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.
Uno specchio per cinque (A mirror for five) is the title of a series of five episodes of a story conceived and written by the artist group Lu Cafausu as if it were the script of a film for which the five members are the collective director.
Each episode’s narrative is based on the themes of Lu Cafausu’s research: reflections on death, the relationship between the living and the soil, experimental art education, and the paradoxical nature of ordinary daily life. The starting point of the film is an attempt by the five artists to observe their own practice and life.
In the first episode, they tell the story of how Lu Cafausu was invited to Zurich to lead the opening celebration of the Dada Centennial at the legendary Cabaret Voltaire. During the event, Lu Cafausu invited non-professional actors to participate in a performance game where they enacted the personal obsessions of the five group members, using the camera as a mirror.
In the crypt of Cabaret Voltaire, a set will be built with the aim of shooting the first scene of a film. In this scene five non-professional actors will be invited to enact the personal obsessions of the five members of “Lu Cafausu” who will take the role of directors. The audience will be very close to the action and, at times, inevitably become part of it. Through this film, the five artists will be confronted with their own selves, their mirrored images, and their contradictions.View Full Response
Episode 1: Uno specchio per cinque (A mirror for five)
In the crypt of Cabaret Voltaire, a set will be built with the aim of shooting the first scene of a film. In this scene five non-professional actors will be invited to enact the personal obsessions of the five members of “Lu Cafausu” who will take the role of directors. The audience will be very close to the action and, at times, inevitably become part of it. Through this film, the five artists will be confronted with their own selves, their mirrored images, and their contradictions.
Part 1: Giancarlo’s lost thoughts
“There are three things I really should never forget. First, I have no obsessions. Second, each portrait of us has to be split into five egos. And third . . . already forgotten, sorry. To be more precise in what I have to say, I must start by depicting some of the images that are wandering in my mind as follows. Please have a seat.”
“Here we are: the photo of Jean, shot by Man. In this case, Man the photographer reveals Jean the poet who had portrayed himself using a wire. Jean’s head hangs from the ceiling (I mean, a portrait of his head made of iron wire), and it is so nimbly twisted as if it were a brain that casts its shadow, first on the head of the poet and then on the backdrop. The two subjects, the poet and his wire head, are merged in the same shadow. So the poet and the wire, the thoughts and their representation are now made of a single matter, as you can see.”
“The right hand of Salvador — in the picture taken by Arnold — seems to be grasping at his own head. Or probably not; he’s just going to cover his face. The painter is starting to recognize in the twists, knots and bows of a wire (here too) floating in the air, the figure of a very, very desirable woman caught in the act of undressing: a woman he will never be able to possess because she is made of pure desire, and precisely for this reason bears witness to a failure that is even more unbearable for an artist.”
“Eventually, in spite of its old-fashioned allure, the last image comes from the present. I can recognize our friend Flavio with his Black Magic digital camera on the left, and Luigi N. who holds that wire as if it were a clear, fluid skeleton to be subsequently dressed on stage. He looks at me, while the other stares at him. He doesn’t like this portrait at all, and has trouble identifying with it, maybe because he thinks his inner essence is revealed, with the inside in place of the outside, or because the round shapes of this new superimposed body have clearly feminine overtones.”
Part 2: The Doubles
Una and Adrian have designed a set that is halfway between a ziggurat and a boxing ring at the center of the crypt. It is covered in copper sheeting, and the column has been incorporated into the set along with a bed, a table, a lamp, and a chair. There won’t be enough room for all the people who will fill the space, but we don’t care. The multitude starts to enter the crypt; people sitting everywhere. We decide to completely ignore the audience.
The action begins; we give our doubles orders. Our voices are supposed to guide the movements of the actors: They should be firm, decisive, and clearly audible, but you cannot hear a word. The audience is dazed, noisy at times, but they don’t exist, as we said, anyway.
The alter ego of Luigi P. carefully gets ready for the day, dressing with extreme attention to detail: shirt, tuxedo, white gloves, even a top hat. Finally there is a mirror in which to examine his reflection, but instead the surface bears a reproduction of the Origine du monde by Courbet.
The second Cesare walks, looking back. His attention is captured only by specimens of the female gender, who are slowly scrutinized from toe to head, with a vertical movement of the gaze that lingers over precise anatomical parts. He is obsessed with feet and,he hasn’t the slightest interest in any other objective.
