The artist Fabio Orecchini talks to Tendon about art, language, disaster, and configurations of matter — issues that he explores in his recent project TERRAEMOTUS. The full installation can be found at https://www.terraemotus.site/ .
How did your upbringing influence your passions for art, poetry, and anthropology?
I am busy these years, I write, I work as a curator editor for an Italian publisher, I raise my two children, I cultivate gardens, olive-oil groves, flowers, I take care of the artistic and performative part of my works, now I want to plant a vineyard, I study when I can. In the recent past I worked for non-profit cultural associations, I was part of the occupy movement (we occupied buildings in the center of rome for artistic purposes and regenerated urban and community spaces), I worked for many years at night (sleeping in the daytime), before that I studied anthropology at university and so on, tracing my life back to my childhood. That was very much linked to the countryside, to memory, an authentic peasant civilization (the same place where I live now); my adolescent years took place in the south-eastern outskirts of Rome, during the 80s, then came the 90s (and everything we know about it), and all this formed who I am now. I cannot distinguish between all these activities, I cannot say I am a poet, an artist, or an anthropologist, or a farmer, or a father. Everything crosses the sphere of politics, language and life experiences. I can’t say what influenced me and led me to become passionate about poetry, anthropology or art: everything is a matrix with uncertain outcomes. I connect my work with the ancient Greek word “Ananke” an expression of the necessity to re-tie threads, as if by threading your hands they would be tied together in a form of prayer or an impediment, a constriction (as is conveyed in the performance of Kate Louise Samuels, my wife, in the installation TerraeMotus). . .
What about your experience with the L’Aquila earthquake inspired you to create?
There are two images (based on true stories) that best demonstrate my necessity to work artistically on experiences from the earthquake: an elderly lady about 90 years old who, trapped for more than 48 hours in the rubble, kept herself alive by knitting without rest, and another, a woman who continued to return illegally to her half destroyed house, sneaking past the barricades, weekly with her cleaning lady. It’s not about “inspiration” but “restitution”, in this particular sense I refer to the restitution of the words: words that are in a state of suspension from life, still-not-dead, or as in the second case described above, of still-not-life, words that are still caged in the ruins of L’Aquila. “Body-words” that come together in a common linguistic body, connecting the alive and the deceased, the survivors and the lost and dispersed in a chthonic universe, underground and under skin together. As written by J. Derrida, it’s in the language, in the body of itself that exercises the experience of the borders of life and death, it’s a process of “spectral virtualization of being” that births word itself. What I’m talking about essentially is a doomed attempt to get closer to the root of the words that gurgle like a cramp in the throat, a word as an infected wound that opens continuously, tracing infinite scars.
What is the connection, if any, between your two works on the L’Aquila earthquake?
My work is composed of a poetic text that is entitled Per Os, published by Sigismundus (a title which in Latin means “by mouth”, and is still found today in medicine instructions, it indicates that the medicine is to be taken orally, when intended poetically it means “for the mouth”, “from inside the mouth”, through the oral cavities, as if word is to be subministered) and the transmedia installation TerraeMotus (which means in Latin “earthquake” but also the “incessant motion of the earth”) that stems by extraction and excavation from the text Per Os. It was written to disappear, to discard itself throughout the installation, resurfacing and recomposing itself in new forms, from the cracks of its voices, bodies and materials that it is composed of.
The same thing happens in the installation/performance, it develops and mutates over time, continuously re-aggregating in different forms, feeding on the emotions of the public who experience the installation and on the relationships established in the different spaces in which it takes place, from the underground crypt of a noble palace of L’Aquila to the abandoned stables in the town of Aliano, from the mobile foundations of the MOLE Antonelliana of Ancona to the suspended rooms of Rialto Sant’Ambrogio Theatre in Rome.
What drove you to choose seismograph, philography, spectrography, x-ray, and cartography as mediums for your art?
I would say that it is a radical attempt, from an ethical matrix (In the sense that E. Levinas gave to the concept of ‘other’) to spill out of “I”, a type of writing (-graphy, from the greek graphē) contaminated and hybridized in its making. We could also imagine this choice as an alternative attempt to “de-materialize the beingness” within graphē (or further still a post human being composed of hyper-technological skin), as if human existence (no longer called a human being) could be represented as an indistinct “verborama” (neologism that I captured from the anthropologist A. Appadurai). It’s a concept that means that the language we use to create our world is immersed in a cultural global flux in which the relationship between real and imaginary, fiction, science-fiction, virtualism and realism, past and future, near and far (locality and globalism), are impossible to divide and to concern.
My choice to use these materials is directed at overcoming the separation of genres and languages, a transpersonal (in that I choose to work with a variety of artists, listen to the narratives shared, true stories have been my work’s starting point) and transmedial approach (not meaning that I use varying media but being traversed by different media). Our times are filled with such language of complexity that “obliges us” (the artists) to work in these transmedial and transpersonal in-between spaces.
How do you think TERRAEMOTUS contributes to and/or deviates from your previous works?
This work follows a long path of linguistic excavation that started with the sound-poetry experience of Dismissione, realized in collaboration with the musical group PANE (published by Luca Sossella, book & CD, 2014) in which broken, cut and electrified verses narrate the vicessitudes of a family hit by the drama of asbestos related sickness. I tried to penetrate the political dynamics of incorporation” (“embodiment” under an anthropological light) that come with this sickness (that attacks the throat, the ability to speak and to breathe) in relation to the crisis of industry and of workerism at the end of the 1900s. In TerraeMotus I continue to dig but in the opposite direction, this time it’s in ascension – digging out with bare hands- an unveiling. Hiding in the folds of the text are all the distortions of a negative epic that have been constructed by public institutions and government which feed off the mechanism of “narrating an everlasting crisis”. Their language is soaked in being good, in heroism, fatalism and false consciousness, made of an ostensive and totalizing use of technical-scientific expression, which reduces the experience of life into a continual exercise of updating data; a facade for lucrative operations perpetrated by entrepreneurs, intermediaries and local and national politicians who are committed on the front line to the “business of Reconstruction”. Despite all the years since the earthquake, many families are still living in the same containers, that were so very celebrated at the time by the Berlusconi government.
Re-emerging from the ruins/rubble, trapped in the cracks in the walls, a sequence of mouths for the missing voices, screams many days old, “fossils of the spoken”.
Courtesy of the artist.