Fuck you. Fuck you for your absence of an infinitesimal amount of any sort of sentiment. How do you have the face to strip away the remaining humanity petrified in a concrete cast of a face confronted by their final moments of mortality? Was the pure terror of their imminent death entertaining enough for you to find the need to place yourself next to it? Hey look, I was here. I saw them. I know, see? Maybe it’s a melodramatic overreaction I’ve been prone to one too many times in the past, but I have an issue with your decision to photograph yourself in front of their casts of men, women, children, people buried under a thick layer of volcanic ash that were forcibly frozen in time to become a spectacle for the world in their least idealized, most raw and vulnerable state. Seeing their broken bodies is what manifested an authentic connection to my modern humanity with that of 2,000 years before me. I saw them and I was amazed just as you were, yet I chose to respect them. Seeing my floating head with their concrete corpse in the same frame distances us miles more than it does connect us. Inevitably, there will be thousands more of you, shitting on their illusive opportunity to receive any sort of funeral. I couldn’t come close to destroying enough selfie sticks to be able to make you feel something rather than fabricating a sense of connection. All that I ask of you is that once you’re done taking your emotionless selfie, feel something instead of blankly looking at it.
Rome, you are spectacular. You’re a chaotic fusion of an ancient past in a modern world. The effortless host of an entire world religion, with an ornate exploitation of its beauty and atrocities. You’re a myriad of cigarette butts accumulating on cold wet paved streets, in a city lined with pedestrians crossing congested roads at times that would kill them anywhere else. You’re the unbearable and inexplicable smell of human feces on a metro train, the constant rejection faced by impoverished illegal street vendors, the arena where bodies were once viciously mutilated in the exchange of an uproar cast by a crowd of 80,000. You are a city full of life that is conscious of the death of its past. The source of my numerous facile dissociations with reality, and my muse. I chose to photograph you in a raw and unidealized way so that I may never forget you. Where my words falter and have been barricaded, my photographs communicate to and about you. I photograph you so that my laughably deficient memory has the visual aid of my unhindered perspective of you and your people in the years and decades ahead where I look back on my time with you in reminiscent nostalgia. But you are incredibly overwhelming. I constantly find myself in necessary moments of motionless awe where all I choose to do is look at you, so that I may only have that single solitary moment with you for the rest of my mortal life, rather than an attempted preservation of the emotion I felt in that time for you. But at times, to be frank, you’re a bitch. Your beauty is double-sided; I fear it’s familiarity which raises the question of my possible subconscious blindside to the beauty in my own hometown. Is your unfamiliarity fabricating my sense admiration for you, or are you inherently beautiful? How long will it take for me to hate you?
“baptized by fire” by Samual “S” Pawlowski @sfinessin of @fiuinstagram
As any journey starts, one plans and plans again to diminish any chance of error. I started my experience of Rome as helpless as Remus and Romulus when set in the Tiber River. My misfortune struck when my phone service did not work. For a brief moment, I was consumed in the chaos that is Termini. Signals blared. Unfamiliar faces passed. The tides of stress pulled back as waves of calm crashed as I found my way. The blessings of technology can be overlooked until they are gone. Thankfully I found Wi-Fi and was on my way. I survived.
In Rome, I am lost. Lost in the thrill of it all. The breathtaking monuments leave bystanders awestruck. The ability of the monuments to render bystanders speechless can be compared to Medusas ability to strike a man into stone. It’s inescapable.
The Palatine Hills encapsulate the way one lived 2000 years ago. The Palatine Hills include the Emperor’s Palace, The Forum, and many temples. At the base of The Palatine Hills sits the Colosseum, a juxtaposing design. While emperors reigned high from The Palatine Hills; slaves turned into gladiators fought for their lives below. The sight serves as an example of the how perfectly-conflicted Rome continues on.
