Nathalie H. de Saint Phalle, 2012
They could have remained pieces of ordinary cardboard boxes with enigmatic designs drawn on them with a black marker, but the space that they occupied and the position they held for a few hours on the terrace of the renowned Neapolitan monument last November gave them a symbolic importance and significance that they would carry with them wherever they were transported.
They have become intertwined with vectors able convey a series of data that is more or less part of our lives:
1.This installation took place on All Saint's Day, day of the dead, shortly before the keys to this well travelled place named "Purgatorio" were handed over, an act symbolic of mandatory passage. The departure from one place, but on the 1.11.11...a clear symbol of a new start.
2.This "purgatory” occupied the extraordinary terrace of a renaissance palace built by the de Capua family. The name itself evokes the proverbial pleasures of Capoue that are representative of a precious time when people took advantage of life rather than planning their battles. A lesson that should not be forgotten.
3.MEMINI, the motto engraved above the doors and window, "I remember", quite in line with the philosophy of George Perec, is meant to be taken literally, as if to call upon you to remember. And the cardboard will forever bear the traces of the permanent ink.
4.These lines speak of paths across spaces and through time, paths that seem to forge into successive time periods overlapping one another. This is evident in Naples where the city center still has the original Greco-Roman layout intact. It was never truly destroyed and therefore was constructed as each civilization built upon what was already there over the course of 2800 years. History passes through the walls and floors, like the stain of the black marker in the deep divide, across the roofs and into the depths of the underground city.
5.A brass plate lies under the terrace stating that here lived San Gennaro, the patron saint of the city who was decapitated in 305. His blood was collected, and a ceremony of liquefaction is celebrated twice a year to ensure that the city will be safe from catastrophe. Placing the cardboard over one of the chapels at the San Gennaro all'Olmo church held within the palace is immersed in prayer and superstition.
6.Putting these boxes that were meant to transport items can also be viewed as a flying carpet that will float away and land elsewhere dropping off what it has carried and renewing the place it has settled, of an item of passage and memory, or blood shed and hopes of protection.
7.It is difficult not to associate these boxes that were gathered from the streets to mountains of waste that pile up in the European capital of trash bins and the highly mediatized decomposition over the past five years, the time of a war defined by mediatized bombings for the same efficient result -- the ruin of many for the profit of others.
8.A drawing on cardboard boxes to be a symbolic fragment of archeology. From Sumer to Grand Greece our roots are traced, as are those of the artist with an Iraqi architect for a father, a man who had to leave Najaf, then Baghdad -- lands where the wealth of petrol fuels the war of our times.
The starting point for this "Ersatz" was thus Naples, a perfect substitute. It remains, according to Malaparte "the most mysterious city of Europe, the only ancient city in the world that has not perished as have Ilion, Ninive, and Babylone. It is the only city in the world that has not sunk into the oblivion as other ancient civilizations have. Naples is the Pompei that has never been laid to rest. It's not a city, it's a world. The ancient pre-Christian world that has remained intact on the surface of the modern world."