The artist converses with Carmelo Bene and his imagery in the Torre Matta of Otranto
Rä di Martino in recent months he has explored theCarmelo Bene Archive kept in the Convitto Palmieri in Lecce, where documentary materials are preserved that testify to the intense intellectual work of the Master consisting of videos, audio tracks, photographs, manuscripts and about six thousand volumes of his personal library once housed in the Roman house of Bene.
The result of this path – of knowledge, study and reworking that led to the genesis of a video installation – is hosted in the Torre Matta of the Adriatic city, chosen as the city of choice by Carmelo Bene for many years.
For this occasion we are publishing the texts of the two curators of the exhibition, Luigi De Luca and Brizia Minerva –
Where he dies, he sings
Text by Brizia Minerva
Where he dies, he sings is an exhibition project born from the exploration of the artist Rä di Martino of the Carmelo Bene Archive. From this immersive relationship and comparison the artist has developed a cycle of works: a video installation conceived inside the Torre Matta in Otranto, conceived starting from some writings of the actor; a photographic series inspired by the theater fund, an artist’s book published by Humboldt, with photographs of some of the most used books by Carmelo Bene.
As Jacques Deridda remembers Freudian (Archive sickness, a Freudian impression, Naples 1996), each archive is foundation and detritus. Memory and oblivion. Place of the immemorial or immemorial Carmelo Bene would say, an adjective that he loved to use to express the dimension of his work, the discomfort and disturbance in the impossibility of remembering what is unforgettable of the highest and most significant acts of art and life.
If then, the nature of any archive is spectral a priori, since “neither present nor absent, in flesh and blood, neither visible nor invisible, but a trace that always refers to another whose gaze could not be crossed” (Deridda, 1996, p. 110), will be the artistic language to build a possible dialogue between being and nothingness. From here the work of Rä di Martino develops, called not to tell or interpret Carmelo Bene’s work, but to rewrite it, reinvent it and put it back into play.
The choice of an artist like Rä di Martino was motivated by her ability to penetrate the fabric of cultural history, to investigate the images of cinema, television and the web, in continuous dialogue with the fictional and yet pervasive world they produce. orchestrating a narrative that is both artistic and analytical.
To do this he uses different languages and registers linked to his poetics, the relationship between real and virtual, time and memory.
Many times in his work he has interacted with contemporary ruins, disused and residual architecture No More Stars (2011), Stand-in (2017), historical paradigms of places and people, protagonists and stories of the pop imaginary Untitled (Marilyn) (2004-2011), Poor, Poor Jerry (2017) capturing its estrangement and suspension. In exploring Carmelo Bene’s archive, the artist lets himself be guided by the interrupted elements, silent or marginal, sought in the stratified multitude of documents, photographs, films and tapes, writings and scene sheets. A lot of material that he led in multiple directions. Who “wasn’t” Carmelo Bene? How to tell that figure so carved in the imagination and with an extreme personality whose sensitivity has revealed one of the most innovative artists of our time? How to deal with this memory? The myth of him is still alive. His work, twenty years after his death, amazes and confuses but magnetically attracts as a sort of mystery rite.
Where he dies, he sings
Video installation, 16 minutes
Lino Musella voice
Simone Pappalardo audio effects
VFX Gianni Caratelli
Inspired by Carmelo Bene’s diaries with notes on the vampire, drafted for an opera in two acts never made, Rä di Martino creates a video installation, a portrait of the actor’s ghost, which reappears from somewhere else to open his notebook and read the writings.
The title derives from a phrase by Carmelo Bene contained in the notebooks, paradigmatic not only for its musicality but also because it is based on the theoretical framework that characterizes the work whose fundamental dichotomy is between being and representing, image and sound. The vampire therefore as a metaphor for the condition of the actor comparable to the restlessness of the undead. It is starting from his death from his farewell to the world, therefore of the ego, that the non-actor is, demonstrating the emptiness of him the nothingness of him to become sound, hairdryerable to tell the inside.
The presence of Carmelo Bene manifests itself thanks to a 3D reconstruction of his image and voice modeled on that of the actor Lino Musella and manipulated with audio effects that make it electronic and transform the melody of the words into notes, becoming music. The result is a musicality closely linked to the body of the sound. Process tuned and in connection with the research conducted by Carmelo Bene on his own voice through sophisticated amplification and playback instruments. Using techniques related to the language and illusory mechanisms of cinema and television, Rä di Martino implements a real work of writing and editing with the aim of producing an image capable of evoking presences and narratives that play with reality and its representation.
The virtuality of the video is used by the artist as a mode of dislocation of the representation, a dimension in which the figure of the great actor, in turn an actor and media machine capable of moving inside and against the television bass, becomes abstract and pop at the same time. . Di Martino through a “minoration” and desecration of the work of Carmelo Bene, reactivates the remains of an imaginary that was very strong. The synchronized projection on seven monitors of sound and voice images make up a whole in which Bene reappears at alternating rhythms, referring to the fragmentary nature of the text. While one figure of the actor comes alive and talks, the other waits while a music produced by the voice is transformed into sound, creating a special electronic harmony.
The figure of the actor appears immersed in the darkness of an indefinite space wrapped in a nostalgic aura. Perhaps the signs of a past life. Perhaps his being became something else, a dematerialized image. The undead Carmelo Bene and the infinity of selflessness.
Text by Luigi De Luca –
In Carmelo Bene’s intentions, the “immemorial” should have been in Otranto, for future reference. Things went a little differently than Carmelo had imagined. Now the archive is in Lecce and of Carmelo in Otranto all that remains is the absence. His spiritual heritage took the form of an unheard desire: that of the impossible return to Otranto where everything began and ends. It is for this reason that we asked Ra Di Martino to imagine his work in Otranto. The artist is used to working on archives, but here the undertaking is more difficult because it is not a question of working on memory but on its opposite, on the unexpressed, on the unspoken on the not yet happened. Carmelo’s notes on what should have been an opera in two acts entitled “The Vampire” offer the inspiration to the video artist for a virtual staging on the poetics of Carmelo’s absence, a metaphor for theater but also for the life of he. Seven screens in synchrony bring out from the timeless darkness of the Torre Matta di Otranto the images of a shimmering ghost of a young Carmel reciting a text never represented. It is a 16-minute video which in the installation in the spaces of the Torre Matta takes on the character of a site-specific work. An installation capable of giving shape to what we have called the unheard desire to return to Otranto.
Paraphrasing Mahler we could say that it is not a question of bringing Carmelo’s Ashes back to Otranto but the fire that still smolders under the ashes and is capable of producing a new flame and new meaning.
Ra Di Martino’s work takes a decisive step in this direction. Let’s say that art succeeds where neither Carmelo’s will nor his executors had succeeded.
In the context of time and space without the Torre Matta, “The restlessness of the undead” is our restlessness as condemned to consumerism and fashions, to “counting money”, habits to a “lazy loyalty” couch potato. Ultimately of condemned to ridicule; unable to reach the tragic, we just have to participate in the staging of an aesthetic of death that Ra Di Martino faithfully lays in front of the “magical foam of a wonderful sea” (…) in front of “our open window facing desolate seas. And the pearly foam of a fairy land “. (Carmelo Bene “The Vampire”). In Otranto, in fact.