23 July 2008

Some notes from last week in Italy:

Boxes of materials marked urgent and fragile and urgent again piled all around. In the courtyard of brilliant sunlight people come and go, fetching carrying, workers and carpenters and painters and artists looking for this or that, or for someone that can help with this or that, labourers with shirts off carrying absurdly heavy crates or stacks or rolls of things, technicians, assistants all heading to and fro. Segmenting the space thru which these travelers pass at any moment there are the static forms of people arranged at a distance from each other and talking on their cell phones in a variety of languages. The artists labouring over the tarmac they are laying for an installation/construction – pitch melted, poured and then spread along the ground in an activity designed as if somehow to double the heat of the courtyard, whilst beyond them, in the distance at the very end of the courtyard, an Icelandic guy is stood alone in a moment of contemplation, with a paint brush in his hands, also upping the temperature, as he considers the not-yet-completed leaping red flames of hell that he’s busy depicting in a kind of mutant carnival/circus trailer style on a huge construction of wood. Here and there and everywhere you see piles of debris – timber, broken glass, the wrapping that a huge bale of material came in, or the strewn plastic tethers (hi tech version of string) that might once have held together poles or packages during transportation. Enter the shade of the building and the corridors take you past numerous rooms in which people are working – painting or constructing a wall, stacking timber, or focusing the beam of a video projector or arranging objects, or making patterns with the light from lamps or (for the most part really) engaged in some activity that is most likely work but which is impossible to figure at a glance, not knowing in any case what is being made or built or installed) or else, stood staring vacantly, lost in thought or wondering about the arrangement of things you cannot see, or else, again, very often not working at all or stood or walking or crouched and speaking into a cell phone in a variety of languages. As many rooms as there people working in there are at least as many again in which work has stopped, or perhaps not even started. Marie Celeste arrangements of tools, materials and water bottles. Piles of debris everywhere here – shredded cardboard, smashed timber, swept dust. At the top of a staircase a nest of old light-fittings, tangled like octopi, all metal curves and trailing cables. Outside a room nearby a discarded mess of polythene which unfurls or uncrumples as you pass it on successive journeys through the day, opening like a flower, whose ragged malformed petals are a surface smeared with paint in streaks, blobs, brush strokes and tangled footprints. Outside a further room there is foil of some kind laid out in a hurry which bears an unexpected harvest of cactus leaves arranged to dry, the spiked flesh wet with what might be rain (?). Empty rooms. Or rooms with boxes. Rooms with boxes, speakers, pots of paint empty and full, posts of filler empty and full, benches, plinths, trashed boxes, broken benches, broken plinths, unhinged doors, shattered chairs, improvised carpets of polythene and of newspaper, video monitors wrapped in plastic trailing headphones, SCART cables or speaker leads. Impossible to iterate it all. In yet more places work seem to have stopped half-way thru. Maries Celeste again. A piece of metal has been positioned and nailed into the wall to cover a hole, but the nails are only driven a short way into the wall. On some random corner a ladder leans against a wall, killing time. An extension cord is plugged into the wall but leads nowhere – the other end, with the socket, has been looped and lightly knotted over a window handle, as if this gesture alone might save it from being borrowed, stolen or otherwise taken away.