Emilio’s substitute strips before going to bed, but he has to do it according to a particular procedure. After having made a triangular opening by slightly moving the sheet and blanket with a single leap then feet together, he has to land exactly in the space he has just created. If he fails in this attempt he makes on a nightly basis, his dreams will be dreadful.
The other Luigi N. has a marvelous pregnant female body, but that doesn’t matter; it’s better, actually. He grips a big bundle of wires and cords, attempting to untangle them, but the more he tries the more the snarl seems to take on a life of its own, twisting, muddling itself, eluding any attempt to restore order, any rule or any control, almost like a metaphor of life.
The fake Giancarlo has what we can assume is an intolerance, or an idiosyncrasy, regarding certain substances contained in foods. He reads and re-reads the ingredients listed on a box of cookies before eating them. He keeps on reading as he chews, and at times seems to raise his voice as if to summon other possible unstated ingredients, as if to unmask a deception, acting out an archaic ritual that seems endless and contains both disbelief and enchantment.
The five actions described above continue, repeating, for over two hours. In spite of the fact that they are clearly bizarre, as time passes they seem to become “real,” no longer staged enactments. Or maybe it is the audience, including the dozens of people who cannot enter and see almost nothing, that becomes unreal, just as the obsessions of the evening are unreal, of Cabaret Voltaire, of the centennial of the first apparition of the world of Dada. As you know, reality and its double are intertwined together, with strings.
Part 3: Coincidences
Fig. 1, Jean Cocteau portrayed by Man Ray, Paris 1928. Fig. 2, Salvador Dalí photographed by Arnold Newman, New York 1951.
Fig. 3, Flavio Bonetti and Luigi Negro instagrammed by Giancarlo Norese, Zurich 2016.
Translated from Italian by Steve Piccolo
Anna Vaniglia began talking on the threshold of a public restroom, at the intersection of three completely empty corridors. The timbre of her voice was tight, muffled, punctuated by coughs and the sickening odor of her sweat. The monologue cloned itself, bouncing off the ceiling in a subtle multitude of echoes. I shut the door (it seemed to be made of cardboard) leaving her outside. The restroom stank of ammonia. Her words slid in through the gaps in the doorframe. The sound filled up every space.View Full Response
Episode 2: Anna Vaniglia
The female off-screen voice has a French accent and a slight leaning towards the dialect of Salento. The voice is heard over closeups of a woman in labor, a perspiring tattooed body giving birth at night in a poorly lit domestic setting.
Anna Vaniglia began talking on the threshold of a public restroom, at the intersection of three completely empty corridors. The timbre of her voice was tight, muffled, punctuated by coughs and the sickening odor of her sweat. The monologue cloned itself, bouncing off the ceiling in a subtle multitude of echoes. I shut the door (it seemed to be made of cardboard) leaving her outside. The restroom stank of ammonia. Her words slid in through the gaps in the doorframe. The sound filled up every space. She was six months along, intestines twisting into inextricable tangles of feelings and thoughts loaded with contradictions. I was on the edge of a finitude, only apparently of birth, a start that had all the symptoms of an end. Or vice versa, I can’t remember so well anymore.
What I do recall with certainty is that those sounds that emerged from Anna’s mouth paralyzed me, taking me back to when I had listened to another case of incoherent confabulation under the portico of an apartment building in Bologna. It was the place in which I had decided to live: Ennio the boozer tossed and turned restlessly, muttering through the night, spitting out diphthongs, vowels and saliva; only at times, when the three factors came together, did he make any sense. There was a difference though, namely that Anna Vaniglia seemed to be flailing in an attempt to swim. Yes, that’s it: her words issued from her mouth like cotton batting laden with water or powder. Technically speaking, the fact was that Ms. Vaniglia was supposed to state, that very morning (in an infinite variety of possibilities) her “position of neutrality” regarding the contract presented in front of a full house of labor union reps, employees and associations of extinction-threatened managers. Everyone knew that she wouldn’t be able to get a word in edgewise until the bitter end.
It’s no mean feat to take a dump while someone – someone you don’t even know very well – is shouting, nervously trying to get your attention outside the bathroom door. I had become constipated as well. I was tired, exhausted, and it still wasn’t 10 o’clock in the morning.
