I was happy then

The Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni made L’eclisse in 1962. The film begins at dawn on a summer morning inside a modernist apartment located on the suburban fringes of Rome. In the opening scene a beautiful young literary translator named Vittoria ends a relationship with her writer lover, Riccardo. Riccardo’s final plea: he only wanted to make her happy. Vittoria listlessly responds, “When we first met, I was 20 years old. I was happy then.” She emerges alone from his home into a barren, interstitial landscape. For the remainder of the film Vittoria is a tourist figure traversing the urban, architectural and economic landscapes of Rome.

I was happy then is both a book and film by Bureau for Open Culture that unites the filmic spaces of Antonioni’s L’eclisse and the present-day reality of Siena, Italy, an early Renaissance city beholden to a continual performance of its deeply influential history. Through the framework of a tourist guide that focuses on the topics of alienation, architecture, economy, love and urbanization, this work drawn from research and lived experience is a means to explore postwar and contemporary life in Siena. It diverts attention away from the usual historic center toward a suburban periphery beyond the city walls where architectural and urban-planning initiatives other than medieval brick and mortar exist.

As printed matter and film, I was happy then extends the possibilities for dissemination of written and visual material into the public sphere. It draws on the potential of uniting complementary qualities of book and film into a singular work.

I was happy then is made in association with L’ECLISSE redux.

I was happy then from Bureau for Open Culture on Vimeo.

Nate Padavick, Casssandra Troyan, James Voorhies


James Voorhies


Made possible with support from Siena Art Institute, Siena, Italy, as a result of a project fellowship awarded to James Voorhies and Bureau for Open Culture