On the 5th of June at the Mario Mazzoli Gallery in Berlin, the “Paths” exhibition – the most recent project by the Piedmontese audiovisual artist Paolo Inverni – was inaugurated. The “Paths” exhibition, curated by Daniela Cascella and produced by the freshly opened Berlin Gallery, will be open until the 18th of July.
The exhibition, very delicate in its atmosphere, is a journey through time, a dive into intimacy, a backward path into memory. Even if it begins with autobiographical material this does not create a distance between the visitors but on the other hand, thanks to different methods of approach, a mechanism of recognition and closeness is triggered, leaving the exhibition open to different avenues for interpretation.
In the entrance hall of the gallery there is a sequence of 6 photographs of close ups of places that introduces us to Inverni’s paths: four exhibitions situated in distinct environments. Paths is in two parts: Recollection and A Possible Path.
Paths, the first exhibition encountered, purveys a rarefied atmosphere. The passage of time, the gaps in memory, are evoked in an impalpable manner. A video shows images of three chosen places of memory. Projected as a triptych, the origin of the film is 8mm, and accompanied by three distinct versions, superimposed onto each other, of the Winter Couplet by Steve Roden.
This exhibition is completed with the exhibition in the opposite room, where there are many areas for listening comfortably with earphones to six audio tracks recorded on six places presented at the entrance. There it is possible to consult some copies of the book/diary containing the introductory text by Daniela Cascella, a collection of images of the chosen places, the introductory notes to the individual places and the experiences lived there by the artist in the form of a diary and an audio CD. The CD contains the tracks that are played in the earphones.
|‘paths’, 2009 (detail), artist’s book with audio cd|
In the space next door, Recollection shows the same places as Paths with the use of six visors – an image for each one – of six CD players and twelve little cardboard speakers. Photographs from the family archive are shown as slides, next to sounds of memories researched in the present – fragments of environmental sounds – are almost frames of an ideal for a mnemonic film of his life.
In the little room opposite a video of A Possible Path is played in loop. A pleasant conversation with Paolo Inverni, whom I thank warmly for his time, gave us time to further discuss the artistic themes within Paths.
Valeria Merlini: In the exposed works, which are characterized by a strong narrative, it’s possible to notice that you used many media in order to develop them. Their use for the project seemed functional to me and not at all invasive. This reinforced the delicacy and intimacy of the project, in my opinion. How much do your studies in Communications and your experience in the documentary field inspire your creative process?
Paolo Inverni: In my work I never begin with the support I will be using but instead I begin with the stories that I want to tell, for this reason I use different formats. I try to find stories that are interesting, for this reason I don’t produce a lot of work. I’m very oriented toward the content. I don’t develop a technique connected to specific craftwork, and so to “doing”, instead I look for a story and try to understand the language and medium to adopt as best I can in order to direct the story as I wish, respecting the story itself. In the first place, more than the spectator, the user, there is a respect for the story that I want to tell. I want that story to preserve its intricate characteristics.
I collect books, albums, seeds, I collect everything. Textuality is a theme that I’m very interested in, because of the subject of inner literature, intimacy and the important role that reading leaves the reader/user. In everything I do I try to leave some narrative opportunity, so that the spectator can influence the story as well.
I look for ideas and stories in a transversal way. For example this work has six musical tracks done by someone else on it; or a new work that I will publish soon, most likely curated by Daniela Cascella, came about after having found some 30 odd love letters in a flea market, written in the 1940’s from a lady to a man. I’m interested in this kind of thing because in the case of narrative opportunity, narrative holes managed on an authorial level, the counterpart is completely missing, the point of view of the man is missing.
