On Fossil time


Our seven guests arrive bit by bit, in the afternoon. The first one is Camilla, she has taken advantage of the short distance from Naples, where she is from; the last one is Silvia, who had departed from Berlin early in the morning. Bora and Pleurad took a plane yesterday evening from Tirana and stopped in Bari for the night. Cosimo comes from Marche region, but in Rome he joined the tutors, Claudia and Francesco, who had departed from Milan. We feel real joy at meeting Claudia Losi again in Latronico, after so many years. In 2009, we managed a project called “Qui e non altrove” (Here and not elsewhere). One of the most beautiful community projects implemented within the framework of “ArtePollino Un altro sud”. Over the years, we have kept in touch and met occasionally, but never in our region. Now she has come back and it is nice to meet here. As soon as she arrives, we smile and hug each other, and that hug is filled with affection and much expectation. When working as a tutor, Claudia will be supported by Francesco Pedrini, with whom we have immediately connected since our first dinner together. We are immediately captivated by his witty, yet good-tempered, irony. Cosimo, for his part, can play the game and together they are a good team (we would then discover that they had met for the first time). As we sit at the dinner table, we get to know each other. Of the three Albanian artists, Silva is the one that can speak Italian the less, even if she can understand it very well; it would be better to speak English with her. Bora and Pleurad, instead, can speak Italian fluently; as a matter of fact, many Albanians have learned our language by watching Italian TV or visiting our country. However, they explain to us that the percentage of young Albanians able to speak Italian is in sharp decline; today, much more focus is given to the English language. Camilla remains pretty quiet during the dinner; she is tired after such a long day or, maybe, she prefers to listen. Maybe she is getting prepared for the tight schedule we are going to be on for a whole week as of tomorrow.


We spend the first day in Latronico, the town where our guests will be accommodated and where our association is based. We spend the first part of the day presenting the association, the Ka art project, and the area. We meet at the MULA+ Museum in Latronico, near the thermal water source of Calda. Our guests are curious and get closer to the spring with a glass in their hands, but after drinking their reactions are rather different: not everybody likes that boiled eggs aftertaste, despite the fact that the water’s beneficial effects have been known for hundreds of years. Somebody drinks a coffee to cover the taste or maybe it’s just an excuse to stock up on energy. We visit the museum housed in the first thermal centre: at the end of the 1920s, Latronico’s citizens started using it, an experience that would deeply influence their customs. It’s a beautiful, sunny day, so we continue working on the outside terrace. While we are sitting in a circle, Gaetano talks about the long experience of ArtePollino, from 2008 until today, and the Ka art project. In the coming days we will visit four different valleys: with the help of a map, we will try to illustrate the characteristics of this land named Pollino lucano. Our guests ask us accurate, never banal questions, and the morning goes by. During the lunch break, Annalisa and Agnese, our social media managers, join us. After the break, we visit the caves located just a few metres away and very appreciated by researchers in prehistory; soon after that, we head for the Parco delle Terme of Latronico. We visit the thermal centre, cheerfully led by, Kian who insistently tries to convince us of the benefits of mud baths (as if anyone had doubted about them!) Right after, we arrive at the “Earth Cinema” installation, a site-specific work by Anish Kapoor firstly featured in 2009. We jump down the waterfall and walk across the narrow streets of the town centre, where other contemporary works of art by the Vincenzo De Luca association can be found. Before dinner, there’s just enough time to enjoy a drink in the square, to better connect with the spirit of this place. The town of Latronico has an almost obsessive relationship with the square, even if the weather here is not so warm; but we are still in September and the temperatures these days allow us to spend some time outdoors. Our guests, in fact, are surprised at noticing that there are so many people sitting in the square, chatting, even if it’s Tuesday. The restaurant is just a few steps away from the square; here “everything is close”, distances are short, you can walk across the whole town. Perhaps, though, driving makes one feel “more modern and fashionable”, so it is not uncommon to see cars coming and going. After dinner we spend some time chatting at the table; Camilla is in great shape tonight and entertains part of the group with some stories and jokes, backed up by Francesco. At the other end of the table, instead, the discussion is much more serious: Bora, Pleurad, Silva and Luca are involved in a discussion about the renewal works in Tirana’s main square. Sitting in between them, Annalisa and Agnes try to switch their attention from one to the other, maybe thinking about some posts.


