…

LeApine Miele with a key resource book, the front door box where you can pick up a jar & leave your €, and Tulio with his hives

…is the homemade honey operation of Tulio who we visited this morning – a first possible collaborator in our as yet somewhat undefined but clearer by the day spring project – at his suburban Pescara residence located on the land where his father and grandfather cultivated the land, and raised cows, where he as a child worked in the fields, where now he lives with his wife Danila and five year old daughter Ema (who was prompted to greet me with ‘hello’), in a new house built over the cellar where the cows used to live, which is now home to the equipment, vats, hives, jars for his honey in many colors and consistencies, sold to local residents, neighbors, and those who can conveniently leave their Euro and pick up their jars from a box out the front door when he is away.

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On February 17th, 2012, PESCARA’S MUSEO DELLA GENTI D’ABRUZZO…

a typical Abruzzian agrarian scene from a museum diorama, and the snowy farm of Pollinaria today

…(the Museum of the People of Abruzzo) which engagingly presents the rich essence of Abruzzian domestic culture, the stories and related materials of how people have survived and created in this region for centuries, where I was especially captivated by the production of quotidian baskets, ricotta, olive oil, wheat, linens, clothing, and bread, made it the perfect first stop on my first day in town hosted by Pollinaria‘s Gaetano Carboni, while starting to get a sense of what form my spring project here might take – currently with the words ‘domestic landscapes’ in my head.

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On February 16th, 2012, BUS FROM ROME TO PESCARA…

Montagne Maella viewed from the bus from Rome to Pescara

…took me from Tiburtina station (after landing at Fiumicino – followed by a quick detour to Piramide where I met with friends and collaborators about the upcoming Roma Mangia Roma book from Nero still in the editing process) – through the white mountains to this city on the Adriatic under a fluffy white blanket after weeks of record snow, which will be my home base for the next few days while snooping around for my upcoming spring residency and project at the nearby Pollinaria farm.

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By Fritz Haeg on February 16, 2012 | Italy
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On September 5th, 2011, NIGHTLIFE IN OSTUNI…

late night dance and puppet shows on the streets of Ostuni

…which seems to be a very tranquil town during the day, surprised me last night when the very designy chic bars and lounges spilled out on the the ancient whitewashed pedestrian streets, and the whole town (crying babies, rambunctious kids, cool teens, strolling couples, shuffling elderly) turned out to fill the Piazza San Oronzo and surrounding streets which were punctuated by a range of performances and activities like puppet shows, break-dancing, cooking presentations, and a peculiar panel discussion up on a stage hosted by the local TV news anchor woman that featured a sparkling-costumed horse and rider and a group of folk dancers lead by a young man we later found out was the local meteorologist – whom after finishing his dance gave us the weather outlook for the rest of the week.

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By Fritz Haeg on September 5, 2011 | Italy
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On September 4th, 2011, TRULLI THEN OSTUNI…

the white hilltop town of Ostuni (where I lucked out with a cozy last minute mini-apartment rental with a view of the sea from a tiny window seen here on the upper right) and nearby trulli

…was the order of the day, as I finally departed Lecce, continuing my Puglian journeys gradually making my way west then north on the slow side roads through countryside and small towns with no final destination in mind, stopping off in the ceramics center of Grottaglie, the pretty hilltop town of Locorotondo, the trulli village of Alberobello, but especially interested in the shift in landscape to soft rolling hills, rows of vineyards, layers of lovely farm structures into the distance, and finally arriving towards the end of the day in Ostuni, the most enchanting place yet, (which I had first glimpsed from a speeding train to Brindisi ten days ago) where the view from the whitewashed hilltop historic center to the plains and Adriatic has been preserved thanks to the isolation of it’s sprawl to it’s back and south.

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By Fritz Haeg on September 4, 2011 | Italy
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On September 3rd, 2011, LECCE DECORATIONS…

Lecce baroque: graffitti alley and San Giovanni Battista, 1691

…in super baroque style are intricately carved into local honey Lecce limestone covering every available square millimeter of each billboard-like neighborhood church facade, and parts of almost all of the pallazzi, announcing the style, taste and riches of the local sponsoring noble family – is the visual pleasure of the city to be enjoyed at every turn – but the sharp turn I took off Piazza San Oronzo this morning on a wandering derive brought me to a narrow isolated otherwise forgotten passage covered entirely in brightly colored amateur graffiti, and what would seem reckless elsewhere, here feels like a gorgeous collective contemporary baroque decoration where modern residents can announce their own messages.

