Jorge Orta Site Visit

JULY, 2 2018

After a journey that had started early in the morning, on a plane from Paris and Milan to Naples, Jorge Orta and Katia Anguelova arrive in Lagonegro late in the afternoon, on a bus. We welcome them. This is the third time we meet Katia, but we have never met Jorge before: recently we have kept in touch and started to envisage our project at a distance, but now we finally get the chance to know each other. As soon as they get off the bus, Katia hugs us and exclaims: “We made it!”; Jorge smiles and we shake hands. We were expecting some comments, or rather complaints, about the distance and the discomforts of travelling to this out-of-the-way Southern Italian region, but instead, he smiles and gives little weight to it. He is definitely tired, but his eyes are filled with wonder at seeing such beautiful landscapes during the journey from Naples. We chat a little bit in the car.
The journey is short, as we stop at Sirino Lake for dinner. But before sitting at the table, we enjoy a lovely walk along the shore. During the dinner, Jorge asks about the project, Basilicata region, the Pollino Park and tells us something about his artistic career, a story that he would keep telling in the coming days. We find out that we have some acquaintances in common. Gaetano remembers that in 2007 (when ArtePollino was established), in San Gimignano, at the Galleria Continua, he saw the Antarctica exhibition by the artistic duo Lucy + Jorge Orta.
We chat until late and then we decide to come back to Latronico so that our guests can get some rest at the B&B. The tart Maria Carmela prepared for breakfast gives them a foretaste of a sweet awakening; they need it, because tomorrow a very long tour awaits us.

JULY, 3 2018

We meet at the square and have a coffee before heading the park to visit Earth Cinema, an artistic installation by Anish Kapoor. Jorge wants to learn about the ArtePollino project: so today, in between site visits, we will also see three permanent installations. The visits will be very short, due to our strict deadlines and given that our main goal is to visit as many sites as possible, to identify the location where Lucy & Jorge Orta will make their performance in 2019, for our Ka art project. That’s why, after a short visit, we enter the Sinnica road heading Senise. Montecotugno Lake is a must-see, as it is symbol of our area, not only for its size. The deep changes made to the landscape by the construction of the dam had significant effects also on citizen’s life, agricultural biodiversity and climate. Today this lake is used for water supply, both inside and outside our region, and it is also a wonderful birdwatching site. But it is fair to know the history of the place.
We move from Senise to Noepoli, and we stop at the Timpa Forata, to admire its continuously changing shape, created by erosion. Noepoli offers breathtaking views on the River Sarmento and some balconies provide a panoramic view on the surrounding landscape. Jorge is struck by what he sees, he keeps asking questions about the town and how people usually live here. The Nature Theatre by Giuseppe Penone gives us the chance to talk about this great, world-renowned Italian artist, and our hopes of seeing his work finished. After a quick lunch, we move on to San Severino Lucano. After a walk across the town, we visit the famous carousel of RB Ride carousel, made by Carsten Höller, in Timpa della Guardia. The first reaction, as always, is surprise: you would never expect a carousel there.
Then we sit on the platform and begin to tell the story we’ve been telling since 2009 to all those who visit this place with us. But Jorge is an artist and as such is able to catch aspects that most of us don’t notice. Later Annalisa and Agnese, our social media communication specialists, join us in San Severino. We sit on a bench, in the main square, chatting; then we move on to Latronico.

JULY, 4 2018

The day is entirely dedicated to Matera. We had scheduled some meeting to identify the most suitable venue for the performance. As soon as we get off the car, the muggy air of Matera hits us. Jorge seems rather worried about sunburn, so he decides to use two infallible tools: a high protection sunscreen and a straw boater. Gaetano helps him during the price negotiation with the hats seller. With his face covered in sunscreen and the boater on his head, Jorge is now ready for a walk through the most suggestive places of the town. Katia, with her already tanned, olive skin, looks at him and smiles. We go to the Open Design School to meet the working group and learn about the most suitable places in Matera to host the performance. Once there, Rita Orlando, Rossella Tarantino and Marco Laterza, along with all the other guys who work at the place, come by to welcome us. There is chaos here today; we hear the clamour of a group of kids making some outdoor activities. We move inside, where we are protected from noise and the temperature is definitely more acceptable. We are here to learn more about the map, made by the ODS, of 400 sites potentially able to host events in Matera and throughout the region.
During the meeting, we take notes and find some places to visit in the afternoon. During a break, Jorge and Gaetano move to another room to be interviewed by some journalists from TRM, a local TV Channel, who had arrived in the meantime. Before leaving, Jorge keeps talking with the ODS group about some techniques and materials he normally uses in his work. At lunch, we refresh with mixed salad, Matera bread and one of Matera’s most delicious typical dishes: fava bean puree with chicory. Yes, it is definitely not the right time to eat it, but we can’t resist; however, we ask the waitress to serve it warm, at least. After lunch, we go to the offices of Matera Basilicata 2019 Foundation.
Agostino Riitano is waiting for us on the terrace (just opened). Ariane Bieou joins us soon. After the introductions in Italian, French is elected as the official language of the meeting: Ariane is a French native speaker, Jorge lives in Paris and Katia has lived in France for a long time. We show them the catalogue made by Studio Orta on the 10X7 performance The Meal. We try to identify some suitable places with them too. Soon we leave, to keep carrying out our site visits and also enable our hosts to continue their activities. We visit many squares and especially neighbourhoods where the inhabitants of the Sassi used to carry out their social activities: once upon a time, here they used to play, do and hang the laundry, knit. There was a cistern to collect rainwater and an oven used by the entire district to bake bread. Jorge becomes fascinated by this story and by the beauty of the places.
We focus on the pros and cons of each site. A storm forces us to stop near the church of San Pietro Barisano; then we continue our journey. We are tired but satisfied when we decide to leave. We stop to have dinner near Latronico. It’s late and tonight there’s less excitement at dinner; the long day has absorbed all our energies. We don’t stay long, we just eat something and go. We put off until tomorrow morning all comments and conclusions. Now it’s time to get some rest.

JULY, 5 2018

We meet at the Museum of Spa and Wellness in time, we only have a few hours of work ahead of us before Katia and Jorge’s departure, so we need to take a decision before saying goodbye. We carefully consider every scenario, one by one. At some point, Jorge unexpectedly has an idea: despite the great charm of Matera, he would like to make his performance here in the Pollino Park; he is convinced that this project should be an opportunity for the hinterland and the association, which in this way would be able to continue the work started ten years ago with great effort and sacrifice. We wouldn’t expect that much from a great artist, we are truly surprised. Jorge has fully grasped the meaning of our project; in just two days, he has connected with our work. And clearly, we welcome his proposal with enthusiasm. Katia, who has curated projects in similar areas for a long time now, seems convinced too. The site visit couldn’t end better. We’re ready to take our guests to the bus stop. We say goodbyes to each other, glad we had met a real artist.