Other times ideas come tout court from my own things. Looking for stories, I look for them in my own context as in the case of Paths.
|‘paths’, 2009 (still from video) 8 mm film transferred on dvd-video, color, 3 channel sound, 8 min 59 se|
Valeria Merlini: In Paths you retrace places of memory for you (Pian del Re, a beach resort in Paradiso Sanremo, the Grotta of Rio Martino, the family farmhouse in Oropa di Savigliano, the Coletta park in Turin and your grandparents’ house in Savigliano), you relive your memories and confront yourself again with those places after much time. You combined songs composed by Steve Roden, William Basinski, Akira Rabelais, Christina Kubisch, Painting Petals on Planet Ghost, and Nuno Canavarro to these places. What made you make those choices? Can you tell us something more about the relationship between place and song?
Paolo Inverni: The places could have been anywhere, but there are six possible places, important places in my life. The same goes for the songs. It’s clear that by listening to music attentively for 15 years, and being a collector as well, there could have been other songs. Let’s say that it was a choice that I made with my gut, with my instinct. That’s what came to me and that’s what I did.
The union between choice and places and songs was made beforehand. But matching one to the other was done on site. I always brought all six CD’s with me. I didn’t necessarily record all six of them but I had them at my disposal, because I did not want the emotion of the project to be intertwined into a prefabricated grid that made everything cold.
On site I made them sound out and I listened. I tried to keep good attention and tried to say, this works, this is a good dialogue. Are these two elements really having a dialogue or is one going ahead without listening to the other? That work was done on site. In some places the dialogues that worked were more than one. But for example with Steve Roden’s song, all three of his recordings pleased me and so I used all three. In other cases only one convinced me.
I was interested in having a human quality, of real time, of experience of the place that allowed me to make a really emotional match. So in that sense, this wasn’t done a priori. But the choices that were made afterward, because as I said I would do many recordings on one site, I decided to do that work at home. But very rarely was my initial idea on site denied after having listened at home.
For three of the six songs I used the whole song (Painting Petals On Planet Ghost, Nuno Canavarro, Akira Rabelais), as for the other three (Steve Roden, Christina Kubisch, e William Basinski), as they are all suites that last 40 minutes, I made extracts in real time, intervening on the ghetto blaster and on the recording on site. In fact various takes have different lengths. Sometimes the fade out lasted two minutes because that’s what I felt emotionally, sometimes I ended the song abruptly. I was interested in the experiential aspect: I’m here in this moment and I’m doing this.
The principle used is that of second reading (remix, paraphrasing). The fact that you can start with material that is not your own and interiorise it in such a way so as to make it your own. I’m not talking about legal rights, I’m talking about emotion, about feeling it.
|‘a possible path’, 2009 (still from video), dvd-video, color, 2 channel sound, loop|
Valeria Merlini: In this kind of operation how important is the acoustic characteristic of any given chosen place? Was your choice of place driven by this?
Paolo Inverni: With Daniela we talked about the various phases of the development and the theoretical structure of the work and we asked ourselves the same question many times.
I believe that the choice of places, that are acoustically speaking objectively very fascinating, was not an aware choice, but I believe that there could have been an unconscious choice of those places for this reason. For example, the memory of Pian del Re was very connected to sound, I truly remembered the place from a visual point of view but I remembered it from an acoustic point of view as well.
I apply your question to the choice of songs. In hindsight I chose songs with a wide mesh, which give space for dialogue. Again this was not done consciously, but I had a maximum grid of work in my mind. It was an unconscious choice, natural and emotional. I chose songs that I love and that objectively have characteristics that give them white, open spaces that can be filled.
Valeria Merlini: The Paths project is a diary-style book and an exhibition.
Paolo Inverni: because these are two formats that overlap each other partially, that allow for the direction of the same nucleus of research and the same feeling in different ways, with all the specificity of the case.
The “diary” nature of the book was underlined in the development of the book as an object. I have to say that we were faced with cost issues, so obviously the book that I wanted was printed in 5 copies, bound by hand. But even the economical version I tried to maintain the bookmark to recall the format of the personal diary. In the exhibition of the first room, the triptych, there’s the same research core, the same concept but organised differently.
