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The most interesting thing about the Diurno are its more recent signs and wordings, scattered here and there: a window sticker, a few plastic travel agency signs, the Ferrovie dello Stato logo, cosmetics and Coca-Cola, along with Hag coffee. These are perhaps not quite such noble traces compared to those of the original 1920s design, but the contrast is strong: these are signs of life lived hard and fast, modernity moving us towards the new sphere of leisure time and the consumer society. It’s the wellbeing we all know and love and which levels everything. After all, the Italians more than others have long had rather pop and trashy tastes, despite always having been too ashamed to say so, being more concerned with demonstrating that Giotto of the Sistine Chapel were a good enough reason to live. My family split in two and then fell to pieces over the issue of beauty and ‘good taste’, one of the stalwarts of the Bel Paese. In actual fact, there were various reasons, largely ones of power: the classic psychoanal-bourgeois-family conflicts dressed up in political-artistic- spiritual matters and ideals.

I grew up amid advertising slogans, always scorned upon haughtily, generational clashes and 20th-century authoritarianisms, all topped with museums, picture galleries, ministerial neon lights, courtrooms and various offices for documents. My family spent a lifetime filling out and handing in forms. Due to a kind of introjection of all things domestic, the real bourgeois home manifests its very being in every object and room. I have always found points of reference in furnishings, armoires, nightstands, tables, dropleaf bureaus, as well as floors and tiles, the presence of which give a sense of authoritativeness and a tendency, the guardians of an image which it recounts unerringly. The furniture thus became a witness to our family affairs. Cabinets withholding a sort of element of knowledge, one made of touching fittings and workmanship. There are so many suspended images of those furnishings: my grandparents’ room is not my grandparents’ room, but a complex story, prophetic I might say, in which classy antiques, the value of money, the Holy Ghost and culinary culture, coupled with a pantheon of godheads, constituted the order – from the silver service to the Sunday mass – that made up a kind of great moving collage, midway between the kaleidoscope and the charade. My father, who fancied himself as an artist, frequented places like the Diurno because they were modern, even just for a Hag coffee, or un Hagghe as he would say.

My father loved the cinema, il cine, the bar and the train; he was a railwayman and had free travel throughout Italy in first class on the rapidi, the ones that wrote a chapter of their own in the history of Italy, on those seats with that sort of mould-green velvet with air conditioning and sliding glass doors, completely transparent, because everything new and modern had to be transparent. The signs, the adverts, the promotional wording and the slogans are the apex of a modern culture that devours everything in its path, but only after having let us taste the intense glow of light, crystalline beauty and freedom. –– Flavio Favelli

Senso 80 by Flavio Favelli
Albergo Diurno Venezia, Milan
Through May 14

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