Project by Alfredo Pirri (artist), Andrea Stipa (architect, project leader) and Antonella Mari (architect) for the Selinunte acropolis in Sicily, the largest archeological park in Europe.
The very morning the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima and six of his disciples committed suicide, after having kidnapped a general from the army and kept him in an aeronautical barrack, and after having attempted to convince the army to join him in insurrection, Mishima also gave his editor his last book, whose title is The Mirror of Deceit. The novel is the last movement in a trilogy entitled The Sea of Fertility, which is story of three characters, two of which disappear after the first volume. The first character, a boy, dies at the age of 14 in a ritual act of suicide, and the second, a girl, simply vanishes, isn’t talked about after volume one. The third character, whose name is Honda, spends her life searching for young boys (or even girls, for that matter) in whom he sees the reincarnation of her first young friend who died tragically at 14. (…) Honda’s life is entirely dedicated to the quest of communing again with this young lost love, a quest which perhaps also represents a quest for eternal youth, the desire to freeze time in an immobile, perfect, sculptural gesture. Towards the end of Volume III, Honda, whose life is drawing to an end, experiences the irresistible desire to go and find the little girl who disappeared after volume I, the only other living witness to his youth and to his love for the dead boy, in order to make one last attempt to recover a memory of him. Meanwhile, the little girl has become the abbess of a famous Buddhist convent. After having listened to Honda’s story, then Abbess is silent: she says she cannot remember anything, regarding the boy or Honda. The book ends on her words as she decrees that ‘memory is the mirror of deceit’.
Perhaps the novel’s main question is this: how can artistic (or indeed vital) form speak to that feeling of nostalgia which assails us every time we look to our past? Should we approach the past as perfect, immobile image or should we carry it around with us and let it be a story which continuously renews itself?
The idea that the past lies under our feet, that it has the shape of a mirror and it can show us things exactly ‘as they were’ (and hence engender also what they will be) is an idea which, like a mirror, has been broken into pieces by recent developments in archeology, art and architecture, just like Honda’s desire to be joined up again with his old friend is continuously and ruthlessly broken. Yet, this shouldn’t stop us from feeling the past as ‘ours’ (as postmodernity obliged us to); rather, it should open up a space for negotiation between places and imaginative acts, an exchange of energy and form, of stories and information. To negotiate with the past is to do business with it, to be in the constant process of selling and buying fragments of the present moment without mortgaging the future – in fact, the future should be left open, free from any form of responsibility which could weigh it down in its future choices. Space, time, need to put on hold: there’s a value in this position, in this stillness – a sort of non-passive, dynamic acceptation of time, of its passing, of how it breaks and cracks underneath our feet.
Lucio Fontana’s paintings we usually refer to as ‘cuts’ are actually called ‘waits’. Waits: but what are they waiting for? For a future change in the history of mankind? For a different space? For a messiah? What I think those painting elicit a predisposition of the body and of the soul as well as, for us who are watching, the perception of both body and soul in a new temporal dimension: to wait by living, to wait participating in life. It is the same technical, methodological and mental dimension of the archeological site.
Any artistic or architectural intervention staged here in Selinunte will become recognizable by placing itself in a state of ‘waiting’; as such it’ll be able to dowse the – long, continuous yet fragmentary – line that traverses Marinella and arrives at Baglio Florio in its own presence and in its own sense. With this sense it will reach the external wall of large cubic submerged tank, a space which brings to mind the ‘white cube’ which stands at the basis of modern theories of exhibiton.
But here the ‘white cube’ has sunk into the ground: like almost everything surrounding it, it is a ruin; it emits an echoing sound when you open its trapdoor. It is this sound which we should be able to carry, both inside and outside of the archeological site, and in so doing we should strive to transform it into harmonic forms able to touch the cityscape like insects upon flowers, able to create a symbiosis between itself and its circumstances. We should carry this echo within us so that it may become a rhythm, a cadence, a melody: a symphony which, although it is made up of fragments, loses its painfulness to become festive, beautiful to look at, to live through. It’ll be a symphony capable of holding memory within itself without becoming its prisoner – it’ll be a memory that is no longer ‘a mirror of deceit’.