“ The alternative between “magic” and “rationality” was one of the great themes which gave birth to modern civilization… The modern nations making up the West are “modern” insofar as they have participated wholeheartedly in this variegated process in which we are still involved, at least to the extent to which, alongside scientific techniques and an awareness of the origins and human destination of cultural values, they still ascribe immediate importance to the sphere of mythical-ritual techniques, the “magical” power of the word and the gesture…”
Ernesto De Martino “Sud e Magia” 1959, Feltrinelli editori
My project, entitled MV2012 (a combination of the type code of the pylons in question and the date of the project), is intended to be an environmental and monumental work.
I use the term “monumental” with reference to the power line itself. Its symbolic and structural charge allows for the development of a landscape monument project which (unintentionally) becomes an act with a cultural value above and beyond that of its purely technical or functional purpose.
My proposal involves integrating this monumental and land art project with the environment that hosts it using chromatic, spatial and above all imaginative elements. These aim to evoke in us archaic, anthropomorphic, almost magical symbolic forms, like those suggested to the childish imagination by the routes created by these totem-pylons which appear like an act of the Titans (from the Greek: Τιτάν “lord”) on earth.
My project is dedicated to three titans of scientific and artistic research in the field of electromagnetism (the first two were true scientists, the third a talented “amateur”): Nikola Tesla, Lev Sergeyevich Termen and Semyon Davidovich Kirlian
Three visionaries who combined rational understanding with the broadest and most wide-ranging imagination: the first two gave rise to almost all the practical applications of current technologies.
Visually, architecturally and artistically the work consists of a combination of three real pylons with the same number of three-dimensional elements added to their interior.
Through colour and dimensional relations (based on harmonious and discordant proportions) I aim to propose a unitary landscape comprising all the factors involved: additional and artistic, real and industrial, environmental and spatial elements.
The complex harmony of these elements aims to encourage a perception of electrical energy understood no longer simply as a service but as something powerfully abstract. Something simultaneously real and spiritual, scientific and magical. Something which seeks that union of the rational and irrational which the philosopher and anthropologist Ernest De Martino placed at the forefront of his reflections on the endurance and importance of the role played by magic in southern Italy.
The project, devoted to the relationship between electricity and magic, insists on the anthropomorphic aspect of the pylon. Their “heads”, isolated from the body, live in the centre of the three pylons like parts which have given birth to the body that hosts them, or as if inside a pregnant belly. Their design is based on the form of real pylons, modified using computer-aided design. By integrating them into the landscape, the ensemble becomes a unitary land art work, without distinctions between the work, the pylon and the environment.
The ensemble of art work and pylon rests on a shared circular base which isolates the group, emphasising it and becoming a sort of “plinth” that stresses the monumental aspect of the overhead power line, becoming a “people-friendly piazza” serving the work and the landscape. The circular plinth/piazza is visible from a great distance, highlighting the work and ensuring its protection from the farm-work, which will likely be carried out in the area.
The interior of each of the three heads is accessible, thus giving viewers the opportunity to find themselves physically at the centre of the most dangerous, and for precisely this reason the most seductive, aerial, dynamic and fluid part (nearest to the high voltage). To be able to enter it, cross it, albeit only in its “replica” version, is to become a part of that force, (finally!) developing an empathetic relationship with the energy carried by real pylons. It is like entering an energy-filled place (and the secret thoughts of the three scientists to whom we pay tribute), and thence observing the landscape and being observed, becoming, for the short time spent inside, a “pillar” of the landscape and communicating from that magical place, through invisible threads, with the occupants of the centre of the other pylons.
The pylons are painted in black and white (or dark grey). The “body-pillar” is all dark, the heads in black and white. The combination of white and dark lines in the heads suggests the figure of a mask or a face suspended on high. The heads on the ground, by contrast, are painted all white, thus creating visual continuity between the top and the bottom, embracing the entire landscape from earth to sky.
The choice of white and black (or dark grey) aims to emphasise the design over the volume, highlighting the transparency of the structure made up of superimposed lines. Additionally, the use of black and white is, in my opinion, essential for structures exposed to harsh light and the forces of the atmosphere.
The whole work (the ensemble of real-fake pylons and the landscape) lends itself to two different ways of viewing it, one by day and another by night.
By day the contrast between dark and white emphasises the view of the stretch in question compared to the continuous flow of the power line. By night the work is lit with black or Wood’s lights using lamps inserted into the plinths/piazza. As such, by night the lines painted white are more visible whilst those painted in dark colours merge into the background. With black lights the light source is not visible, and no shadows or beams of light disturb the vision, allowing the viewer to perceive mainly a design in space.
As well as a project for a visual art work, MV2012 could also be an opportunity for learning and education, combining the work with a cultural and social process of gradual approach to the construction of the power-line. The idea is to gradually familiarize the area’s inhabitants with the project, allowing them to appreciate its cultural values and share its themes, be these industrial or cultural or imaginative. For this reason we propose holding three seminars to accompany the work, devoted to the relationship between “Electromagnetism and magic” and to the figures of Nikola Tesla, Lev Sergeyevich Termen and Semyon Davidovich Kirlian, their research and discoveries.
1) Tesla and the remote transmission of electrical energy
2) Termen and the birth of electronic music with a live concert by a musician playing the instrument invented by Termen, the “theremin” or “etherphone”.
3) Kirlian and the discovery of the images produced by electromagnetic radiation.
These workshops/meetings could be held at three symbolic places crossed by the power line. Benevento, Troia and Foggia, or be concentrated at Troia, a small town near the competition area which could become a study/workshop venue for a few days.
It would be helpful for the seminars to be held slightly before the creation of the work in order to progressively form the ensemble “seminars – pylons – work/landscape” as a harmonious whole, one detail of which heralds the others.
Rome 25 August 2012