A vision takes form before my wayfarer’s eyes, scanning the horizon from this highland: in the distance, I see drafting hordes advancing. As I wander in pursuit of the sign, I can glimpse them in the distance, approaching, in disorderly but surging ranks. Is it a mirage, or is it real?
Signers, de-signers, draftsmen, some marked, others not, as I hear, one of them shouts. Bodies that mark, narrate, trace borders, blaze paths in the dense underbrush.
Drawing is a form of resistance, of guerrilla warfare, it is a trench. A dig. Excavation has to do with foundations, with the foundation, the beginning. Marks that move on this surface, figures in this becoming landscape that takes form from their passage. A ragged advance, deserters from more or less regular armies, motley renegades who now tread the same ground: some embrace, others argue, others still engage in fisticuffs. Certain loners want none of it, but history has put them there.
I watch them inexorably advance, in this landscape, between these walls, for a few moments, a few days… it is a chance to make a group portrait, like it or not you’ll just have to accept it, so stand still and… but… wait a second… I am being overrun by this drafting horde… a warning to all those who remain still, sitting there, thinking… to all those who care nothing for signs… we are coming!!!
Description of the advance
Vertical scaffolding boards (1a), square horizontal panel, near the ground (1b, c). Workers, gymnasts of the sign, nameless, constantly exercising, practicing. They identify with a plummeting body, that bumps, touches, caresses a surface. This is their truth, their matter. Choral intonation, tempo, rhythm, noise, movement of the body translated into sign. To chop wood, drive nails, dig holes, track prey; I hear the rain, the hail, the snow, the flowing water, the blowing wind: this is the gymnasium, the workshop of the sign.
Black, eyes bulging, they stare at me mercilessly, frightening, frightened, all dressed identically; compact, compressed signs, imploded in little monoliths, rebelling against the ground. Some are on bicycles, others on foot, waving their arms (2a), others sing and play on stage (2b), one sticks its head into a bottle, a little boy pushes a dog with two wheels instead of paws, a big one is swallowing a little one (2c). They have long, exploded, ironed hair. They make me think of some doctrinal self-run community that lives on what it produces, someplace in the mountains, who knows where. And who is that shouting man? Testori! The founder of the Compagnia del Disegno, the sign incarnate in word (3a), and then Kafka, who watches his parents at the nudist colony (3b), and Ernst Junger seated, in the official uniform of the Wehrmacht. Nearby, a centipede chair, a vase of flowers, a swastika, a bottle and a chalice on a table, and through the windows you can see two Picabias.
Paris in 1941 (3c). They feed on sex and poetry, assert themselves in a written, enervated, exhausted sign. Illustrated letters gone bad. A motionless donkey near a little hedge observes this movement without being touched by it, stubbornly fixed and fixing (4a); a skull on the ground, it too obstinate, insistent in its fixity (4b). The donkey and the skull like guards, protecting the little hedge, or vice versa, the hedge protecting the skull and the donkey, or maybe neither one, they don’t need protection. Reflected in a silver sign, the donkey and the skull; reflected in a silver pond, the little hedge (4c). The face of a silent woman observes (4d). Arsenio and child, two almost twin bodies, one bigger, the other smaller, seem to be dancing. The big one touches the head of the little one, raising it from the ground (5a); scratched signs, veined in the sounds and voices of Chiara Guidi (5b). There’s a body on the ground, the face hidden behind the leg, one foot with a shoe, the other without, only a holey sock from which a big toe protrudes; the fingers grasp the earth like roots. A hit, wounded body, blocked in the rigidity of a tree trunk snapped by a strong wind (5c). Nearby, strange feathered creatures gather, parrots with long tongues tied by flowers (6a), buttons like eyes scattered here and there, trunks uprooted like feet, one unfastened, tied by a string to the half-open beak (6b). It runs on three legs, the neck, the head, the beak are like a pelican, it draws the metamorphosis on itself (6c). The skin, the plumage are delicate, marble-like, they have the consistency of water, they seem to come from the depths of the sea, though their aim is flight, like that species that zips by, horizontal, at the height of the bosom of an ancient woman who raises her arms, gaze impassive, dark, tense in the effort to restore balance to the ancient earth shaken by the passage of the flying object. Great still forms all around, a big tree without leaves, and behind, the mountains; a hand is raised before my eyes, open, index and middle fingers joined, ring and little fingers joined, thumb alone (7a). Sign shaped in earth, in primordial muck. Construction, composition, order: things arranged beside, behind, in front of, under, over. Signs arranged beside, behind, in front of, under, over (7b). Signs taken by the hand (7c).
