Rä di Martino: All of his steps were sentiments, all of his teeth were ideas / 23 March - 29 April 2023
In a twist of fate, Rä di Martino brings one of Italy’s most famous actors and directors back from the dead. Having passed away in 2002 Carmelo Bene becomes animate once more at the will of a woman, the artist, to perform lines from his archive's notes on a never realised opera, Il Vampiro. The undead performs the undead: the writer performing his Dracula, and his victim. But who is the victim here? In these lines and notes the writers’ sympathies lie clearly with he of the longer teeth:
“The ‘incurable dandy’ vampire is an un/conscious projection of his own victims. No more, no less. The victim is a victim of himself. As for the restlessness of the undead, they are truly strange and incurable creatures. A miracle is called for: Our Lady of the Vampires.”
To direct is to have a soft sort of power, as is to charm. One ability of the original Dracula character of Bram Stoker is to hold a sort of charm over people that is somewhere between the gentile and the dark arts. The ability to influence and inflect someone’s movement is something that here Di Martino, Bene and the vampire somehow share. Where Bene’s character is concerned though, the fault for this imbalance seems to lie curiously with the victim:
“Alas, the majority of women take a fancy to the ‘demon’, to the ‘other’; she then marries him out of the lazy haste of habit, turning him into no more than a pipe-and-slippers figure. Why? Because the ‘victim’ initially adores being scared, taking on a double-edged role, yet she will not endure the coquetry of such a game for long, and she soon (how very soon!) will call back her fear to heel.”
This is a dated narrative that we know well now too. Picked over in our news articles, debated in our courts – when is one truly a victim? Expertly explored in the recent theatre production Prima Facie, this question logically leads to the next: When can our very real ‘demon’s rely on this apparent ambiguity in court and why does the same not apply in reverse?
It has to be conceded that both Stoker’s original Dracula and the more modern vampires that have since been conjured in text, film and tv, seem to hold a near endless allure for a broad range of audiences. As the cliché goes, Perhaps we all adore a little fear so long as we can close the book.
Accompanying the central video installation, di Martino has extracted and appropriated copies of photographic images from the archive as much as from Bene’s texts. A selection of telling moments and gestures frozen in black and white are ripped through with a violent passion only to be theatrically healed a little in the Kintsugi tradition.
Special thanks to the Archivio Carmelo Bene, Lecce who produced the video Lá dove muore, canta, and the original photographic series. And to IMT Gallery for tech loans.
An artist book “Carmelo Bene. Là dove muore, canta“ edited by Humboldt books and produced by Archivio Carmelo Bene accompanies the film and research.
The book will be launched 25 February at Testo 2023, Florence
The exhibition runs 23 March, Wed - Sat, 12 - 6pm
until 29 April 2023
“The figure of the actor appears immersed in the darkness of an indefinite space, enveloped in a nostalgic aura. Perhaps the signs of a life gone by. Perhaps his having become something else, a digital image”
-Brizia Minerva, “Carmelo Bene. Là dove muore, canta“ (2023)
Known for work that plays with the permeable membrane between realty and fiction, di Martino’s Carmelo Bene is offered in the video through 3D reconstruction, with a voice modelled on that of actor Lino Musella. Perfected in the gaming industry, this kind of lifelike rendering is new to her practice and she has also used software and the help of musician Simone Pappalardo to analyse the harmonic components of her actor’s voice, the sounds of each word transformed into the melody of an accompanying score. The result is a musicality closely linked to the text in a process that echoes research Carmelo Bene carried out on his own voice using the equipment of his day. Across the monitors, while one figure of the actor comes alive and speaks, the others wait accompanied by the music produced from the voice, and subtly fidget in sonic harmony.
For the artists CV and more information please click here
please click for a further text about the film from the curator of the Archivio Carmelo Bene, Brizia Minerva