From this point on the scenes overlap, coinciding more or less with what the voice narrates in a caption-like way
“CAN’T HEAR YOU”
“I CAN’T HEAR YOU, ANNA, WAIT, I C-A-N-N-O-T H-E-A-R YOU!”
Having said this I flushed the toilet and began to wash my hands, trying in vain to throw up.
Instead, I heard Anna thrust her words with a fist on the door, dragging on with that suffocating soliloquy, from which increasingly uncertain and, towards the end, even abstract concepts emerged. I could sense it from the monotonous sound of her voice, its paralyzingly boring lack of prosody. It was like entering a labyrinth you never would have imagined finding inside the restroom of a public institution on a bright, sunny day. Like being back inside one of those recurring bad dreams I used to have on early summer afternoons in my parents’ house. I would melt into a sofa with scratchy upholstery, gaze into the garden and benumb myself thinking about the exams I still had to take. I drowned, plunged into mazes of currents and long watery wavelengths, trying to say something to someone, my ears filling up, but not enough to let me step back from the words. Nevertheless, undaunted, I continued to the point of suffocation. It came to mind that just a few moments earlier I was so young that I still sniffed bread and listened to the Cure in the nude. In the bathroom I often made faces at my reflection in the mirror; I remember licking my own skin, which in the sunshine had the taste of incense. But only in the summer; in the winter it was like licking the skin of a sick lemon. Now when I’m in front of the mirror I avoid swapping gazes with someone I barely know. Now when I’m in front of a mirror, in a public restroom, for example, sometimes I throw up, and more often I try to weep. Though I can tell you something: it is really not that easy to do.
The shouts of Giacomo Vinci, trade unionist from Reggio Emilia, could already be heard in the elevator; ritual, useless, recited shouting, a collective enactment where everyone was forced to pretend to represent something, to be interested in something. Most of the players seemed to be copying each other in terms of attitude, tone, loudness. The others seemed like onlookers, by chance or by force, all dreaming about being somewhere else. I was one of them, though actually I never stayed long in that hall, I hadn’t the slightest obligation to be there, but it was no worse than my usual state. The room I was forced to stay in was mysterious. Every morning it reeked of detergent, though it looked as if no living soul had ever been there. The dust had gathered for months, I left it there on purpose, for my own investigative curiosity. I stared all day at the computer, interacting with it a little, but most of the time I stared at the wall out front; in the spring the sun joined forces with the blinds to make the form of a penis. Otherwise I must say there was no appealing reason to even look out the skyblue window that faced a busy traffic artery; when I wasn’t listening to the desperate wail of the cars, I was enthralled by the histrionic flights of Giacomo Vinci and his imitators. At that point I put on my headphones and listened to The Wrong Child by REM. A depressing song, but the only one available offline.
I’ve watched the children come and go
A late long march into spring
I sit and watch those children
Jump in the tall grass
Leap the sprinkler
Walk in the ground
Bicycle clothespin spokes
The sound, the smell of swingset hands
I will try to sing a happy song
I’ll try and make a happy game to play
Come play with me I whispered to my new found friend
Tell me what it’s like to go outside
I’ve never been
Tell me what it’s like to just go outside
I’ve never been
And I never will
And I’m not supposed to be like this
I’m not supposed to be like this
But it’s okay
Hey those kids are looking at me
I told my friend myself
Those kids are looking at me
They’re laughing and they’re running over here
They’re laughing and they’re running over here
What do I do?
What can I do?
What should I do?
What do I say?
What can I say?
I said I’m not supposed to be like this
Let’s try to find a happy game to play
Let’s try to find a happy game to play
I’m not supposed to be like this
But it’s okay, okay
Translated from Italian by Steve Piccolo
Phrases shift by on the lower part of the screen, which might seem like subtitles at first glance; actually they are phrases written in pencil, with a nervous hand, like notes hastily jotted down. After a while it becomes clear that these strange subtitles have nothing to do with the off-screen dialogue; they are clearly not its transcription, nor are they its translation into another language.View Full Response
Episode 3a: The Screen Will Be White
The screen will be white, and will remain so throughout the scene. Two voices, M and S, are engaged in a dialogue that at times sounds intimate, at times is interrupted by long pauses or instead by subdued noises and whispers that are hard to decipher. Phrases shift by on the lower part of the screen, which might seem like subtitles at first glance; actually they are phrases written in pencil, with a nervous hand, like notes hastily jotted down. After a while it becomes clear that these strange subtitles have nothing to do with the off-screen dialogue; they are clearly not its transcription, nor are they its translation into another language. Instead, they seem like instructions given to the viewers; or hypotheses of interpretation; or hints at motivations and theories that according to the artist (the filmmaker) come prior to and determine the work (the film).
