Contemporary art in Eastern Sicily: emotional threads of a journey

by Eleonora Raspi

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Key research continues to be carried out on peripheral space in the works of visual artists. In spite of the different perspectives from which every artistic intervention can be read, three recurrent artistic approaches can be noted: investigation, emphasis and requalification. First, investigation of the human, narrative and sensory potential of spaces; second, emphasis and isolation of some decadent aspects of those spaces’ contexts and architecture; finally, requalification of marginal spaces thanks to the presence of temporary or permanent art interventions, made in conjunction with museum and art gallery curators.

The interdisciplinary work (performance, video, photography) MUTABIS / Scicli / Atto II, by Sicilian artistic duo Vinci/Galesi (Sasha Vinci and Maria Grazia Galesi) – made in collaboration with filmmaker Alessandro Zangirolami, sundmaker Antonio Mainenti and art curator Eleonora Raspi – takes part in this discourse. Their performance operates as a metamorphosis, which can adapt to, and establish a contact with, every place it encounters. It unfolds as a three-day journey in the territory of one of the most fascinating towns of Eastern Sicily, Scicli (RG), and engages with six abandoned places far from the daily life of the urban center (the mill of San Niccolò, the Penna Furnace, the open air quarry next to the Convento della Croce, the clay pit in Truncafila, the stone quarry in the Giarbieri area, and a blooming field in the Cuturi area). As they journey through these places, the two artists, who wear floral cloaks and are followed by the camera, explore and revisit their forgotten territory.

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As well as dealing with social and anthropological issues, the uniqueness of the project lies in its ability to engage with multiple creative media: from performance to video, from photography and sculpture to sound. MUTABIS starts with the making of a floral sculpture which directly recalls the ancient ritual of the Sicilian infiorata; then the performance evolves, its key moments captured by Zangirolami’s photographic and video cameras. As the performance evolves, sound becomes ever more present. Electronic vibrations, which almost seem to be part of some non-human language, surpass the performer’s body and extend themselves beyond its limits. This is a vicious circle between the sound and the performers: on the one hand, the sound is generated by the artist’s body; on the other, it directs each of the subsequent movements. Each time the cloak is opened and closed, the sound responds:  sometimes it is weak, sometimes stronger; it becomes the voice of that carnal micro-tension of gestures and flowers.

The relationship that emerges between the Zangirolami’s camera and Vinci/Galesi’s bodies is haptic,2_MUTABIS_still video 02 and mirrors the one the two artists establish with the places with which they dialogue. According to Italian scholar Giuliana Bruno (Harvard University), haptic implies a tactile, physical relationship with space, beyond the act of looking/watching/seeing. Flowers – and Nature – possess a reparatory function, and are symbol of rebirth and energy. With every movement and exchange of energy, some petals or entire flowers from the artists’ cloaks drop off, as a testimony to the performers’ own presence and their dialogue with the territory. On the one hand, the act of passing through and between spaces influences the perception of those very spaces and the self; on the other hand, it inevitably leaves physical and emotional traces of this encounter on both subject and the surfaces crossed. By comparing space to a fabric that changes with time and daily use, Bruno suggests that the individual has an impact on the space in which he/she passes through, and viceversa.

MUTABIS sheds light on forgotten locations, and captures the beauty in things which the Eastern Sicilian community considers unworthy of preservation. Here, performers and viewers become in-betweeners, inside a liminal space of e-motion (to move away) and com-motion (to move together), where the journey between outside and inside, public and private, only amplifies their surprise and feelings.2_MUTABIS_still video 03

All pictures are by Vinci/Galesi and Alessandro Zangirolami, and courtesy of Aa29 Project Room, Milan.

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