Project Description

“BLESSED ARE YOU WHO SPEAK ABOUT LIFE AND DEATH WITH THE FIRST WORDS THAT COME TO YOUR LIPS.”

THE HAWKS AND THE SPARROWS, PIER PAOLO PASOLINI

Water, as the primordial element of life and death, opens this section of works of art. The inspiration came from the complex matriarchal cultural history of a place, the Valley of Canneto, and the sacrality that has characterized it across millennia. Sacred Waters deals with the reduction into mucilage of the locus in which resided the Magna et Nigra Mater, the Goddess Mephites, Cybele, and now the Madonna Nera di Canneto. The artistic exploration is a journey in which the right to access to water, to the sacrality of anthropological rituals, and to a model of matriarchal society and living continue to battle against the greed of contemporary capitalism and the selling of ‘ the family silver’ in the name of economics for the few. It is a clash between the last inheritances of agricultural existence, food survival, and an understanding of life that retreats in front of a post-postmodern onslaught. The sacred waters retreat but, through their absence, speak of popular beliefs and a mythological realism that will breathe new life into the ira deae (the rage of the goddess).

Sacred Waters is one of ten sections of Lanfranco Aceti’s installation titled Preferring Sinking to Surrender which was conceived by the artist for the Italian Pavilion, Resilient Communities, curated by Alessandro Melis for the Venice Architecture Biennale, 2021. The ten sections are: Tools for Catching Clouds; Preferring Sinking to Surrender, Part I; Preferring Sinking to Surrender, Part II; Sacred Waters; Le SchiavoneOrthósSeven Veils; Signs; Rehearsaland The Ending of the End. These sections, singularly and collectively, create a complex narrative that responds to this year’s theme How Will We Live Together? set by Hashim Sarkis, curator of the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale.  

The works of art — realized as a series of performances, installations, sculptures, video, and painting contributions — are part of the installation at the Italian Pavilion from May 21, 2021, to November 21, 2021, the opening and closing dates of the Venice Architecture Biennale.

The artist will upload texts, images, and videos until the completion of each section beyond November 21, 2021, the closing date of the Venice Architecture Biennale. If you wish to receive updates as the works of art unfold, please subscribe to the newsletter.

“The right angles of our living spaces, of chests and sheets, afford a visual order that helps make our lives simpler than they would be, say, in a primordial forest. And for the sake of order the Cartesian grid also remains present, actually or implicitly, in our works of art.” [1]

Order and chaos, life and death, as a way of rendering comprehensible the world for its use and abuse within the Cartesian grid and outside the primordial forest, are at the basis of the works of art for Sacred Waters. This is the section that more directly, together with Seven Veils, speaks of resistance and resilience in the face of the onslaught of capitalism and the destruction of natural reserves. It also speaks of a contemporary society, Italy, and its failures in ensuring that notions of public good, common, commonality, shared resources, and legality — inherited as part of millenarian popular understanding of society — would survive the post-postmodern rubbles of Twentieth and Twentieth-First century capitalistic imperialism.

In particular, Sacred Waters — connecting to Tools for Catching Clouds and its analysis of post-democracy — emerges from an analysis of the legislative uncertainty and of political parties’ disregard for principles of law and ethics. The legal systems, in much of the Western world, in fact, appears to be enslaved to the constructions of post-postmodernity and, as such, to be working actively at the dismantling of the nation state in favor of an ever more visible financial and industrial oligarchy. The effects of this process on social models in the world, and in Italy in particular, is part of Sacred Water‘s aesthetic journey, which shines a light upon ancient and alternative matriarchal models of social living which are archeo-anthropological remnants.