It is not clear what the story is. Many elements, in fact, would seem to persuade the viewer to think that the story, seen as a sequential narrative development, has been denied as a possibility here. The white screen clearly points to invisibility, or perhaps an entropy of the narrative image, just as “white noise” is a sum of sounds that become indistinct. The voices are captured in separate moments: probably these are segments of recordings made by the two in different situations and moments over a rather long period of time. The idea of the recordings came from M, the result of an obstinate belief that the best way to work through a difficulty (any kind of difficulty) is to observe it through the mediation of an artistic language – represented here by the simple presence of an activated recorder. S seems to put up with this situation with slight irritation – as if in this way a useless filter had been imposed on their experience. At times S seems amused, though, almost relieved by the expression of weakness of which M offers a glimpse, in a way that seems childish, a bit awkward, a bit thoughtless.
S: “Why do you want to make it? And why is this supposed to be erotic?”
“I would like to explore the fact that words can be vehicles of excitement for the listener, but also for us, in our dialogue. Between the real experience and the construction of a film, I would like to make a flow pass that can bring desiring energy and meaning to one and the other.”
“Say it more clearly: you want to transform reality into art, to anesthetize the parts that hurt you: you want to outflank reality, to take it by surprise, to bypass it. Sometimes I think this prevents you from really living.”
“I wish it was the opposite, I would like… vitality to be fed by awareness, by the ability to change vantage point, by a dance we do around it…”
The recording continues, but the voices are so low you can’t understand the words anymore; maybe they are not even words, just slightly audible sounds.
M speaks again; the background noise sounds like a car, running at a steady speed: “…now, what happened with you? This is the first time I’ve heard that an erotic game of submission was experienced, by the person who was topping me, with a high degree of excitement. I could sense your ability to act, to recite, to play (in English in the original text) the dominant role, which was surprising. You know, with other people I always felt like things were forced, a false situation, constructed just for my benefit; and that made me lose the whole fantasy… I was surprised by how easily it came to you, by how I could see that you felt like the role was ‘yours’… Maybe that is also why I suggested that we work together on this film.”
S: “But how does this interact, I mean how do I interact, with your sense of guilt?”
M: Softly, almost murmuring to self: “The sense of guilt…”
“OK, sorry. What they teach you, from when you are a teenager, is to belittle attitudes of submission. There is a deep sense of guilt that comes before the erotic dimension, and has to do with masculine identity itself. You aren’t really a man if you get excited by submitting.”
“And you believe that?”
“I would like to free myself of that belief, but I am not really free to do so: this, for example, is the first time I have talked about it in front of a recorder… But down inside I think that this contradiction of mine – the shame regarding something that attracts me; the excitement and inhibition that reveal themselves and grow together – has contributed to develop particular forms of sensitivity, and of attention with respect to my own thought mechanisms. The negotiation between such a secret thought, so charged with excitement, and the desire to be normal, and to be not necessarily like others, but definitely with others, has always taken place in solitude, and has developed an aptitude for self-analysis that has made me become an artist.”
“You still haven’t answered my question.”
“…You and my sense of guilt… at the start it was traumatic. Your voice that said certain things got into my head and woke up ghosts that seemed to have a diabolical power.”
“What did my voice say?”
“Er… I don’t remember the exact phrases… The meaning was, let’s say… a game… A situation in which (here the tone of M’s voice changes slightly, and gets a bit more guttural. The background noise has subsided to a great extent, and the dialogue seems to be happening in a room)… you were a professor and I was a student, clearly very excited but… I mean, at the same time, overpowered by desires, wishes, whims, the… moods of this… of his professor. The student had to kneel before you, and… to use the tongue, exactly where and how you ordered.”