Aside from the palace on top of The Palatine Hills, the buildings of the Forum decorate the landscape. One of the most important structures is where the Senate met; modern republics can trace their roots back to a single structure built close to 2000 years ago. One must not forget the reality of these grand structures. All structures built in Rome have a dark tie to slave labor. Slaves built structures that were larger than life by hand. The use of slave labor to give rise to magnificent structures further exemplifies how Rome is perfectly-conflicted.
While exploring the Palatine Hills and other parts of Rome, I began to enjoy my sojourn. My stay opened me to beauty of Rome. The beauty of Rome is one where old meets modern, state meets church, opulent meets ragid. The conflict consumes one. One can simply glance over Rome for its conflicts; yet observant eyes will get lost in the mystery of Rome: how such a perfectly-conflicted land exists!
I would soon face another hiccup. While riding bikes in the Roman countryside, I would become separated from the group. My chain popped off. Luckily, a classmate helped me remedy the issue; but not before a vast distance would grow between the group and us. We were lost. I was lost. In order to reach the group, we biked uphill on ancient-Roman cobblestone roads. As cars whizzed by us and the road grew to be far to even for my thin tires, a stress overtook me. I felt my shoulders tense and a sweat drip from furrowed brow. The group seemed so far off. As I cycled my burning legs around the pedals, I began to reflect how I was growing from the doom being endured. It was not my easiest experience of Rome; it was my most transformative experience of Rome. If I could endure what felt like Hell, who/what is going to stop me! This experience revealed to me that Rome is a place where on is baptized in fire. A cleansing that can only occur by experiencing the tension of the city of Rome. A type of non-traditional cleansing happens here; the land continues to reveal its perfectly-conflicted nature.
“frozen by fire” by Samual “S” Pawlowski @sfinessin of @fiuinstagram
After death do our lives continue, cease, or are we stuck in limbo between the two? This question is central to my exploration of Pompeii. My ideas of Pompeii did not align with what my eyes perceived at the city gate. The haunting nature of Pompeii is one that cannot by realized through reading a text.
Upon steps into Pompeii’s forum, I entered a world frozen by the heat and firey forces of a volcano. Volcanic ash delicately dressed relics. What tourist perceive as spectacular ruins were once ordinary living quarters of common folk.
Pompeii had approximately 20,000 citizens. While 18,000 escaped the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, 2,000 lives were trapped in time. On August 24, 79 A.D. Mt. Vesuvius erupted. Their lives cemented to the earth by the volcanic ash that fell overhead. Their bodies excavated by the durable hands of archaeologists
Pompeii is the most intact Italian ruin. While the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius remains a tragedy, the volcano left Pompeii almost entirely intact. Frescoes still line walls. The menu of a brothel explicitly demonstrates the sexual freedom of Pompeii. The plaster bodies of individuals capture that Pompeii could still be alive. While these people may be dead, the emotions on their faces and positions of their bodies are very much alive. The story of Pompeii continues to live on through relics that are frozen in time.
Pompeii is in limbo between death and life. As swells of tourists journey down mundane streets, Mt. Vesuvius continues to cast an eerie shadow over Pompeii. To some, Pompeii is a archaeologists dream. To me, Pompeii is a sacred ground: a graveyard that is very much alive. The remains of those captured in ash show the humanity of Pompeii. The humanity encapsulated is key to the sacred spirit of Pompeii that is very much alive!
“Body and Venus” by Kamila Etcheverry of FIU at Tivoli, Italy
Walking through Hadrian’s Villa, you will have your attention caught by the statue of a headless, naked Venus. She stands bare, surrounded by columns, broken parts of her very own temple. It will call out to you for neither of those qualities, but rather for the shape of her body instead.
It will remind you of all the time you spent over analyzing every inch of your own,
and of the pressure you and other women your age may feel to be thin,
and how that same pressure landed one of your close friends in a treatment center,
and how for many years, thin felt exactly the same as beautiful, but now Venus was showing you otherwise.
