nothing happened

nothing happened
Suite of artworks including:

"nothing happened", 2003-2012
Series of ten objects, broken chalices, pack-thread, variable dimensions

"nothing happened", 2008-2012
Audio-visual, SD 4:3 Stereo, 9’33”

"nothing happened", 2011
Lyrical text

"nothing happened leftover", 2011
Performance video recording, Venezia (Italy), 7th September 2011

"nothing happened leftover", 2011.
Broken chalice, cardboard box, packing paper, pack-thread, ~ 15 x 11 x 9 cm

"nothing happened archetype", 2012
Performance, Cortona (Italy), 2nd June 2012

"nothing happened archetype", 2012
India ink on spolvero paper, one main element 210 x 85 cm plus four mobile parts, variable dimensions.

I've put much effort in making this suite of artworks which completion took 10 years, beside my other projects. This suite is an important milestone in the expression of my thoughts about our society.

The idea

All started in 2003, when I accidentally broke a glass tumbler when I was alone with my thoughts on social injustices, you know, when you see a world that is not how your utopian minds would like it to be.
In such particular moments even a simple event like that can be meaningful: I stared to the broken glass for a while and I saw a symbol in it. The tumbler is an object, used to fulfill our need, our thirst; we use it as much as we want, until it cracks; in the same way people are used for the need of someone else: people who exploit other people, until they crack.
But people are not objects, and when they crack, while a broken tumbler would be trashed, they are instead sent to the “repair service”, because until now repairing was cheaper than swapping, this is why public healthcare do exist: that is simply an economic matter; anyway this is changing and swapping becomes everyday more attractive for the system.

Chalices and vessels are also symbols of many other classical metaphors, as I wrote in the lyrical text. From the point of view of “nothing happened” the substance that the vessel brings to the mouth is the loot and the very blood of the same vessels. Vessels and blood also recall to mind more metaphors, religions and myths: the Blood Libel, the Holy Grail, and above all the immortality.

So I wanted to utter all these thoughts by developing them. I started by fixing the broken glass with glue, but the result was an extremely fragile object, so I decided to reinforce it a bit with some packing thread, which would have also visually emphasized its weak condition.

The making of the objects

In the following years I started to collect glasses with the intention to break them and make more sculptures. I have no idea of how many chalices I have bought these years: many tens, maybe two hundreds: going to secondhand stores and flea markets was one of my pastimes until I was satisfied with the chalices I got. I bought many for each model I liked, because I also wanted to film them in slow-motion crashing onto the ground. The shooting in slow-motion of a breaking glass is not an easy task, and it requires many attempts to get a nice result.

The video I had in mind was conceptually tied to a previous one entitled “aim”, and in fact is its sequel.

When I finished planning the storyline of the audio-visual, I built a “breaking room”: a big wooden box lined of black velvet, with a hole for the slow-motion camera and a high power lighting. I spare you all the details and the attempts I made to achieve the result I wanted.
Then I started a long process of crashing the chalices filming them in slow-motion / carefully picking up the glass debris and clean up the stage for the next session / piecing together the puzzle of debris / fixing the chalices with glue and finally giving them more personality with a become tying of packing thread.
Not all the fixed glasses were nice to see and in many cases it was not even possible to fix them, so I had to repeat this process many times for each model. These ten final objects are the ones that came out good in several tens of attempts. One object for each of the years the making lasted.

These are weak objects: that is coherent with the concept I am going to explain.

The making of the video

The video, as the previous episode “aim”, is based on a music piece. While for “aim” I composed an original music by myself, this time I preferred to confer a classical touch recalling dilapidation using a music conceptually coherent with the visual elements. Since the start I had no doubts that the feeling and the concept of the aria “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” from “La traviata” by Giuseppe Verdi were perfect, so I arranged the score my way with distorted instruments, abstract noises and echoes as I am used to, and slowed it down in order to cover the estimated length of the video: this also conferred the estranging touch recalling a decrepit and dilapidating society.
For the visual elements I filmed in slow-motion two friends for all the necessary visual footage and some more takes of the chalices and another object. As in “aim”, the two characters are a couple, in this case elegantly party dressed and holding champagne chalices.
At that point I had all the materials and footages to create the video, and the composition was simply a matter to put all together the way I had in mind.