The voice of S also changes tone, getting slower and more provocatively cutting: “Remember, I still haven’t given you permission to do that. Keep very much in mind the fact that it is a privilege if I let you touch me with that tongue of yours, and if I agree to get pleasure from your gesture, from the contact of my body with yours. Before I give you permission to lick me I want to hear the words, and you have to say them well, clearly, to make me understand. You can recite them, if necessary; you have to convince me and please me, with their meaning and also with their sound. I certainly hope you have thoroughly studied what interests me…”
“There, that was incredible… That voice, your voice… has expressed in its very own way… I did not construct the scene; maybe you were encouraged by my attitude, but you constructed the scene. It was the first time something of the kind had happened to me. That night I was very upset; the excitement was overwhelmed by fear… the terror of being possessed by ghosts. I had always created images in my head, how and when I wanted to. And instead in that moment I felt that the images were no longer the same, and they moved in reality, on their own, they no longer depended on me. I was afraid of losing control over the line that separates the two worlds, inner and outer, imaginary and real.”
(END OF FIRST PART OF EPISODE 3 in the series by Lu Cafausu)
Translated from Italian by Steve Piccolo
“I have always created and used submissive sexual fantasies – M will keep talking, seeming somewhat reassured – in solitude, but at the same time I have always thought that the possibility of sharing them with someone else might be liberating, unburdening. The fact that you have shown me my own phantoms as a production independent of myself made me feel as if a new way of working them out without being overwhelmed had become available to me: to witness them from the outside, together with you, on a par with you. In short, to make a film together.”View Full Response
Episode 3b: The Screen Will Be White
“I have always created and used submissive sexual fantasies – M will keep talking, seeming somewhat reassured – in solitude, but at the same time I have always thought that the possibility of sharing them with someone else might be liberating, unburdening. The fact that you have shown me my own phantoms as a production independent of myself made me feel as if a new way of working them out without being overwhelmed had become available to me: to witness them from the outside, together with you, on a par with you. In short, to make a film together.”
Voice of S: “Yes, that’s clear, but this film is interesting only if in practice this gap you continue to devise – which separates reality from its representation – can be ‘bridged’ so we are no longer in the situation of people staging something ‘from the outside,’ but in the position of the subjects of the story, directly and completely inside their dynamics. And you know very well that it has to be like that.”
“You emphasize the word ‘position.’ I have the impression you’re trying to tell me something…”
“Indeed, I want to tell you that your position now has to be on your knees before me, and not because it’s in the script, but because I want it, and I am giving you an order.”
At this point viewers of the film will hear a faint sound, like bodies moving.
The voice of S resumes: “You know the spot. First you have to lick me, keeping your tongue rather wide, as if you were licking a surface, slowly, gently… your tongue should not be stiff, it should move smoothly, fluidly. There, like that… at length… slowly (the voice of S will become gradually more sporadic, alternating with deep breaths; it will be clear to the view that S is experience building pleasure). Then… you have to start to touch with the tip of your tongue… right there… but just a hint, for now, and after a while… now… you have to speed up the movement, make it rhythmical, let me feel how you go over and under, from one side to the other… don’t stop… don’t stop…”
M’s voice will be muffled, it will be hard to understand what he is saying: “I am convinced that the tongue… feels pleasure when it pronounces words, because pronunciation is associated with a contact, an encounter with the inside of the teeth… Speaking brings erotic pleasure, touching yourself with the tongue… it is like the way I’m licking you, now… to feel the tip of my tongue that touches you, where there is this little obstacle… which the tongue finds, and then… passes over… to speak… to touch you… do you understand? It is important… the symbolic meets the sensitive… and both have pleasure… us…”
“Keep going, don’t stop… you can talk, but don’t stop licking…”
During a short break in the dialogue, on the white screen, somewhat surprisingly, a phrase from a phonetics manual appears.
In the production of consonant sounds the air moves outward through a kind of obstacle course created by different configurations of the speech organs, with narrow passageways or occlusions. The encounter between the expiratory flow and these obstacles is what produces the typical sound of each phoneme. Without these obstacles, the expiration is utterly silent.”
“If you want to have a dialogue – it will seem as if S has begun to speak in a more linear way – that is as exciting for the listener as it is for us, first of all you will have to explore the aural aspects: you can whisper, as I am doing now, producing words without using your vocal cords, but making it easy to hear the sound produced by the movement of the tongue that seems to struggle to separate from the palate and, for example, makes a little clack; a sound that expresses sensuality not just in the ear that hears it, but also in the mouth: the idea of reproducing that clack makes the viewer’s mouth water. Then we could suggest images, for example by describing what is happening now: you, kneeling in front of me, licking me precisely in… the right spot. But you will never be able to produce a film theory that is exciting for the listener.”