There is confidence and sexuality through her nudity, yet modesty in the way she gracefully covers herself. She is feminine and sensual, her body voluptuous, raw, real. She does not wince at the sight of her own flesh. She does not carry the self-criticism the fuels our friends, our mothers, and our sisters. Her curves are desired and respected, admired enough to hold their own place in history, in the town of Tivoli, in the home of Hadrian, in museums, in books, and for the remainder of time.
I see her surrounded by her own temple in the home of a Roman emperor, with a body that our society may deem imperfect, and it makes me wonder why we ever hold so much self-hatred.
Roma as Text
“Look Up” by Kamila Etcheverry of FIU at Rome, Italy
In Rome, I look down frequently to make sure I’m not tripping over the pavement. If I do fall, my hands will meet the ancient cobblestone and I’ll see S.P.Q.R. inscribed in front of me; an acronym referring to the government of the ancient Roman republic. I’ll pick myself back up, brush the dirt off my knees, and look back up only to find myself in front of the largest amphitheater ever built, or one of the greatest pieces of architecture ever built, or the church that holds the tomb of St. Peter. I might take a walk through the Roman Forum, where I’ll be surrounded by ruins and the temple to one of the most influential leaders of all time, Julius Caesar. I might arrive at the Pantheon and be moved by the perfection of it all and the symmetry that took place way ahead of its time.
The history here is tangible, it’s the ground I walk on and the marble I touch and the sculptures I see. It is a reminder of the way things were and a challenge to the perception of my own purpose in time and history. Capuchin Friars tell me that what I am now, they used to be and what they are now, I will one day be. The skeletons feel like a call to action for a life not free of sin, but free of stagnancy and discontent. The ruins of the city feel like a warning to where things could go wrong and where they could go right. The Colosseum, full of witnesses hungry for entertainment and participants hungry for blood, feels like a reminder of how painfully human we are. That no matter how hard we try to stray away from our instincts, they will always prevail. That entertainment and violence have been two sides of the same coin since the beginning of time and that we are more a part of that past than we think.
I stood in the Colosseum once and imagined it full. I thought about what led me here and how much of a role I played in being there. Was it chance? Or was it meant to be this way, in this moment, long after the years of spectators and gladiators are over?
Pompeii as Text
Over time, routine has seeped its way into my life, making every day a mirror to the next. I used to hate the idea of conformity but now it feels as though the structure is a necessary part of how I function. I plan ahead, I worry about the future, I worry about the past, I feel out of control when things don’t go as intended. I wasn’t always this way though, and every now and then, I get a brief moment where I feel like the version of me that doesn’t care to plan for the future and just lives in the now. Those are the moments I try to hold onto the most.
I thought about this as I walked through Pompeii, an ancient city that was covered in volcanic ash in 79 AD after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Before the eruption, it was a city like any other, with its residents and its brothels and its street food. Pompeii had its children running through the streets and its pregnant mothers awaiting babies of their own. After the eruption, about 2,000 people had died and the ash covering their bodies remained. Archaeologists incorporated plaster in their excavation process and were able to preserve the shapes of those bodies. Today, the plaster casts of these individuals still remain, laying behind glass windows for visitors to see. Tour guides bring their groups around the city, stopping at the bodies and sharing facts about how many died or when or how many got away. By the end of the day, the bodies are reduced to numbers and we forget that each of them were once individuals like you and me, with likes, dislikes, favorite foods, and favorite things to do. They were someone’s mother or father, a sister, a brother, and a friend. In the blink of an eye, they lost their lives and with that, their routines suddenly lost their meaning.
It made me think of how much importance I place on my own routines and how the stress of my own impermanence can either push me to do more or leave me with almost paralyzing anxiety. In reality, I can’t predict the end to my own story. I don’t know when my Mount Vesuvius will erupt but until then, I want to make sure I was present for it all. I want to stop and accept the ebb and flow of things, the unpredictability of life. I want to know that anxiety about the future can still be there, but does not have to be all-consuming. Because if I’m anything like the victims in Pompeii, things can take you by surprise, and the only thing worse than that is knowing you took it for granted.
