Monday, 31 October 2011

A Story that Never Ends: How it Happened that I Joined The Piracy Project

I am going to tell you a secret.
Come closer, for I will say it softly and never repeat what I said again. My words might melt like fresh snow in the sun; they will be as fragile as isinglass, as slippery as images forming into water ripples. One moment they are there, and suddenly they are gone. You will never remember what you saw.
So, listen carefully, for I am about to tell you of a story that was forgotten, that got lost between the lines. The lines of another story. One, I am sure, you already know.

These are a character's words.
Perhaps one, or two, or none of you might remember this post and my confuse babbling about "characters kidnapping" or "destroying" me. Well, at least now you will have an explanation - and a reassurance that my mind is still here and I need no rehab. Possibly.

Everything started in February this year when I had a chat with artist Eva Weinmayr, whose studio I was visiting with one of the MA course mate. She told me about AND Publishing and The Piracy Project, something she was working on with other people in order to save a library from being shut down because of politics' recent measures of austerity. And here I can't help but wonder why it always has to be creativity and entertainment that are deemed useless in a time of crisis? What a question.
Anyway, Eva illustrated to me the joys of being a Pirate.
The Library she and her crew put together is a very peculiar one, as it is made of books that deliberately infringe copyright laws. Not just illegal reproduction of books, which is an already developed phenomenon in emerging countries where books aren't always available. We're talking about emerging authors beginning to interfere with the content of "closed" - or rather, "complete" - literary works. Borrowing here or there. Improving. Changing. Erasing.
Suggesting a different interpretation.
Using literary material, or the object-book itself, as a ready-made. Period.

"Have you ever read a book twice? Books change, every time you read them." 

And so it happened that I confessed.
I told Eva that, when I was about twelve, I took my favourite book of all times and re-wrote part of the story, inserting a new character in it. This meant copying entire paragraphs from the original book and just slid additional ones in, without changing anything too much. Like an improved clockwork or the falling bricks in Tetris, the two parts ended up matching. However, nobody ever read that because I thought it was a subtle form of stealing. You know, using someone else's characters to make up a story within a story...
'Sounds great!' Said Eva. 'We are calling for contributions.'
'Splendid!' I replied, in my boring academic English. 'There's just a tiny little hitch.'
'What is it?'
'The story is written in Italian.' I explained.
'Oh. That's fine, we're also interested in the issues of language...'
'But I can translate it.' I said, not knowing what I was getting myself into.

Back home in Rome, I dug into my personal belongings until I found the manuscript, buried under a pile of photocopied books from college's times. The plastic spiral binding holding it together showed its age signs by falling off bit by bit whenever I tried to turn a page. I recalled writing it using one of the first Macintosh computers, one as huge and square as an old telly and with the coloured apple emblazoned on it. That meant that the original file surely is lost forever, or perhaps saved on a God-knows-its-current-whereabouts floppy disk.
The story is written in two colours; green for the parts taken from the original book, red for those that I added. On the cover, printed in a curvy font that is no longer listed in Word, the title sits floating on white background in the middle of a frame-like square: A Story in The Neverending Story.

Now, there are lots of people out there who unconditionally love that book, The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende. Me being one of them.
I am sure you know the story or have at least seen the movie(s). Ende managed to write one of those evergreen masterpieces that stay with you even long after you have turned the last page. Not to mention the unforgettable characters in it. Heroes and villains so poignant you almost believe they are real.
But another reason for the book's popularity is that many stories in it are left unfinished, with the author unofficially inviting you to take over and continue - not finish, them. So I hope you will forgive me, Mister Ende, for starting a new story within your book.
It's just that there is a hidden character there, just under the reader's nose. She is like a silver shadow, a whisper between the pages, the secreted song at the very end of a CD.
All I did was just helping her come to life.
However, all a character is made of is just ink on paper, therefore her existence begins, and ends, in the space of a eighty-something pages. She is part of the story, yet she isn't. But if her story will ever be read, you will understand why it was worth writing it.

You are now looking at the final result, once the - not easy - task of translating was done. I have even involved an artist friend who, after having read the story, kindly agreed to illustrate it.
The result is so amazing that I have to show you some more:

Who doesn't want to ride a Luckdragon? 

The Ivory Tower. As you have never seen it.

All watercolours are by lovely Marianeve Leveque.
Also, I pleaded in two languages to other people to have a look at the unmistakable mistakes, and help me correct them. Well then, if I have managed to spark a little of your curiosity and you want to know what this story is all about, or want to learn what other Pirates created, you will have to chase up The Piracy Project Library, currently touring around the world.

I look at the picture of my little manuscript, figuring among more illustrious entries on the Piracy Project on-line catalogue, and smile. It is a great satisfaction indeed to finally seeing it making sense in this new dimension.

Tell me now, my friends: what is your favourite story of all times? 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Dedicated to Travellers

To those who aren't afraid of the big, heavy suitcase.
To all those people who think that flying isn't the definitive way of travelling, and confront a journey by bus from one country to the other. 
The bus. The ultimate cart towed by invisible mules. 
To the ones who sit in impossibly small spaces between seats and dive into the night, watching the sleepy, dark landscape flowing by. 
Maybe they'll dream of where they will go next. 
Or maybe these people are the dreamers, moving around, seeing friends or family scattered around Europe without minding the two or three days it will take to reach them. 