M will speak, seeming more at ease, more confident: “A child very quickly learns the concept of the forbidden: he is told that certain things cannot be touched, that others cannot be done: that the mother’s body is not always available to him. Every prohibition starts with a word that expresses a denial: ‘No!’ ‘Don’t…’ Every prohibition is an act of speech, an interdiction.
So-called perversion is the erotization of interdiction, the tendency to link sexual desire to the prohibition precisely of what is desired: to get excited by the verbal expression of a prohibition.”
“In effect it excites me very much to see that you desire me, and to play with that desire of yours, to keep you at a distance, to forbid you to touch me: my words, spoken in a certain way, excite you and me even more.”
“Yes, we can reach pleasure through physical contact; but if we make good use of the tongue, we can also get enjoyment from listening to, or uttering, words that express the prohibition of that contact.”
“And does this have something to do with our film?”
“I think so. You said it is impossible to manage to lick the sensitive parts of viewers, to make them feel the physical nature of the work. That’s true. But if the film manages to play with their desire to enter the work and to understand it, provoking that desire and then expressing its prohibition (‘You cannot see!’), we might increase their arousal.”
On the screen, still completely white, a phrase will appear: Avant-garde art has attempted to go beyond the erotization of the ‘no!’ and the gap between viewer and work; it has attempted to make the encounter between languages and subjects real, authentic and positive.”
“I like your… tongue. But now be quiet, and continue to lick my pussy.”
Translated from Italian by Steve Piccolo
Lots of strange people, in worn-out overalls and t-shirts, wander along the tree-lined lanes around the hospital. Some wear slippers, others sneakers, some are wrapped in bathrobes. No one is dressed up like Napoleon. Almost all the strollers have some-yellowed fingers. (Now and then shouting is heard.)View Full Response
Episode 4: The resurrection of the wizards
Lots of strange people, in worn-out overalls and t-shirts, wander along the tree-lined lanes around the hospital. Some wear slippers, others sneakers, some are wrapped in bathrobes. No one is dressed up like Napoleon. Almost all the strollers have some-yellowed fingers. (Now and then shouting is heard.)
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
The armor is so heavy that to tie his shoes the knight has to press his head against the wall, to keep from toppling over. There’s no time. The horse is thinking about making a break for it as dense smoke rises all around. Before the horse can stir its limbs and gallop away, the knight grabs the reins, sticks the untied shoe in the stirrup and pushes down to dash forward.View Full Response
Episode 5: Battle
The armor is so heavy that to tie his shoes the knight has to press his head against the wall, to keep from toppling over. There’s no time. The horse is thinking about making a break for it as dense smoke rises all around. Before the horse can stir its limbs and gallop away, the knight grabs the reins, sticks the untied shoe in the stirrup and pushes down to dash forward.
(Sequence shot, 2 minutes, slow motion): The horse gazes fisheyes at him as the shoelaces slip into the joint of the armor at the height of the knight’s knee. Inevitably the wretch slumps awkwardly onto the horse, which raises its eyes to the heavens. The result is a sort of Guernica with a big final thud. The smoke mingles with a dusty cloud of horsehair, whinnying and armor shards.
The bugler looks for the opening at mouth height in the carinated helmet, trying to stick in the mouthpiece and sound the charge, but it gets stuck between the little bars. He can touch the mouthpiece with his tongue, but blowing is impossible. Smoke is wrapping everything at this point, penetrating his nostrils.
(Close-up, slow motion): a series of sneezes make his nostrils shake, which in contact with the mouthpiece produce a feeble sound like “fiiiuuuu, fiiiuuuu, fiiiuuuu.” Three blasts, the signal for retreat. While the knight, after arduously remounting his steed, unaware, rushes forward, the troops – far from disappointed – pull back.
(Panoramic): From the double lancets of the room she gazes into the distance and dreams of nights spent with the one who loves her. She loves him unconditionally. She thinks back on the last time, in which they reached the limits of the speakable. She was hanging from the greasy pole, so was he, right behind her, trying to lick her but not managing, in a game of pure airborne eroticism. Straining to stretch the tongue, a mockery of a cramp stiffened that organ like a bird’s beak.