A woman walks hurriedly on a circle, with one hand she touches her head, her red and yellow hair (8a). Semi-nude bodies, one with a bird on its back, another dances on a headless face that is a raised leg or a big erect phallus, winged ears, earred wings, a light bulb and many little men along a long, straight road, there is even a little dragon (8b). Captain America, on a yellow head, beside a head with the nose of a pig, raises his shield and says – “action”. A body with a headless face on which another body rests with a single leg and bat wings, supporting another masked body; a woman waves and a face emerges from a red hole (8c). A sign that illustrates the world beyond any ambition, at the service of happiness. Or something else. No more. No less. I see a woman tattooed with inscriptions, masks, flowers and a skull with hat. She smoothes her shoulders, in front of a brick wall, as it snows (9a). Another woman, tattooed with flowers and snakes, with a large feathered hat. Seductive, elegant, posing (9b). The third is on the phone, a toothy smile on her lips (9c). A liquid, linear sign, unhindered, unhesitating, impeccable, vain. It caresses the skin of the gaze, caresses the skin of the bodies. The big hunchback with the sly smile of sign burnt with red-hot burin that grazes the surface, as if listening, head tilted, from the great mount of the ancient body (10a). The fluid sign of the bird amidst the hair of an astute, distant head that stands out in the glassy sky (10b). On the floor, a carpet expands and on it lines, points, stains move between feet and ground, continuously, they have no end, no solution, they branch off, stretch out, becoming carpet, impossible to grasp or describe (11a); hydrograms that run like rivulets in this landscape (11b). I raise my eyes, I move and encounter a maze of lines, it seems like a face, that moves if I move, and at times I am reflected in it, it doesn’t seem to be traced, yet it is (11c).
“Faccio il doppio gioco” (double-dealer), written on the chest, coming directly from the land of Ganzamonio, from the Ferrara-Bologna-Modena triangle, more precisely from Palata Pepoli. Wheels in place of feet, he has explored, far and wide, the three angles of the triangle, amidst fog banks, radioactive shrimp and visions near the Sette Maceri, and in spite of it all he considers himself 100% Hare. Body jotted and clotted and shaped in the memory of the notebook of a minor Futurist found at a flea market (12a). A book protrudes from a wooden box, an old photo album of memories, drawings of visions yet to come, of what will not happen for those who don’t know how to see (12b). Grasping a small packet of green cloth, closed by a red rubber band, it is opened, inside there is a small book with drawings, page by page it is examined, then wrapped up again in its packet. Signs of immense visions in a little book held in the fingers of two large hands. Magical proportions (12c). And that geometric, prismatic head that stares insistently at me is magical too: the eyes, the nose, the mouth are pulsating black holes, from the nose a six-pointed star opens and expands, multiplies, hypnotic. It seems to be drawn in the mind and projected, through the eyes, into the landscape (13a). The head of the Pope with a large, flowing beard, hieratical, suspended above time, immobile, silent. Only the face of the author – actor – priest brings me back into the arena, surrounded by lions (13b). A little boy in his best outfit, with strange headwear, clutches something in his hand; made of composed, preparatory, expectant sign (13c). A woman holding scissors, seated on the edge of a chair, bending slightly forward, is pruning a plant: she has cut off a dry branch. She has cut herself out with care, meticulously; she has cut out a space for herself in the world to which she doesn’t seem to belong, she is tending her own little garden (14à) where a wolf arrives, lightly dancing in the sign of the cut (14b). A big insect with long legs suddenly rises (15a). From the sky fall bodies that penetrate each other, like rebel angels in free fall (15b). A man is lying over a treetop, like a tired stylite, bathed by regenerating raindrops, with the inscription in the background to slow the descent (15c). Wandering sign that moves amidst the organic discards of language. A boy with big, stretched feet seems to be suspended over the water, he pours water on the head of a figure that emerges from it (16a): an immersion in baptismal liquid, in uncreated sign. I hear a distant voice, from the deep south… yes… now I can hear it better, it comes from Ispica, and seems to say – “James Ensor, Le Baptême du Christ!” An oblique woman opens her mouth to accept the long twisted phallus of a man seated on a dog. A Madonna with Child, a cross and a pig, and its illuminated feces; other figures are glimpsed, whispering (16b), while another reclining woman, engrossed, with luminous eyes and teeth, waits naked, as beside her an apparition happens, it looks like an arm with two fingers, walking (16c). An enchanted sign, in counterpoint to