My love, my sweet supple raw tender violet love. The world hath no mercy that it selfishly consumed you. Every waking second of every day, I wish that it had been my last breath, that my lungs had filled with that vicious God’s fluid, and that my flesh slowly descended to the depths at the mercy of the Nile where the riches, power, and fabricated manifestation of importance would fade away, and I would stare into you for one final moment. But you are selfless. You dared to preserve me; the whispers became cacophonous to you. You couldn’t bear the thought of my name living in infamy; that my inability to yield children carrying my name with my faceless wife would become my legacy, and that I would be remembered as the sodomite who loved his lowly servant. It boasted the tolerance of the people, but below the veil of class you were my equal, my counterpart tethered by transcendental emotional understanding. I became you just the same as you became me, yet you chose to preserve me. You offered your pure flesh as a sacrifice so that I may live on as the God people first made me out to be, rather than the emasculate fool I slowly became in their same eyes. And for that I love you impossibly more. Your death will only be of flesh, for you will forever live on in me and as the God your spirit became. The same people that tore us apart will love you the way I once did.
Rome is a city of ancient Kings and abundant legends. The founding of Rome is said to have been around 753 B.C.E. by fierce Romulus, who was in turn raised by the she-wolf Lupa. Over the ancient stones of the Via Appia Antica have walked millions of people on their way into Rome and along its beautiful, scenic pasture lands the dead are buried deep under the earth. Rome is packed and overflowing with history, dazzling in its splendor and importance. Some of the greatest artists that ever lived were inspired by and shaped it into the Rome we see today. So many people flock from the world over to marvel at the wonders of Rome, to stand in awe of the Flavian Amphitheater’s colossal shadow and gawk at its architectural brilliance. It is incredible but what is even more incredible is how people come here and fail to realize the very real tragedies behind these marvels. How could they have built something so massive with the limited technology they had? Slaves. How could the Colosseum be finished so quickly, in only 10 years? Slaves. It is easy to be grand and impressive when your success is built on the exploitation and enslavement of others. It is easy to build massive temples and blood sport arenas when the people whose blood, sweat, and tears being spilled for it have no choice but to keep working at the will of their oppressors. The part that truly amazes me most is how when people do think on this they fail to consider that it is not a phenomenon exclusive to the ancient world. 2,000 years apart and rich important men continue building their success on the backs of exploited workers while everyone carries on and think themselves better than the cruel, arrogant Romans who once ruled the known world. The oppression is no longer as blatant or easy to spot in this world of media coverage and constant entertainment, but as long as we have ostentatious displays of wealth, we must also have those exploited to maintain it.
Tivoli as Text
The Pool of Lost Love
Gabriela Lastra of FIU at Tivoli
Tivoli was like a dream I couldn’t believe I was having. From the moment we arrived in Hadrian’s Villa, built a little under 2000 years ago in the hills overlooking Rome, I knew it would be something I’d not soon forget. The Roman Empire has long been known to have mixed and appropriated cultures and beliefs as its vast reach expanded. Hadrian’s Villa was a display of this Roman practice, with its acres of land featuring buildings inspired by the different parts of the Roman Empire Emperor Hadrian visited during his reign. The area of the Villa that stunned me the most by far was the large reflection pool inspired by the Nile. It is neither the most elaborate nor is it the most outstanding feature, but the story connected to the inspiration of the pool is one that is deeply striking, at least to me. Hadrian was a man in love, devastated by the loss of his lover Antinous. He loved him to such an extent that he had statues of him built, and no one thought twice on the fact that they were both men. Now, 2000 years later the world has regressed and yet Hadrian’s love for the beautiful Antinous is famous worldwide. For people who have been oppressed and told that their love is not morally acceptable, people who have died and been imprisoned for their love, the story of Antinous who was so loved that after he died Hadrian made him a god in spite of how it would be seen negatively by the other Romana is heartening. Seeing the Villa Adriana in person and learning of their tragic story more in depth was profoundly affecting and I could not help but cry.