To all of you who split a journey in many legs, a bit by bus, the other bit by train, the final one hitchhiking perhaps. Because the journey is a dimension in itself, a suspended sphere, an experience. 
Sometimes uplifting, sometimes exhausting. 

Dedicated to those who consider the means of travelling more important than the destination.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Underground Diaries: Random

Colours and friendly faces.
Everyone comes to London for the Frieze Art Fair. If Rome is caput mundi, London is caput ARTE.

9 October 2011: Flower Power - Jubilee Line, London

Frieze's Week: Artists and Curators - Hammersmith & City Line, London

Frieze's Week: Artists and Curators - Hammersmith & City Line, London

Monday, 17 October 2011

A Two-Times Exhibition: Silvia Iorio's Odyssey 2010 | Odisseia 2011

Perhaps some of you remember this post.
It doesn't say much, it is just the Press Release of the first show my colleagues and I curated as part of our  MA in Curating the Contemporary at the London Metropolitan University, which we successfully completed this year. Instead, that simple post - and show, is the start of something unique.
Something that needs to be read through the lines to be caught and understood.

But let's proceed in an orderly fashion.
When we involved artist Silvia Iorio in this show, she conceived an artwork, Odyssey, which was to be further developed in the upcoming year. The challenge presented to her to go beyond a clearly defined site, and pierce the walls of a space, was met with the idea of creating a two-times exhibition.
Odyssey is a panel with 160 coloured switches "that people were invited to activate during the opening night, on the12th of May. No light would go off at the same time, though: the artist decided to stretch this event in Time – and Space – by having the Light travelling through the Universe for One Light Year. An unconceivable distance for a human being, as it is the speed at which the Light travels (...)
Through Silvia Iorio's eyes, the journey of Odyssey’s Light reached even the most remote and unknown points of the Universe. The various stages of the journey would have been impossible to document had it not been for the experiences of the people attached to them. As part of the project, the artist created the conditions for those who participated to Odyssey to re-interact with the artwork: every 12th of the month, for 12 months, they received an email with questions about what they were doing at a precise time, what they were thinking, and if their mind and body were “connected”. How many times are we caught in the middle of doing something, but our mind is elsewhere? Yet, mind and body are closely interconnected, like the switch and the light. Through the answers she received and collected, Silvia Iorio was expanding the concept of dislocation and taking it onto new levels."*

Silvia Iorio, Odyssey, 2010, One hundred and sixty switches, MDF, enamel, aluminium and wood, 224 x 118 cm

Now, what happened after a year, namely this year 2011?
The first thing to say would be that artist and curator, too, were dislocated. The artist was in Berlin, the curator in London. The two of them were disjointed, their dialogue possible only through modern technology. As the dialogue between Odyssey and its twin work Odisseia, everything seemed hard and impossible: how can it be that two different events, happening at a different time and place, are brought together and re-connected in a solo show? Initial ideas were discarded and a more complex outcome took form, the barriers of space and time acting as incentives. It couldn't have been just the same panel, with 160 lamp bulbs bearing the same colour as the switches, and lighting up in the same sequence they were activated one year before. Very predictable.
But Silvia Iorio is an artist of many resources, and surprises, as sometimes Science is. 
Therefore, the Light manifested itself through imaginary Celestial Maps, from where unknown stars, which are lost in the vastness of Universe, shine for real for the eyes of those who can see them. 
They shine for the eyes of those who see the created connections. Light came back to Earth, and earth made its appearance in the gallery space. 21 people among many who activated the switches, one year before, were the most regular contributors in answering Silvia's question about their whereabouts. 
Their coloured experiences materialised in the form of 21 light terminals, and here the circle clicks, and closes.

And to think that everything happened by simply turning on a switch!
On September 22, 2011, the exhibition Silvia Iorio Odyssey 2010 | Odisseia 2011, was successfully concluded.

Silvia Iorio - Odisseia 2011, Installation view

Odisseia 2011 - Celestial Map, detail, dimensions variable 

As I told Silvia, I find her watercolours nearly moving.
To imagine corners of Universe no one will probably ever see, but that she was able to evoke thanks to the inspiration of Light travel and people's experience, is a gift. 
The experience of the casual viewer included, of course, the fact that seeing is believing.

P.S.: I am happy to mention another show that successfully featured the Celestial Maps, which are having a great and well deserved success: Silvia Iorio, Age of Time. Edge of Space, part of the ongoing show series Rendez Vouz Mit Kunst at the Restaurant Diekmann in Berlin. The show, curated by Isabelle Meiffert, was on until the 8th of September. An installation view is below and more pictures can be found here.

(*) Extract from the catalogue's text. You can read the full version on the Galerie Mario Iannelli's website.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Underground Diaries: Possessions

"Please remember to keep your belongings with you at all times. Any unattended item may be removed or destroyed." I think I could easily cry my eyes out if someone destroyed my bag.

There's all your life in a bag, especially if you are a woman.

Circle Line, London - She loves London

Hammersmith & City Line, London

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Underground Diaries: Sucked In

The blissful unawareness of some great moments. Visually speaking.

Central Line, London