The video plot explained

The video starts and ends with a green noise, the same of the previous video “aim”. The video noise, the mangling of visual and audio elements and the lo-fi are an artistic code and have a purpose as I explain in my other article “Exposing the enslaver machine” (Me and video art).

During this initial video noise, and all along in the background, there is a distorted noise soundtrack: in my vision this is the torment of the sacrificed people mourning since the dawn of times.

From this noise do appear the two characters along the music piece, still enveloped by darkness and floating into the noise. The man and the woman are drinking a chalice of champagne, till the last drop. After a tasting while the two let the chalice fall from the hand.

The fall of the chalices is the most romantic part: this is a transient instant where the chalice, vessel symbolizing the body of exploited people, is finally free from the grasp, but just for a short while: being totally exhausted and powerless, the flight can only be downward, toward the ground.
The falling chalice becomes many, other exploited vessels do appear, and finally all these glasses crash on the floor, in darkness, in silence, alone, one after the other. The music has stopped.

All the glass debris are then poured, forming a cascade in the void.

At this point do appear a key element of the video: a pyramid, over which the cascade of glasses is poured, while the music starts again. I made this pyramid by myself, with cardboard and paint, and I have used it in other two photographic artworks, as well as in the other two performances of this suite.
The pyramid is the classic model used in freemasonry, and I use it to symbolize the hierarchical structure of our actual institutional society, thus representing the very mechanism of hierarchical exploitation in itself.

The glass debris are then reprocessed into the pyramid's belly to reborn as fixed chalices. These repaired glasses are like zombies or Frankenstein's monsters, and they slowly and mindlessly walk again toward their new destiny, which is once again as before: to be grabbed by the hands of the exploiters. All never changes.

Here the narration just needed an abrupt end along the glorious musical finale of the ‘Libiamo’ aria.

This video will be followed by another sequel I was planning since its making. “Aim”, “nothing happened” and the next episode will form a trilogy.

All the three episodes are released on-line and are freely distributable.

Until now this video has been rejected by 47 in 50 video art and experimental film festivals: that is an unprecedented rate of 94%! Being not technically nor visually and neither narratively worse than most of my other videos which had a way better rate of success, I believe that it may have touched some very sensitive nerves; talking about classes, hierarchies and powers, I am pretty sure.

Here is the video.

The two performances

The “nothing happened” suite meant much to me, so I promoted it with two public introductory exhibitions, one held in Venice during the 54th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in 2011 with a work in progress, and the other with the complete suite held in 2012 in Cortona, the most ancient Etruscan city-state of Italy and stronghold of the aristocratic power of that times, a meaningful town to talk about power, with the complete suite.

In both events I acted a performance, although I am really reluctant of public appearances, but that was very necessary to complete the conceptual introduction. I am very discreet and modest preferring to keep my privacy: I never go to vernissage parties and I do not want people around saying “Look! An artist!”; that is why I warn not to publish pictures of me and why I performed with the hair covering the face.

Nothing happened leftover

The first performance held in Venice was entitled “nothing happened leftover” and was featuring a chalice I had in excess. The intent of the action was to explain who is crashing the chalice, other than to introduce some symbolic elements.
I played two characters distinguished by different headgears: the “Humble Hat” is the typical straw model used by farmers and symbolizes the people who work to provide for their own needs; the “Haughty Hat” is the pyramid already used in the video and symbolizes the power and the hierarchical society.
I started with the Humble Hat showing the chalice, then I swapped to the Haughty Hat to crash the vessel on the floor. I swapped to the Humble Hat again to perform a merciful act of pity picking up the bag with the broken glass and putting it into a box; I wore white gloves symbolizing the care of Humanity (but also classism for the Haughty character)
This chalice has been symbolically buried: death is in the reality of facts the way with which some people escape their eternal and unavoidable destiny of exploitation.

The resulting object, that I have titled and signed, has been gifted to an onlooker.