the chants of Antonio Moresco. The little impression of archaic Apollo, placed at the center of the verandah. The room of the Mascheraio, the waiting room for unwelcome guests, the verses engraved over the mirror to the left; D’Annunzio makes Mussolini wait for about two hours in that room before receiving him, to meditate on the words written for him (17a). A black body and a white body, almost a Tao ablaze, in the conflict, smoke and dust (17b). A woman and a youth look into the distance, she uses binoculars, he waves, brandishing a handkerchief (17c). A sign that retraces what has been, two-dimensional impression of witnessing, which is already an impression in its own right. Impression of the impression that preserves the presumed sense of history. The large nude woman with long black hair rests her left foot on the lower part of the stool, on which she shakes, arms in the air, the profile of a small man. A bird flies (18a). The nude body of a man with wings that open upward, an attempt at flight prevented by a bar that forces him to bow his head (18b). Two seated women, one with magmatic headgear that drips on her body, the other in the distance, on another chair from which an American flag is raised (18c). Another woman seated with legs spread, one hand on a shoulder, face covered by hair, and an explosion, an atomic mushroom cloud, like a holy water font (18d). It is a sign that knows the beauty of bodies, a maternal sign, with a scent of wet earth, mud. Romantic, adventurous, indescribable bodies, actors in a traveling show with no director, no script, masters of the art of improvisation, masked by truth (19a, b), they have seen, have crossed, have known that uproar near the bridge, down there (19c). I see a sign that pierces the surface of time, all the way to the deep 1800s. Marked bodies in their disguise reinvent, regenerate the deep groove their existence has made, on the outskirts of history, in the suburbs of the mind. A sign disguised by necessity of investigation, participation, sharing of the depicted body. A superheroine with tears in her eyes grabbed by the neck by a bald, expressionless, lobotomical hulk; she squeezes his wrists, fighting against the grip, asks him something in a language I don’t understand, but in the impregnated sign of her mother tongue I get it (20a). A little lady with a handbag, pursued by a locomotive, runs down the tracks (20b), then stops and scans the horizon (20c). Wide open spaces, cold, desolate, where solitude dwells in the beings that cross them. Barbaric sign that smells of burnt oak and flames extinguished by the frigid north wind. Eye of the wind, wind in the eyes, draws the impetuous gust that shakes the powerful, the wretched, their bodies, their thoughts. Legs open, glasses in hand, bodies like bubbles of emptied thought intent on negotiating the fate of the world (21a). Two cars, two bodies like extensions of the lateral rearview mirrors, dialoguing dolts (21b). The necktied man, with integrity, thinks lots of nice thoughts while, at the same time, pieces of bodies are scattered here and there, erotic, active, intoxicated (21c). Two women: one holds sheets of paper, looks at them (22a), while the other, a tourist with a camera, seems to want to say something to me, maybe she wants to take my picture (22b). A kid has a bundle of newspapers under his arm and one paper in the other, he seems to be moving to the right, but his gaze looks to the left (22b). I meet them but I do not see them, they are strangers, the others, the not-known, that put me into a state of reassuring discomfort. That sign that reveals them concedes nothing more nothing less, it doesn’t bring them closer, it doesn’t distance them; I see them there but they are elsewhere, they move carefully in this limbo, gauging their immobile steps in this advance (22c). A person is fingering a big rosary, the great prayer, it dangles groundward from the knees; a woman to the side, two kneeling people, two more standing, not praying, who knows what they are talking about. A priest at the center diffuses the Holy Spirit, the radiant principle expands in the room, in the drapes (23a), in the blooming flowers, exploding with joy, singing its praises (23b). A sign diffused in the history of Salvation by two pale eyes and a polka-dot tie (23c). A red glow and five heads, four human, one animal, and two clouds: on one I read – “T.H.R.”, and on the other – “D.F.W”. The human heads have open mouths, the animal’s mouth is closed (24a). Another talks to itself, out of the red glare (24b). There is a great tension in those heads, those signs, the atmosphere is electric, you have to keep your cool. There is something familiar about that face, it reminds me of me, a few years ago, the rather forced smile, with two hooks at the corners of the mouth, connected to two lines that run through two pulleys and terminate with the ends tied to two heavy sacks; the index finger of the hand touches the chest, indicates the heart, the pulsator of the sign (25).
The terrain is marked, the landscape is no longer as it was before.