The horse, observing from below, can imagine what will surely happen shortly thereafter, something he would love to avoid, with all his heart: the rope that holds the knight unravels and lengthens scarily. The knight manages to clutch at the leg of the damsel who continues to spin. Now the rope that sustains the beauty, due to the excessive weight (let’s not forget the armor) unwinds, but incredibly it does not snap. The maiden, kicking at her lover as he tugs her down even further, squeals and flails, trying to get a grip on something to stop the plunge. And what does she find? Why the horse’s mane! (The horse tries to bite her hand.) The trio is now racing at high speed, as if competing in the asskicker contest, but the situation is hopeless…
I wonder if that unlucky dragon found by Luigi Presicce was the tumefied horse.
(Soundtrack): A rock band bangs it out, distortion and kick drums. Something more than mere disorder. The sound comes from the Toyota, a woman clatters away rapidly on heels, hands plugging ears. A mouse races after her. Birds beat a hasty retreat. From the trunk, amidst the din, one seems to hear a cry for help: it is the beloved who is about to give birth but has the urge to throw up and doesn’t know which way to push. The Toyota rocks and shudders: the traffic cop calls the tow truck: the vehicle cannot remain there. The arrogant tow truck with the outlaw Toyota, the delinquent Toyota with the bouncing trunk, the flailing trunk with the screaming woman in labor, the vomiting woman with the burgeoning belly, the belly ball-swelled with the baby, all depart for the junkyard.
(Fixed shot): The beloved fixes dinner with her hands, pork in a pressure cooker. To the side, she prepares blueberry sauce and slices of toasted polenta. She has to cut everything into little pieces because of the bars of the helmet, at mouth height.
(Flashback): The intermittent wailing suddenly stops and a bouncing baby boy tumbles out of the Toyota. To avoid stomping on it the horse slams on the breaks and gets stuck in the asphalt: the knight lurches and is shot forward. The baby crawls on all fours over to the bugle and with inborn awareness manages to produce a triple “fiiiuuu.” Another immediate retreat for the troops who finally meet their captain (the knight) who, however, is now a missile soaring over their heads, always in the opposite direction. We discover that there are two captains, and two suits of armor, both flying, one spinning around the greasy pole, the other tracing perfect ballistic trajectories.
(POV of the blueberry sauce): the polenta has fallen in love with the knight and the mouse takes advantage of the distraction to gobble it up. The pressure cooker begs for mercy and the blueberry sauce, which in this chaotic situation sticks out like a sore thumb, loses its temper and abandons the recipe. The beloved, seated with her legs outside the double lancet window, snacks with the mouse and fiddles with a smartphone until she finds a clip of the rock band. The guys in the band have become friends with the Toyota: they saved it from the junkyard. Now she is the singer.
The soldiers lost in the Po Valley try to untangle the shoelaces that keep them from making any forward progress. As soon as one takes a step, he drags the rest with him, and after a fearsome vacillation the whole metallic contraption tumbles in a heap. There is no way to stand up. Certainly no way to move forward. The prodigal captain, finally reunited with his troops, after hours of flight, tries to free them one by one, but only makes matters worse. He recalls, however, having seen a manual, “How to disentangle anything while wearing a suit of armor,” in the glove compartment of the Toyota. The only one who can recover the manual is his sweetheart, who after having dug it up races off, still with the dangling umbilical cord, towards the Po Valley at top speed. The cover tells the tale in no uncertain terms: the prominent message “How to disentangle anything while wearing a suit of armor” stands out against a photograph of Lu Negro who gazes proudly at the reader, while struggling with a rat’s nest of white wires.
Night falls, and the clot of armor has yet to be even slightly undone. The captain shudders, because he knows he cannot command the bent-legged joined-arms jump on the camp beds. It is impossible to imagine that the soldiers will do it, since they are stuck in a tangle. It is an ancient and irreplaceable ritual, which brings strength and tranquility, and prepares one properly for a good night’s rest. The captain has to attempt it, no matter what. He calls his soldiers to gather round: “Men, you have a difficult trial ahead of you, which will require all your courage and ability: you must jump on the bed with your legs bent and your arms joined.” Slight murmuring swells to a chorus of dissent. The captain sets a good example and goes first, and since he is on his own he manages. The soldiers, so as not to betray his trust, decide to make the best of a bad situation. One two three: whoops-a-daisy!
Translated from Italian by Steve Piccolo