Possibilities is a series of works produced during the shelter-in-place measures in San Francisco, due to Covid-10 emergency. Each one of the works represents the discomfort and the potential held into the spatial confinement, along with the meanings emerged from moments of solitude, of hope, of solidarity, and of disorientation lived inside that kind of space. Possibilities gathers the voices of my community, serving as a place for collective encounter and re-contextualizing the individual’s condition within a choral dimension. This series was conceived within the theoretical frame of the Manifesto of Uncertainty, that I have wrote for the artistic project Art Seeds in April 2020.
Possibility n’1, I am Waiting
This is a handwritten excerpt of “I am waiting”, the 1958’s poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, on a paper that I have then teared in half, which borders seem rejoining on the edges of a thin fracture. Beside the poem there are two display cases representing San Francisco, or California broadly, and Italy. The references to the two countries, that are 10.047km distant between each other, are symbolized by stamps —tools for remote communication, and that preserve, reinterpret, and divulge national histories through a language that is iconographically and stylistically peculiar.
The stamp of Janis Joplin (musical icon of the 60es, who contributed to define the cultural and artistic history of San Francisco) was released in 2014 as part of the limited series Music Icons Forever Stamp, that also includes stamps of Jimi Hendrix e Ray Charles. Janis Joplin’s stamp replicates Antonio Alacalà’s design from 1970, inspired by a photograph of Joplin taken in New York by David Gahr. The stamp’s launch happened during the Outside Lands festival. Outside Lands is the largest independent festival of the United States and it was founded in 2008. In 2019 it got the license to sell marihuana, and it also presents a section dedicated to Visual Art. The independent, eco-friendly, gay-friendly and multi-artistic identity of the festival is in line with the cultural frame typical of San Francisco, that Joplin her self joined in 1963.
The Italian stamp portrays a detail of the Titian’s painting “Venere d’Urbino” (1538), displayed at the Uffizzi Galleries in Florence. This stamp was released in 2004 as part of the Women in Art limited series, which was born in 1998. The series was realized by incisor Rita Morena, and it celebrates the female icons of Italian art history (the series also portrays details of works by Raffaello and Piero della Francesca). Venus’ face is framed by the stylized images of the ear of wheat, olive branch and vine branch, symbols of the Mediterranean. The word “Italia”, wrote in lapidary type, is an explicit copy of the same word engraved onto the “Iscrizione di Ferentino”, a bronze roman board of 101 D.C. found on Colle del Quirinale, near Rome, and today displayed at the Archeological Museum of Florence.
The Californian and Italian display cases respectively contain the dried flowers corbezzolo and poppy. Corbezzolo is the national flower of Italy, while the poppy is the national flower of California. The exchanged placement of the flowers into the cases represents my sense of belonging to both countries. I have imported in San Francisco my Italian origins, but I started to cultivate the fruit of the Californian experience in Italy. Many immigrants share with me the experience of loss, or better, of the transformation of the original cultural aspects into contaminated qualities. People experiencing my situation will never be able to fully integrate in the new chosen country, nor they will ever find their place into the homogenous choir of the mother country again. Once you have left home, you won’t be able to go back as the same person you were when you departed. This doesn’t mean to abandon something, but to evolve oneself.
I am Waiting is dedicated to the expats that assisted to the closure of the borders of the “new” and of the “old” country and to the suspension of flights, therefore finding themselves to must accept, unwillingly and abruptly, a double grief. The correspondence with the mother country is suspended, but the dialogue will always be open within our hearts.
Possibility n’2, Complementary Colors
Colors that are diametrically opposite inside the color wheel are called “complementary”. The presence of a color of the spectrum assumes the existence of the color nearby and opposite. No color can exist independently within the color wheel.
Complementary Colors represents the necessity of the individual person to maintain social contacts during the shelter-in-place, and, generally speaking, during any stressful moment. Visualizing the relationships that we have cultivated during our life, and that we have believed in, can comfort us in relation to the desolating landscape the health emergency exiled us in. In the “Manifesto of Uncertainty”, I list the values that will result as real winning factors to build the post-Covid new renaissance, and that will help us to pass through the limb of uncertainties and anxieties with a constructive approach. These values are: empathy, human relationships, and creativity.
