In Etude 13, L’invitation au voyage, I introduce Luigi Ghirri and Ferrara in an imaginary way, but totally influenced by Italo Calvino and Gianni Celati, just as my images from the Po-Valley, which I show in this etude in the performance. The conversation between Lies Janssen and Gianni Celati took place in Ferrara, on his request. “Because Ferrara is the city where you still can see clear images from the era where Calvino was strongly attached to, the pre-renaissance-period. It’s the city of Ariosto, from a literature which guided him for a long time, also as model for his own poetics. Ferrara saves still a lot of models, from the urban structure to the fine arts of painting from that time. In Invisible cities one can see that in his way of seeing he is trying to go back to the models of the Italian tradition, till the fifteenth century.”
Celati describes Calvino’s cities as emblems, small medaillons. Imaginary cities, dreams of a structure. A model of life and living together, reflected in architecture and space. That’s the way Calvino wanted to talk about reality, in metaphors and emblems, not directly journalistic, but through the way of imagination. “A direct view on reality is an illusion. Imagination is the only way. To write is not telling your own opinion about the world, but to continue a certain tradition, seeing how you can use the structures and models of this tradition, seeing how you can still use them,” Celati is telling. In Calvino’s as well as in Celati’s work the landscapes are imaginary. But Calvino imagines them, Celati secondary, after he has been observing them and had made his descriptions in notes.
Celati remarks that when you write, you don’t look at the world. “Writing accepts the world is absent. When I write about something, it implicates that what I am writing about is not there at that moment.”
Two bunches of stories from Celati are well known: Narratori delle pianure andQuattro novelle sulle apparenze. In the last one there is this sublime story: The light on the via Emilia.
“Luciano Capelli and me have met different times the advertising painter Emanuele Menini, and often we’ve listened to his opinion about the state of things along the road where he lives, the via Emilia. Emanuele has lived twenty years along that road and because he was also a landscape painter, he knew exactly how light falls from above, how it touches the things and enwraps… Around the air sparkles, almost always with shades, through the fine dust, the remains of burning from the engines…. In that way the falling light from above is catched in a atmosphere layer much thicker and heavier as the other layers, and that causes the falling away of contrasts with dayshadows, or reduce them strongly because of the large spread of light, at random turned off or turned back and surrounding everything in a cloud of flickering and reflection.”
“Listen carefully to me, Luciano. Dark and light are not going well together these days, because of the dirt air, which gives no good shadows, and it enters our lungs. And we try as drunks to do something about it, by adding everywhere exact and fierce colours, which are better visible. But our drunkenness becomes worse more and more, because fierce colours make that you forgot what’s dark and what’s dusky, they make you fool, that’s the way it goes.”
This is exactly what I recognize in writing. There’s no direct view upon reality. Also the Piano Etudes are not descriptions of reality, but models. Each etude is a model to look at the world. In writing it only matters to give form to that model. Whatever the model suggests to claim, it’s not more than a design of a certain view, the memory who has to relate to the reader, the spectator or the listener. That one has to find itself in a text, gets a mind opener, or has to be touched by it, to reach the awareness of its own view. In the performance this design is transmitted through the way of the sences. The receiving or waiting audience is seduced step by step to go into the scene, to recognize the personages as a possible self, to perceive the feelings as authentic, to see the unmanageable relation to reality, by investigating and scanning the model.
pictures: Leo Divendal, Ferrara & Po-Valley, 2002