“Désolé” at Cassata Drone Expanded Archive, Palermo
On Each Rock, Another One
Stepping into the apartment on the sixth floor of Via Malta 21 is by itself a rather disorientating experience, the building was bombed in 1943 and features an awkward incline. This time, the entrance is a liminal space preceding even further loss of comfort. As if the exhibition space was a natural extension of the Sicilian landscape, a wall of lamiera (sheet metal) separates the viewer from whatever is behind it, only the gaze is free to wander through a looking hole. A decapitated replica of the statue of liberty stares back from a hill-like structure under which black volcanic sand bleeds out into light grains from the recently rehabilitated Aranella beach. The smell of gasoline pierces the air. On the hallway ceiling, the statue’s missing body shines from a banner as an archeologic relic found in its natural habitat: an abandoned drive-in cinema dated around 1970 near the US naval base Sigonella situated few kilometres from Catania. Underneath it, an armed General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper Drone plaster model is waiting for command and coordinates from above—a number of those depart from Sicily to North Africa and the Middle East every day.
The works presented amount to layers of the Sicilian landscape in a physical dimension, one cannot understand what one hasn’t experienced. The title ‘Cassata Drone Expanded Archive’ functions as a hint in this matter, pointing to a repertoire of different material and immaterial objects that slide into each other like a puzzle if configured correctly. Senses are heightened in passage to the grand salon that is illuminated by a demonstratively low light to highlight the outside edges of a colony of small volcanic rocks from Etna. Once a symbol of myth as well as an ongoing geological reality of Sicily, the volcano serves pilots flying over the island as a first point of navigational reference. Still squinting at the installation, a roaring sound seems to arise from the sky, circle around visitors’ heads and cut their ears with drone-like humming. The sentiment? To duck, to leave, to look for silent safety. But absolution doesn’t come too fast, a diptych of miniature collages is to be seen in the same room. Stay. Pasticceria Savia a scrap of paper reads, possibly a reference to the voices of American soldiers that colonise the main room of the Catanesi pastry shop on weekends.
Désolé isn’t a show that gives itself away, every element is a small mystery before the larger puzzle can be solved. Entering the second hallway, one looks at a triptych of square frames, the content of which appears rather mysterious. Circles that could indicate an alien landing are instead painted by macerated oranges on the island’s mineral-heavy soil for economic reasons. In bright orange the arrival of globalised markets shines into the spectators’ eyes, stories of the smell of multiple tons of oranges rotting and fermenting in the sun have been shared. What connects all works in the show, also the following interventions by Alterazioni Video, is the easiness with which the hints of reality the landscape offers can be overlooked. Few kilometres from orange fields and US military base away, a nightclub with a near poetic name gives joy to lonely souls and bodies around. The pulsating neon light, captured by Alterazioni Video with a solar panel and transmitted into sound waves, can be seen from afar and yet is never paid attention to. Another hidden layer.
In the Carlo Scarpa bathroom, the sound installation by Alterazioni Video recreates the set-up that had been used for recording the neon-sound near Sigonella. Here too, a solar panel is mounted to read lightwaves and generate electricity which is translated into a sound frequency. Luminosity and warmth of the light change the sound each time as a skilled performance by Alterazioni Video during the opening demonstrated. But even if executed as an electric symphony, the sounds remain roaring, buzzing and tense. What animal could possibly make such sounds?
As a last poetic note, maybe a reply, closes this uniquely mediated experience of Sicily: a small Vape Mat as frequently used against mosquitos, coloured and framed like a miniature aquarelle of the Paesaggi Siciliani.
Text by Izabela Anna Moren
at Cassata Drone, Palermo
until 10 January 2019