Nothing happened archetype

The second performance held in Cortona was entitled “nothing happened archetype” and there I represented some symbolic archetypes about power and possible consequent behaviors.
Also in this case I played the two antithetical characters previously distinguished by the Humble and the Haughty hats, but in this case respectively impersonating the Mankind and the Deity. The performance, mainly consisting in a drawing session, took a very long time, stressing someone a bit, so I put on-line many versions of the record: full, shorter and time-lapse.

The performance featured firstly the Mankind character carefully depicting a self-representation: this act symbolizes the self-consciousness, the proclamation of will and the ability to shape one's own destiny. After the drawing was finished the Mankind left the scene.

Then the Deity came across this act of will of Mankind, immediately finding it undesirable and destabilizing, so it started to swap and add things to subvert its simple functioning and serenity: the Mankind hat on the head is replaced with the Deity hat (the idea of God) and shifted under the feet (Mankind oppression); then it put on the hands of the depicted Mankind two devices of self-domination: on the right hand a primitive caduceus, symbolizing the Power of knowledge and science which makes people addicted to them, and on the left hand an axe, symbolizing the State or the actual hierarchic society where mutinous people are chopped. These two devices are driven by the arms, which in reality symbolize respectively the education and the police; the first one could even be a good tool and the latter should only conduce to the first, but in this case their main function is to distract the Mankind from the real principle: the swapping of the Mankind straw hat with the Deity pyramid, making that depiction essentially a pyramidal-hierarchical machine of exploitation.

Then the Deity leaves the scene before the Mankind would come back. Everybody would consider this mangled Mankind depiction something weird, a monster: this is our actual society.

The Mankind character, once back in the scene, horrified by the vision of this mangled depiction of its destiny, starts to pull out all the things attached by the Deity: the pyramid hat, the caduceus, the axe, but then, sure that soon or later the Deity will be back again to subvert the destiny, it destroys the drawing crushing it.

However the Mankind still has the Humanity white gloves, and repented for that act of rage it starts to pityingly unwrap the crushed drawing trying to restore it as good as possible. This act symbolizes what in reality is the wish to continue life even in disgrace.

I ended the performance titling and signing the crumpled drawing, but this time I wished to keep the work for myself.

(Available also in shorter and time-lapse versions)

The lyrical text

Poems should not be explained, since they are attempts to explain deepest inexplicable inspirational feelings that come out suddenly and soon disappear leaving just the written text as trace of a vanishing dream, sometimes still cryptic for the poets themselves.
Poems are fingerprints of the soul.

Here it is.

      who was drowsy awakes
      others exhaust their time
      who was elsewhere is elsewhere even when is coming back
      and the cycle ends

      the wheel turns
      those who wanted to escape this simple motion have invented complex levers and mechanisms
      mysterious machinations to exploit the strengths of others
      dreaming the perpetual motion
      in the inertness
      as parasites

      living by the others’ soul does not preserve one’s own
      and to elude the logic of entropy is a fruit of the illusion
      to think about procrastination means not to live
      to freeze
      to deny what Atropo provided and let it to decay closed into a drawer
      it is to proclaim one’s own misfortune
      it is the mournful crying of the coward

      the chalice is metaphor of abundance
      of life
      of union in love
      but also of inheritance to be divided
      of loot
      of easy opportunities and of improvident abuse

      the chalices that break falling from the hands are the end of the substance
      the end of the party
      the end of the opportunities after the last drop has been drunk from that cup which represents the impoverishment of oneself and the others

      the wheel turns
      the times are changing
      but this is only a cycle that recurs

      who was drowsy awakes
      since a long time we assist to the prodromes of the transition from the wild era of the intelligence to the intelligence of the wild era

      it is coming the end of an epoch of artificiality
      of sophistication and mystification
      of pollution and degradation
      of wounds that for avidity have been kept open with any stratagem
      wounds that want to close again
      even preserving the scars as evidences of what it has been

      the meaning of the repairing
      desperate attempt of unwillingness to look at reality
      illusion that nothing could change
      that the winning game is not over
      even in the Elysium

      at the end there is no trace of the Self
      but just the vacuity into the useless memorabilia of the extorted fate