by Leonie Bradbury
Our first encounter of Castello di Spannocchia was from the window of our airport van as we made our way the winding dusty driveway. My first thought: Woah! It is a real castle. Nestled in the green luscious woods of the Spannocchia estate ‘tenuta di spannocchia,’ the castello or villa is the perfect place for studying. My room was quiet and on the north side of the villa. It resembled a monk’s cell in its solitude and simplicity. The view was spectacular and restful at the same time. George Smith’s lectures on Manet were inspiring us all to see the history of art in a different light. The physical dramatizations of the scene in Manet’s Olympia by fellow students were hilarious, but brought the point home. Nothing is fixed. Nothing is true. My big take away: IDSVA is all about creating space for original thought. Be bold! Or as George says “…if you are going to make extraordinary claims, you will need extraordinary evidence.”
The two visiting professors Jennifer Gurley, an author, and Peggy Phelan, a performance art authority from Stanford, were both incredible. As well as her candid description of her own development as a scholar, Jennifer Gurley shared her recent research and exemplified the writing and publishing process. Peggy Phelan also described the rigor of scholarship and the nature of a PhD degree program. Her lecture on Andy Warhol exemplified the finding of your unique scholarly voice. The lecture also showed us how past experience and personal passions can be integrated in one’s practice. She generously agreed to give a bonus lecture on Lacan which was mind blowing to all who attended.
Intellectual inspirations aside, one of my favorite experiences of being at Spannocchia was the Cinta Senese Tour & Tasting. Remember those cute black and white pigs? The tour by Spannocchia’s Education Director, Katie, includes a walk around the property, an extensive narration of the history, and reemergence of the artisan breed of the Cinta Senese. At the end of the tour, we enjoyed some wine and a tasting of the ‘salumi’ including pure and delicate piece of back fat known as lardo and a delicious capocollo, which you are supposed to eat with your hands for full effect and enjoyment.
Anyway, everyone told me before I went to Spannocchia that I “would love it there” and that “it was a little bit of heaven on earth.” It sounded both incredible and a little annoying at the time (seeing as I hadn’t gone yet), but they were absolutely right. I am delighted to have survived and enjoyed IDSVA’s art theory boot camp.