In that case we only have one song by Steve Roden, recorded in three separate places: a Turin park on the right, Pian del Re in the centre and my grandparents’ house on the left. In post-production I superimposed and synchronized the three recordings so that they would coincide with the original song by Steve Roden on the three recordings. So I created this sound Pan Pot between one place and another. The surrounding sounds differ, but the texture of the song changes as well. I looked for the same sound pan Pot in the visual aspect too. The image follows the passages of the sound. In other words the editing was done the opposite way around.
The work was recorded in 8mm, because film gave me a way to create a metaphor for the passage of time: through the flashing onto the lamp, through the irregular tracking, through the dirt of the film. But more generally, putting three screens in sequence, we had more white than image. Because the idea was to represent everything that was there, oblivion and forgetfulness, where every now and again a clear image appears and comes into focus.
|‘paths’, 2009 (detail), artist’s book with audio cd|
Valeria Merlini: Personally I found the environmental sound recordings to be the link between Paths and Recollection, even if both have similar elements, they were developed differently.
Paolo Inverni: Absolutely. The sound is the same material and the material core of research is the same, but organised differently. In Recollection there’s a concrete physical tangible encounter between past and present. The dominant line in that work was the fact of wanting to create a project with intimate content, which created physical intimacy with the spectator. Working with images on little sounds and with a low volume is just that: inviting the spectator to get closer and enter into the image.
Recollection is a self-contained work compared to Paths, but it actual fact they are connected. They both derived from the same nucleus of research and experience.
The six places are the same, but the relationship between present and past is different. If in Paths there are no sounds or images of the past, but there are places of the past but in current perspective through images taken today (those of the book), and re-recordings done today, in Recollection there is a physical encounter/conflict between present and past. There is an image of the past with sounds recorded today.
More generally speaking, Recollection is a metaphor for the process of memory. We have a different connection between time and places within the same space and sometimes these are confused. This is exactly what happens in memory. Furthermore, the players and slide visors are battery operated, so they tend to fade out and die. It’s the same principle as memory: if you do not take care of memory, it is lost. Memory doesn’t happen on its own, you have to make an effort to keep it alive, exactly like this work.
Even the use of cardboard boxes for the speakers was not by chance, it’s the metaphor for the box you use when you move, the box where you store memories. In Paths the boxes collect memories of two years of work, I was pleased that they were there, like a construction work of building brick by brick….
|‘recollection’, 2009 (detail), 6 slide viewers, 6 slides, 6 cd players, 12 speakers, 6 audio-cd|
Valeria Merlini: The “A possible path” video presented in the last room portrays your footsteps, as you walk in the fresh snow. In the first part it’s possible to see part of your body thanks to your shadow projected onto the blanket of snow, whereas afterwards the focus becomes the movement of your feet. The effort in walking is present in the rhythm of your breathing. Compared to the delicate atmospheres found up until now, here it’s possible to feel a more physical one, a harder one, even if it is based in one of the places that we have already seen. It’s almost as if we detach from the theme of memory.
Paolo Inverni: A possible path, is a video that came about when I went to Pian del Re to do one of the recordings. Originally it was not supposed to be a work, but just a bundle of material. Later on it seemed to me to have it’s own dignity as a work. Its name wants to underline the fact that that is a possible path.
In this project I’m interested in the rapport between the human and the natural. In the sense that there are more types of time in the work: first of all the footsteps, then the breath – and these are human qualities – and then the shadow, which is the encounter between the person and his/her intentions in the physical environment. Therefore, this is also connected to Paths. Actually logistically speaking it is more like its backstage.
Here the idea was to show that relationship that is created between something almost mystical. Or the idea of something that must be done – and something very physical and tangible, made out of effort. And this is true for every kind of research, be it human, personal or even scientific.
The message of A possible path is to take the time to do research, do not be afraid to waste time – it is not wasted time, but it could appear to be as such. Time is for wasting, it’s about getting out of those conventional time standards, as much as possible. Of course this is a utopia, because the lives of many people and the practical organisation do not allow for it, but at least try to lean towards that. Do not be afraid of spending time in something that isn’t tangible and that on the outside seems to be craziness. In our time, with this punctual and salacious time management, even reading a book, on the surface, seems to be a waste of time.