Complementary Colors perpetrates these values highlighting the importance of social network for the individual serenity. This work is dedicated to all the people that have been close to me during this odd time, and that have kept being present in my memory and with their voices; it is also dedicated to all the people I encountered since March 15th (the last day before the lockdown): the passer-by I shared the sidewalk with, the mailman who delivered a letter, the grocery shop’s cashier, the artists with whom I spoke and collaborated via phone or email, the doctor who assisted me online. Lastly, Complementary Colors is dedicated to whoever is reading these words right now —an empathy gesture generated from the will of sharing experiences, expanding knowledge and choosing sociality against individualism.
Possibility n’3, Adapting
Adapting: to represent the limited freedom of movement as a game. The shapes in the grid are painted of the same gold-color of the outer case —inside and outside are in contact, even though only symbolically. This work is dedicated to all the people that are experiencing/have experienced the long shelter-in-place, proving to be able to adapt and reinvent themselves within a narrow space and a dimension of dilated time.
Possibility n’4, Tuesday, April 7th 2020
On the night of April 7th, the Moon was 27.092 km closer to our planet. Usually the Moon orbits at 384.000 km of distance from the Earth’s center, on that Tuesday the distance between the satellite and the Earth was only 356.908km. Because of this, the Moon looked 7% bigger than usual, and 15% brighter. Tuesday April 7th records “the natural event of the year”, the Super Moon, happened during a global crisis that stopped the world.
The Moon and the egg, objects both displayed in the cases, represent fertility and purity, they are suggestive elements with an antique and universal symbology; the first one belongs to the cosmos, the latter to the earth. The Moon comforted the most ancient civilizations through its light and its alluring charm, it inspired poets, cult ministers, nymphs, astronomers. The Moon’s cult that dates back to the antique mythology commemorates this planet as an influential entity that brings fertility and rebirth, regulating the cyclical natural and human processes.
The egg is a fascinating object for its constitution and function, whose symbology dates back to the votive cultures of the Neolithic Age. The Egyptians compared it to the Phoenix, as an expression of rebirth from aches; in alchemy it corresponds to a talisman able to lead back any element to its original pure status, while for Hinduism the egg’s image is linked to the primordial egg’s one, that generated the earth and the universe. The pagan symbology of this elegant and uncontaminated look object, bearer of life and resurrection, has been assimilated and reinterpreted form Christianity and from Art History during the time.
Through the comparison of the egg’s and of the Moon’s images, this work evokes the opposite and simultaneous realities of life in the sky, dynamic, that continues its course, and the human life on earth, currently static, confined in delimited spaces and suspended in the dilated time of waiting. The liminal earthly dimension is led back to “normality” from the record of the length of the moon orbit, written beneath the egg: 2.413.402 km; while human beings stopped, isolating themselves, and outdistancing one another, planets keep moving on their path. Tuesday April 7th represents a possibility of meeting between two realties, that are far from each other but still interconnected.
Possibility n’5, 24 Hours
“Every twilight is double, aurora and evening. This formidable chrysalis which is called the universe shivers eternally in feeling, at the same time, the agonizing caterpillar and the butterfly reawakening ”, Victor Hugo.
The butterfly belongs to the invertebrates species of lepidoptera; its life cycle consists of four phases: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and adult. What men call “butterfly”, cherishing its colors and lightness and dedicating to it poetic verses, is the organism that develops in the last phase.
Within the common and literary language, the butterfly has become a metaphor of pure and fleeting beauty, of vanishing joy, and of innocent love. Such a small insect arrived to embody overwhelming feelings, such as melancholy and passion, and universal meanings such as rebirth and transformation; in this sense, the butterfly possesses a powerful symbology. Therefore, a quality that poets have perhaps forgotten to praise is exactly its power, or we might say its strength. The concept of strength can be variously interpreted; which is more remarkable, the physical or the moral strength? To what extent a man is said “strong”, and to what extent is a woman? Do we need more strength to lift 140kg, as the Olympic champion Paul Edward Anderson did winning the title of “strongest man of all times”, or to work in an hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic, with 12 hours and no possibility to drink or eat, as the Seattle Medical Center’s nurse Melanie Arciega did? The global crisis related to the pandemic leaded us to reconsider the concept of strength —today being strong, means to resist fear, to keep fighting for life, to keep believing in humanity; being strong means being able to bend into the confined space of our house, into the limited social freedoms, into the to be re-planned goals, without braking. Strength is Resilience.