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By Fritz Haeg on September 3, 2011 | cities
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On September 2nd, 2011, PUGLIA’S TRADITIONAL AGRICULTURAL BUILDING TYPES…

suburban housing blocks surrounding a paiara framed by four stone pines outside of Nardo'

…are what have drawn me to this place more than anything, such as the dry-stone conical domes of the trulli, modest shelters or residences found mostly in the central Valle D’Itria (around Locorotondo, Alberbello, Martina Franca, Ceglie Messapica); the fortified farmhouse complexes of the masserie; and the primitive storehouses and temporary shelters dotting the landscape known as paiara (though locals here call them something else which escapes my memory at the moment) built with mortar-less stone construction (just like the walls that divide up the countryside all over the region) which are slightly domed but with flat roofs you can often access with a stair or two wrapping around the perimeter – though what I was most unprepared for here in Puglia was the vivid contrast between the evidence of a picturesque primitive agrarian past, and beautiful historic town centers surrounded – and at times strangled by – more recent sprawling development, much of it the legacy of a 1960′s housing and building boom (the most egregious of which were built with no official approvals and against any codes, known all over Italy as ‘abusivismo’) – but after getting my eyes re-adjusted to this first impression of an ugly mess, I started to feel like there was a meaningful ‘edge’ here – a reality of 21st century life and conflict (not seen in Umbria or Tuscany where restrictive building codes and wealthy foreigners have mostly frozen the place in time) which actually reminded me a bit of L.A. – stimulating me in similar ways.

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On September 1st, 2011, A MASSERIA (WITH FRANTOIO IPOGEO)…

Masseria courtyard over a massive ancient subterranean olive mill (frantoio ipogeo)

…is something I have had an intense architectural crush on since first reading about them last year (a fortified farmhouse unique to Puglia, often with a series of connecting vaulted spaces made of local stone on the ground level for animals and farm workers around a central protected courtyard overseen by more comfortable castle-like quarters on an upper level for the noble landowners, some featuring their own chapel and underground mill – frantoio ipogeo – for processing olive oil) – and today I went to visit a dreamy abandoned masseria from the 1600′s – with a massive 800 year old frantoio beneath the courtyard, a chapel at the front gate, and extensive local dry stone walls enclosing fruit orchards and gardens – for sale just north of Lecce where I was entertaining fantasies of retreating with friends who could come and go to a quiet life in the country, living and working and creating and gardening on ancient land – so I am now realizing that my unexplained deep interest is in part related to their village-like nature, originally created to protect it’s community of inhabitants from invading warriors, but maybe today offering protection from invasions of other sorts – like the toxic aspects of contemporary society which could use an oppositional model – the courtyard becoming the possible focus for a group of people turning in to create their own community, a place that is consciously quieter and slower, being connected to centuries of the past might change your perception of the future, and now I’m thinking about what my ideal life in one of these ancient ready-made villages might look like today?

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On August 31st, 2011, GALLIPOLI FISHERMEN AT SUNSET…

returning fisherman set up shop at the docks

…this evening were just pulling back into the docks where crowds of locals were waiting to receive them…and why I wondered, was it their families? was it a ritual? had they been away for weeks? but no, they were just waiting to inspect the day’s catch and pick up something fresh for dinner.

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By Fritz Haeg on August 31, 2011 | food
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On August 30th, 2011, A TOWER FOR PIGEONS…

a 'dovecote tower' for roosting pigeons, vic. Nardo'

…at the masseria I visited late this afternoon near Nardo’ must be the coolest thing I have seen on my Puglia adventures so far – an Animal Estate of the most sophisticated and monumental sort, which from the outside seems to be a fortified castle tower, only to reveal a surprising very contemporary-seeming interior lined entirely in a gridded pattern of cubical cavities for pigeons (a variety known as ‘colombi’ in Italian – before the pesky  sort we are familiar with today whose eggs would make us sick from all of the toxic urban crap they eat) to make themselves at home (up to 1000 couples!) and lay eggs to be harvested by humans by way of cleverly designed stairs wrapping the perimeter at various intervals.

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