Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Welcome to ArsOpulentaland!

On this day in 1446 the world lost a man who changed the way we would think, feel and see forever. Filippo Brunelleschi died on April 15, 567 years ago, after having given his vision of classical balance and harmony to Florence. The western world would never look the same. Would he have guessed that six hundred years after him, people would be flocking to his town to bask in the shadow of his opus maximus, the Dome? Could he have known that the place he called home would someday take such a prominent place in the collective imagination of the whole world, including places he couldn't have dreamed existed?
Brunelleschi's dome © Eugene Martinez
Probably! After all, wasn't he the guy that stomped off in a fit of pissed off pique when he lost the competition for those doors? He didn't just go storm off to any old place - he made a bee-line to Rome, his own private ArsOpulentaland, the city of classical fantasies.
Classical © Eugene Martinez
Filippo wasn't the first Florentine to live with one foot in a real modern place and the other in an imaginary land. Since the first Romans planted their camp on this Etruscan swamp, people have lived a little here and a little there. When the Romans fizzled out, the Longobards came along to take their turn living in their own private Florentia.
Multiple dimensions © Eugene Martinez
So what's this blog about? ArsOpulentaland, the land of Ars Opulenta. It's a strange and magical place, this ArsOpulentaland. In it reside two parallel cities: Firenze and Florence - Fi and Flo. Fi is made of stone, brick and mortar. People live there. They get up, go to work, shop for groceries, pay their bills... and occasionally have time to go to the movies, go out for a jog or just sit and watch the tube.
Uffizi Joggers © Eugene Martinez
The other is made of myths, legends and dreams. The people who live there are 500 years old men in tights, all geniuses who spend their time revolutionizing art, writing divine poems, discovering the solar system. When they have extra time they joust, play lutes and go on processions.
Fi Festivities © Eugene Martinez
There's no net division between Fi and Flo, no frontier, no signposts to tell you where one ends and the other begins. Around any corner, you may find Flo  poking its nose into Fi's business. Rarely will the opposite happen.
Fi and Flo © Eugene Martinez
Visitors to Flo are often unaware of the existance of Fi. They come to touch the ground that Michelangelo walked on, climb the narrow steps of the cupola,  drink Dante's wine. What's on sale in Aisle 6 at the supermarket is of little  interest, picking up the dry cleaning isn't a priority.
Fi to the left, Flo to the right © Eugene Martinez
Little do they realize that the cobblestones they tread have been walked on by the people of Fi for centuries! Though the visitors to Flo are obsessed with seeking out that "authentic little place where the locals go", they rarely really get the locals or the lives the locals live. 
Fi Streetlife © Eugene Martinez
But the residents of Fi are really no better at acknowledging the existance of Flo. As lustily the visitors to Flo long for the city of art and history, the residents of Fi close their eyes and turn their heads away from it. Fi and Flo feet pound the same cobblestones day in and day out, but they steadfastly resist the temptation to discover each other.
The paving stones of Fi and Flo © Eugene Martinez
My mission in ArsOpulentaland is to introduce the visitors to Flo that come from afar to the wonders of Fi, in all their sometimes confusing, often funny, regularly maddening and always captivating glory! I hope you'll come with me, skipping and hopping, sometimes stumbling and staggering between Fi and Flo!

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