Pompeii as Text
Gabriela Lastra of FIU at Pompeii
Pompeii was shocking. It was coming face to face with something I have known most of my life but never truly understood. Walking through a city nearly frozen in time, seeing what remains of a once forgotten people was viscerally horrifying. Looking at the looming shadow of Mount Vesuvius in the distant skyline, it seems almost antithetic to me that something that looks so beautiful and harmless could be responsible for the death of 1,000 to 2,000 people. From that tragedy stem some of the most well-preserved remains of the Roman Empire. When Pompeii was buried under meters of volcanic ash in 79 A.D., it buried and preserved what was left standing of the city and the mosaics and frescos on the walls. To walk through Pompeii now is to walk through a living monument of the lives of all those who lived there so long ago. We see them as they truly were, from their fast food stands scattered around the city to their 30 brothels with their rather graphic image menus painted along the walls. Pompeii is unique and incredible. As you walk through you may even forget that although it is a remarkable archeological find, it is also a massive grave. People come from thousands of miles to gawk at the bodies of those who could not escape, preserved after 2,000 years in their final fear filled moments. As I look at a figured, curled up in terror, covering its face, I feel shivers crawl up my spine. A huge part of what draws people to Pompeii is not the fascinating history it illuminates, but morbid curiosity. They come to see the remains of the tragedy, to stand at the base of a volcano and feel that thrill of fear. People post smiling pictures and mock those who lived in Pompeii at the foot of an active volcano but all I feel now, after having seen it with my own eyes, is sadness and loss.
History is the bridge that interlocks the past
and present, while simultaneously molding the future. The Romans were and still
are considered a civilization ahead of their era. Strong evidence of the
forward thinking and innovative concepts that they contributed to modern day
society can be found via ancient Roman ruins. In particular, Hadrian’s Villa
built approximately between 117-136 CE, impressively portrays the emphasis on
personal health from the perspective of a time where knowledge of medicine was
not widespread. Moreover, a primitive understanding of the physical observable
ailments that plagued Romans existed. In spite of this, divine beliefs of the
gods did influence the understanding of inexplicable conditions. Usually the
miasma theory was at work, which is now rejected and replaced with the concept
of contagious disease not fumes alone. Doctors of the time used physically
distinguishable characteristics to give any prognosis for a Roman, for example
the level of fitness of a person, was an easily identifiable quality at first
glance. Therefore, Hadrian’s villa contained a large spacious rectangular
structure called a gymnasium. This allowed Romans to exercise not only
physically, but culturally as well. Since, their social lives revolved around dominance
shown through brute strength, as a result gymnasium became essential in aiding
Romans in their pursuit of praise from the emperor. In this case, emperor
Hadrian was not one to shy away from ostentatious displays of wealth and power
by permitting others to enjoy the wealth of the latest technological advances
in his home.
In Addition to the
gymnasium, elaborately large baths with intricate designs and decorations were
present immediately next to the gym. The bathhouse has several baths that were
of different temperatures. It was believed that changes in temperature from hot
to cold served to improve a person’s circulation and close the pores of the
skin, which does hold true to this day. Also, the expansive 300 acres of
Hadrian’s Villa contributed to the active lifestyle Romans held, hence the
lagoon at the entrance of the villa served as the measured distance that an individual
was recommended to walk daily after having a meal; about 2-3 times were suggested
by doctors. Other structures on the premises, such as the fishing pond pictured
above, demonstrated the intertwining of entertainment and personal health
through social activities.
