La terra dei fiori. Notes for a rebirth

La terra dei fiori. Notes for a rebirth

by Gabi Scardi

The whole project La terra dei fiori by the two artists Sasha Vinci and Maria Grazia Galesi is a metaphor. A metaphor born of the perception of a need, grafted onto approaches, subjects and relationships established over the course of many years. The project is based on the convergence of a series of factors.

In accordance with the performance-based nature of the work of the two artists, the scenic aspect is fundamental. To begin with, the project takes on the form of a chorography articulated in different moments. It is a sort of ritual, and as with any ritual, La terra dei fiori eludes any univocal interpretation. It lives in part on its own internal truth and expresses a vital energy, a life which is almost magic. But that is not all.

The project unfolds in two places: the Sicilian city of Scicli and its territory, and the Land of Fire, in Campania. However it refers to a much wider history. Vinci/Galesi concentrate on places marked by their extremely dramatic nature. Among these there is the church of San Matteo in Scicli, the Mater Ecclesiae beautifully dominating from above. After a period of disrepair, the building was restored, only to be abandoned again in a sadly emblematic story of neglect.

Another part of the project is the Sampieri coast, near Scicli, and its magnificent beach. It is a joy for swimmers, but it has a bitter connotation if we think that it is also the place where many migrants land, and for some it is the tragic end to their journey. It is no coincidence that the two artists have chosen dusk as the time for their performance. This time of day gives the images an intimate, dream-like, enigmatic effect, contrasting with the reason it was chosen: it was the time when thirteen migrants were washed up here on the 30th September 2013.
Finally the grandiosity of the royal palace at Caserta, the venue for the exhibition, and, during the inauguration, for the performance. This building used to tower over the once fertile and splendid Campania felix. Now the devastated territory of the Land of fire stretches before it, an area whose condition is the very paradigm of a relationship between a land and its inhabitants based on arrogance, exploitation and illegality.
The fundamental elements of the project are drawn from a ritual that is still practiced in Scicli: the Infiorata di San Giuseppe. Sasha Vinci and Maria Grazia Galesi respond to that ritual not only because of its external dimension, but also as a model through which to give form and meaning to interpersonal relationships and collective sensibility. Rites, like art, are also a way to achieve knowledge, to seek meaning, and a creative field for the expression of both the individual and the collective. Not only. As well as reflecting and sanctioning social conditions, interpersonal relationships and mental patterns, the ritual action is based on the premise that the ritual can actively create them.

The action in La terra dei fiori uses primal symbols: first of al flowers, that return in different forms throughout the project. Using flowers, the artists create a series of polyhedrons, ancient symbols of balance and knowledge that have been part of western thinking since ancient times. The artists make two capes that cover them completely, hiding their individual identities. By hiding themselves from view, they attempt to create a new relationship with the context. With a third cape, they then cover the black Friesian stallion, Eros, the protagonist of the Infiorata in Scicli.
Flowers have always been the symbol of life and beauty. Vinci/Galesi have chosen to use chrysanthemums and gerberas, flowers that are intensely cultivated in both areas addressed in the project, and that in Italy are associated with mourning. There is a reference both to death and to the rituals that accompany it, and to the violence of the logic of blind profit that does not consider its lethal effects on the environment. The horse has a central role in the project: this magnificent companion in their adventure, this iconic, monumental figure, expression of pride, life force and sensibility, is the symbol of the need for a relationship of respect between human beings and the creatures around them.
The two artists entrust it with the crowning moment in their performance with the parade of the horse and bardatori walking along the straight avenue to the staircase of the palace.

Vinci/Galesi have also created a series of drawings with natural inks and pigments. Furthermore, they have also manipulated the soil, specifically that of Acerra, using an ancient technique to make it into bricks with the word “Felix” engraved on them.

In this way the artists contrast the destructive forces that seem to have ensnared behaviours and thoughts, and that have brought environmental devastation to the lands of Sicily, Campania, and, by extension, to many areas of the global village. They do it by opposing the basic module for any kind of construction: the brick. On it they engrave the memory, and hope, of a possible equilibrium, bringing forth the idea of a different past and a possible future.

The two artists respond to the lack of consideration and the moral collapse that these two areas of Italy represent by contrasting it with the collective and cultural memory of knowing craftsmanship and the recovery of the idea of relationships based on care and respect.
In being a two-artist project, La terra dei fiori already conveys a sense of sharing.

The work presents two great dichotomies: nature and culture, human and animal, life and death, visible and invisible, the relationship with one’s habitat or exploitation. La terra dei fiori is a way of tackling the present and engaging into relationships and equilibriums of power. Talking about values, or the opposite of values, degeneration and a possible rebirth, is a way of opposing arrogance with a vital force, with aspiration and desire.