This section of works of art is an historical, anthropological, and visual lamentation of the failure to protect customs and behaviors rooted in thirty thousand years of common living, to safeguard shared resources, and to preserve the remnants, in the face of ecological disaster and human greed, of a sacred spring. The spring of the Valley of Canneto was both life-giving and life-taking, the entrance into and exit from the world of the living. It was a millenarian inspiration for a model of shared social existence and a sacred place for the redefinition of family ties and boundaries, not based on a patriarchal bloodline, but on a matriarchal emotive assonance. These were bonds rendered sacred by the Goddess that resided and presided over the life of its people with water rituals (comparanza) and that through its many transformations and cultural alterations is now known to and venerated by the populace as the Black Madonna of Canneto (la Madonna Nera di Canneto).

O young man, accompanied by immortal charioteers / and mares who bear you as you arrive at our abode, / welcome, since a fate by no means ill sent you ahead to travel / this way (for surely it is far from the track of humans), / but Right and Justice. [2]

Life and death, as well as chaos and order, are laid bare at the feet of the Goddess called by multiple names: Mater, Magna Mater, Magna et Nigra Mater, Cybele, Mamma Schiavona, and rendered visible in this aesthetic journey as the Great Black Mediterranean Mother.

To reach the sanctuary, in philosophical and physical terms, is to reach a place from which one might ascend to the abode of the Goddess. The Goddess, with her once sacred waters snaking through the green valley, now is reduced to watch over no longer crystal and ‘ἀργύφεον’ (silvery) waters but the goopy snot of capitalism. She presides over a dried out man-made lakebed and an artificial brook that in the summer is reduced to nothing but a trickle of left-over water that is completely shut off in the autumn once tourists are not around. This is the result of the siphoning off, for profit, of a once free-flowing and life-giving spring.

It all has the indistinguishable stench of political, industrial, and financial corruption that is irreparably damaging the hydrogeological assets of one of the most ancient sites in Italy.

The destruction of this sacred ancestral heritage did not happen in a semi-industrial area of no beauty or value, but took and takes place inside a National Park, which should be bound by rules of preservation and that instead bends over, as local politicians and the local church have done, sacrificing the hydrological, biological, and cultural legacy of a locus to the balance sheets of corporate masters.

References:

[1] Rudolf Arnheim, introduction to The Power of the Center: A Study of Composition in the Visual Arts, by Rudolf Arnheim, (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1982), viii.

[2] Parmenides.

 

Image Captions:

Lanfranco Aceti, The Memory of Water,  2021. Photographic print. Dimensions: 100 cm. X 67 cm.

Lanfranco Aceti, Untitled, 2021. Photographic print. Dimensions: 100 cm. X 67 cm.

Lanfranco Aceti, Untitled, 2021. Photographic print. Dimensions: 100 cm. X 67 cm.

Lanfranco Aceti, Untitled, 2021. Photographic print. Dimensions: 100 cm. X 67 cm.

Lanfranco Aceti, Untitled, 2021. Photographic print. Dimensions: 100 cm. X 67 cm.

Lanfranco Aceti, Untitled, 2021. Photographic print. Dimensions: 100 cm. X 67 cm.

Lanfranco Aceti, Untitled, 2021. Photographic print. Dimensions: 100 cm. X 67 cm.

Lanfranco Aceti, Run, Run, Run, 2021. Photographic print. Dimensions: 100 cm. X 67 cm.

Lanfranco Aceti, Flushed, 2021. Photographic print. Dimensions: 100 cm. X 67 cm.

Lanfranco Aceti, Flushing, 2021. Photographic print. Dimensions: 100 cm. X 67 cm.

Lanfranco Aceti, To Flush, 2021. Photographic print. Dimensions: 100 cm. X 67 cm.

Lanfranco Aceti, re-mors, 2021. Gif animation.

Lanfranco Aceti, Untitled, 2021. Photographic print. Dimensions: 100 cm. X 67 cm.

Lanfranco Aceti, Untitled, 2021. Photographic print. Dimensions: 100 cm. X 67 cm.

Lanfranco Aceti, Untitled, 2021. Photographic print. Dimensions: 100 cm. X 67 cm.