Thus, the fact that
these deductions were made without solidified scientific approaches and that a
majority of the world still abides by these principles of personal health,
reinforces the concept of “Everyone is a Roman” and how Romans have paved the
way for architecture that serves purposes beyond the primitive need for shelter
Roma As Text
“indescribable” by Meily De Leon of FIU
The city of Rome is a culmination
of history and culture experienced through architecture. Its people are welcoming
and carry an atmosphere of familial unity. To recap,
the start of my journey caused me to feel a sense of unease in
combination with an anxious perspective which hindered me from assimilating the
scope of the city’s wonders. Inhibited by clouded judgement, I was unable to
appreciate the uniquenes that Rome offered initially. This began to change as I
was exposed to the diverse history that the ancient city holds. The forum, a Roman
treasure, was the epitome of classical Roman life. Standing at the center of
all its glory immersed me in a different era, with every step I slowly outgrew
the cautious nature that had consumed me. The forum was the birthplace of the
Republic and of civic relations: politically, socially, and religiously. During
the 500 year rise of the Roman empire, this location was the foundation for their
society as a whole, portraying deeply rooted cultural values, beliefs, and
traditions. These Roman traditons are still, to a lesser degree, exercised
today across the world. For instance, the Vestal Virgins were a strong indication
of misogyny that has contributed to the taboo topic of female virginity in various
cultures, such as my cultual background. Carrying my hispanic culture with me to
Rome has helped me envision how life was lived here, as I continue to draw
Ultimately, the idea of traveling not as a tourist,
but rather embodying an italian civilian has fostered independence within me. I’ve developed an independent nature that I would
have never believed I could harness in the time span of a week. Personally, I
did not come on this trip for a religious endeavor or spiritual awakening, but
I have gained empowerment from the freedom to do as I please without the fear
and pressure to conform to the standards of a certain culture.
Rome, like the modern United States, was a hub for diversity in terms of people
and cultures. It was a harsh place, but ultimately accepting, and I have found
that the city’s culture remains largely the same. After some trial and error, I
have truly begun to feel at home, and I believe that when I leave Rome to see
more of the country and perhaps the rest of the world I will more readily
integrate myself and find the beauty in my surroundings. Once a victim of culture
shock, but never again.
Pompeii as Text
“Despair” by Meily De Leon of FIU
The concept of the
unknown is often an ominous thought. A state of unfamiliarity is accompanied by
paralyzing fear; therefore, it is no surprise that the people of Pompeii did
not all flee the city, out of an approximate population of 20,000 citizens 2,000
perished. In 79 A.D Mount Vesuvius erupted, and annihilated the Pompeian way of
life, the remaining ruins symbolically tell the history of its people. The recounts
of witnesses that managed to escape death conveyed despair and helplessness as
the darkness of the ashes consumed the sky. The well-preserved bodies of adults,
children, and pets, alike, were impactful and evoked melancholia, while
reinforcing that above all nature is the determining factor for any civilization’s
reign. The positions of the bodies frozen in time revealed the universality of
human emotions in a regretful manner. As
a result, the eruption caused the city’s treasures to be buried with it until
rediscovered about 1900 years later, consequently the uncovering of the city
influenced the European world and mirrored modern-day way of life. For instance,
the idea of fast food, private homes, and separation of street lanes were clearly
emphasized around the city. The excavations are evidence of how ancient Roman
ideals are interwoven in everyday routines and architectural layouts that have
become social norms. The present is indubitably a reflection of the past, which
is a strong indication that our roots all have an origin regardless of the
location or the cultural heritage behind the peoples. Another important detail
that should be highlighted in the Pompeian ruins
the fresco paintings in the Villa of mysteries
that elucidate the cult-like
hierarchy that existed depicting women as sexual symbols. The Dionysiac fresco,
in my perspective, represented women of the time as critical of other women of
lesser social ranking, whom were subject to punishment when not conforming to
patriarchal standards. However, it could be viewed as a liberation of women in
the sense that paintings of nude women, such as the Birth of Venus,
commemorated the sexuality of women. Rather the deeper meaning seemed oppressive,
as the women are pictured toiling away unclothed. The vague nature of the
painting keeps the mysterious aura of
Pompeii alive, and reminds us that humans are all connected to each other
through similar sentiments, tragedy is the most relatable emotion as proved by
the end of the Pompeian civilization .