The life cycle of some species of butterflies doesn’t go beyond 24 hours: 24 hours to explore a small corner of the world, to coupling, and to nourish themselves enough to accomplish the last, imminent, wings flap. Therefore strength also reflects itself in the ability of channel once expectations within the brief time-lapse of one single day. If the uncertain historic moment requires us to re-address our life choices to the immediate present, like butterflies do we need to look at the next 24 hours as “our world”. As the philosopher Rabindranath Tangore wrote: “The butterfly doesn’t count the years, but the instants: for this reason its time is enough for her”. The back front isn’t an option, and the projection of ourselves into the future is blurry, but the present time is still a valid possibility of gratification —a context for experiencing desire and growth, to create and to being happy.
This artwork commemorates the value of the human soul’s intrinsic strength, existing regardless sex, age, body size and physical health, applied to the daily dimension. Getting inspiration from the life cycle of butterflies and from their powerful symbology, 24 hours represents the immediate present not only as a circumstance of mere existence, but as a possibility for self-realization.
Possibility n’6, Carpe Diem
We all have experienced the end of something we cared for —a relationship, a job, a life time in a specific place. Carpe Diem elaborates the grief for an ended experience into a possibility for commemoration and for welcoming what comes next.
The title of the work recalls the famous sentence by latin poet Horace, translatable with “enjoy the present moment”. We can embrace the pleasant and unpleasant life’s events (the end of a meaningful experience included) when we are able to enjoy the present moment, and anything that comes with it. Therefore, the title of possibility n’6 honors the resilient ability of facing difficult changes.
The visual vocabulary of Carpe Diem refers to the symbolical meaning of the month of August (I have realized this work for MAPP festival, held on August 1-2). The ancient people were used to celebrate this particular time of the year with many festivities involving the ritualistic act of burning wheat. In specific, I got inspiration from the Celtic tradition of Lughnasadh, a holiday held on August 1st honoring the God of the Sun, Lugh, and celebrating the first important harvest of the year. The wheat represents the Sun: God that regulates the growth of plantations; burning it is a way to pay homage to the power of the God and of the wheat plantations themselves, feeding the community. In Europe (where Lughnasadh originates) August crowns the hard seeding season with warm and sunny weather, providing rich harvests that can nourish whole communities. After winter and spring, this is the proper time of the year to rest, to reap the rewards of our sacrifices, and to prepare for the rest of the year ahead of us. In this sense, August is an adequate timing for elaborating transitions between ended experiences and new beginnings. This same meaning is also present in the ancient pagan latin and greek cultures. The name of the month itself comes from the roman emperor Ottaviano Augusto, who elected this month amongst all as a space for self-care, for resting, for celebrations and preparation for the future seeding season.
The visual elements of Carpe Diem refer to the wheats burning ritual held in Lughnasadh. At the center of the box there’s the wheat, symbolizing the ended experience and reinterpreting it as a possibility for a new life phase. The upside down candles stand for a different way of portraying past, present and future. We usually visualize time in a linear way, but within the transition space between an end and a beginning, past and future can be seen on the same line, mirroring each other and connected by the present (the wheat). The burnt candle at the top expresses the ritualistic act of commemoration, while the intact one at the bottom expresses the new experience that we still need to start living. The matches box used to burn the candle only contains 3 matches. 3 is a powerful number meaning good luck, completeness, and connection between past, present, and future.
Regarding the idea of “ended experience” and beside the personal level, on a global scale we can think about the end of the ante-Covid era. Through its conceptual and visual symbolism, Carpe Diem encourages to live the present odd time as a new possibility to make future life choices differently and to ricalibrate our values scale, rather than as the end of life as we were used to know it.