The artist has just entered the studio, following Gabriella, and his gaze alights on a series of magazines and catalogues the patients use to get ideas for their drawings. There is a fine assortment of volumes from The Masters of Color, a series the artist loves, a publication that seems timeless and lavishes the same care on all its subjects, even painters whose lives were separated by a thousand years. Out of the stack lies the volume on Maso di Banco, a contemporary of Giotto who was very active in Tuscany.
The artist picks up the book and starts to aimlessly leaf through it, starting from the end, as is his wont. A two-page spread appears with The Miracles of Saint Sylvester (paintings in the church of Santa Croce, in Florence). He lingers over a strange but clear image, The Resurrection of the Wizards. In keeping with the medieval tradition, the event is depicted with different chronological phases in the same scene: the various steps of the episode are gathered in a single images, where the characters duplicate or triplicate themselves without hindrance, and without losing the linear flow of the narrative. Saint Sylvester, in the left part of the fresco, can be seen tying the snout of a dragon that has presumably killed the two wizards lying on the ground to the right in the scene. In the center, on the other hand, we again see Saint Sylvester, as he blesses the resuscitated wizards, who kneel repentant before their rescuer. On the far right, a group of onlookers comment on the miracle, as if they were watching a TV series.
It is relatively clear that the whole business has to do with split personality, with disorders of self-perception, so that place – the Psychiatric Hospital of San Colombano in Lambro – is exactly the right one to start to think about a scene where the actors are duplicated and appear, multiple and identical, to narrate different moments of the event.
The artist, perhaps thinking about the possibility of becoming, at least once, the “double” of Maso di Banco (whose frescoes had always seemed incredibly contemporary, in his view), constructs a tableau vivant or a long film sequence in which all the characters remain completely still. He begins to think about all the identical twins he has known, and about how he would be able to control and force into immobility the patients of the hospital, which he had been told could at times be dangerous. But it is above all the dragon that makes its way, probing into the artist’s awareness like a drill, printing itself on his retina and taking up residence in his mind. Soon enough it becomes an obsession: “How can I insert a dragon in the scene? To whom should I turn to get a dragon? Where can I find one? Dragons no longer exist today, after all…”
The artist leaves the hospital and starts to search for the only café that exists at San Colombano: in his head there is always, only, the dragon; he’s no longer even hungry. Just the dragon.
He walks towards the centre of town, and continues to repeat to himself: “But where can I find this dragon? I must be crazy to be looking for a dragon! Dragon, dragon, dragon… and actually, what do dragons really look like, anyway?”
He looks up, gazes to the right, and in a field, with nothing around it, he sees a dead dragon, paws in the air… Is this some kind of a prank? What is a dragon doing there with its paws in the air, dead, in a field, in front of a psychiatric hospital? And, above all, how did it know that someone was looking for it, to make it a character in a film?
Stunned, the artist goes back to the studio, sees Gabriella, and asks her what a dragon is doing out there with its paws in the air… Obviously she has no idea what to tell him, she has never seen the dragon, and the artist begins to think it is all a hallucination, or something that for some reason only he can see. He returns to the field with his camera and the dragon is still there. He takes pictures, returns to the studio and shows them to Gabriella. She still cannot believe it.
The next day, the artist discovers that some parade floats had been dismantled in the field, and that the dragon was probably part of one of those floats… Suddenly it disappears, knocked down by somebody and disposed of, who knows where.
The film composed of one single long shot comprising various episodes, with single and double characters, and with the Dragon killed by the Saint, will probably never be edited, but for the artist this is not very important, at this point. What seems more important to him now is the sensation of having learned to follow signs, to see the manifestation of his obsessions. Never do anything that is not preceded by a vision. Can matter be shaped, or are we just part of a perfect design in which we take part, not without amazement?
Translated from Italian by Steve Piccolo
Lu Cafausu is a collaborative art project initiated by Emilio Fantin, Luigi Negro, Giancarlo Norese, and Cesare Pietroiusti in 2006, then joined by Luigi Presicce in 2010. Lu Cafausu, an old coffeehouse located in a small town in the south of Italy, has become the inspiration for stories, performances and actions in different European and American cities.