In our 9 seater car, we head for the Valley of Sarmento to visit two Arbëresh towns and meet some people. Our first stop is San Paolo Albanese, a tiny village founded five centuries ago by Albanian refugees, where the traditions and the language are still kept alive, as well as the religious Greek Byzantine rites. The inhabitants jealously guard this heritage, but they are also willing to show it to visitors. Rosangela Palmieri will be our guide today, on our visit to both the church and the small museum. She will be able to amaze us as usual thanks to her excellent storytelling and the impressive amount of information. After this long visit, we leave her and visit Quirino Valvano, who awaits us in San Costantino Albanese, a town located opposite to San Paolo Albanese and founded by people who had fled from their homeland. Quirino is waiting for us along the trail that leads to his house, which is near the river, immersed into nature. In this peaceful scenario, he manufactures musical instruments in the workshop next to the house: bagpipes, shawms and surdulline, which is a very short chantered version of the bagpipe. He generously welcomes us into his world. He explains his work in detail, from the selection of the materials to the smallest, but ingenious tricks used to overcome practical construction problems. Our eyes and ears are full of wonder, especially when he starts playing. We are fascinated, mostly by the simplicity of his life, but also by the way he tells his story and introduces himself to other people. Before leaving, he shows us around his house. It is only natural for us to wonder how he withstands so much loneliness; but when asked about that, he spontaneously answers that he doesn’t feel lonely here and is not scared. We should have expected such an answer! It’s getting late, so we leave him and have lunch at the rifugio Acquafredda. Enzo and Filomena, who run the place, haven’t been told we were coming. Yet, no matter how late, there’s always something on their table, actually, more than something. It starts raining in the afternoon, so we decide to come back to Latronico to gather the first feedback and start a new project, which will last until Saturday. It consists in presenting the artists and their works. Today it’s Bora Baboçi and Pleurad Xhafa’s turn. Our meeting point is always the Mula+. We also manage to hear from and see Katia Anguelova on a Skype video call. She is our curator, smiling, as usual. She will follow the residence project remotely, and her contribution will be crucial when we will have to start designing and organising our work for 2019.


Today’s plan’s been known since yesterday, and actually it hasn’t raised any concern: we will go to the woods to walk, and so far everything is quite predictable as the programme was communicated in advance. But we will do it in utter silence, as suggested by the two tutors. We will try to activate our senses and attention, listen to every step and sound, be present and sensitive to what is around us but especially ourselves, being in an unusual setting. We head off and it’s magic already! We hardly ever give in to pointing at something, we are being careful not to make a sound and are using our hands and eyes only. But the beautiful deer that we spot as he is approaching the water gets the upper hand over our self-control: at that point we hear Pleurad whispers “ooh”! It’s a flash. As soon as he utters it, the deer disappears. He must have heard the noise of our steps and fled. We look at each other, smiling, and continue on our way. Even if we know this place very well, we are finally able to enjoy it fully, walking across it as we would always like to do: it is almost as if we saw it for the first time. Francesco has devised his own, very personal, graphic tool to record the signals from the forest, especially the noises on a 3rd grade lined notebook (which must be at least 30 years old and has been given to him this morning before leaving). He walks with the notebook open and a ballpoint in one hand. Silvia can’t let her camera go: the green fields all around, the water of the river, the trees, it all keeps catching her attention. Now and then, someone stops to observe a detail, a plant, a mushroom. We move very slowly, as we pay attention to keep the group whole. We leave the wood before the shops close, just in time to buy some Italian focaccia in San Severino Lucano. Once our lunch is secured, we decide to move toward Timpa della Guardia, where the Rb Ride Carousel by Carsten Höller is located. Perhaps someone could even criticise the idea, but we like it: we will eat our focaccia while watching the carousel and the landscape which, in 2009, inspired the artist to make the work here. There is no one here today: the grey clouds and the slowly approaching ones have discouraged visitors. We are all alone, enjoying this marvel. But at some point,it looks like it’s going to start raining any minute, so we must leave. Also, we have an appointment in Rotonda, at the Park’s offices. Egidio Calabrese was waiting for us for a guided tour of the Ecomuseum. We asked him to give us more insights on the geology of the Park. The geological value of the Pollino Park has recently been listed within the UNESCO Global Geoparks network. Egidio was in charge of the application process and looks after all the procedures to continue to fulfil the network’s criteria. His explanations arouse the curiosity of the artists, who ask for more material. Before leaving the town of Rotonda, we stop quickly at the square, without getting out of the car as it’s raining. We want to see the ‘l’a pitu e la rocca’, a beech and a spruce, two trees joined together to symbolise the marriage of the trees during the festival of Sant’Antonio. Tonight also, before dinner, even if we feel tired, we will stop by the museum to listen to the presentation of the works by Cosimo Veneziano and a brief speech by Claudia Losi on the relationship between art and walking. Tonight as well, Franco’s delicious recipes and the cheerful atmosphere at the dinner table will pamper us.


Visiting Matera gives joy, even when you know that you’ll have to rush and a long and tiring day awaits you. After four days of hard work, we feel tired. It’s not always easy to be responsive in the morning, especially if you had to work until late to deliver a report, as Francesco. So, for the first half-hour of the journey, most of the group dozes off. But while travelling on the Sinnica road, on the viaduct that crosses the Montecotugno’s reservoir, even the most tired wake up and take some pictures with their phones. It’s raining, but the sight is unique and needs to be reminded. We slow down, to give everyone the chance to see the landscape through the right and left windows. As soon as we leave the reservoir behind us, someone starts to ask questions: its size, water uses, the large pipe that emerges from the dam and is visible throughout the journey up to Policoro. The group is really curious and someone asks if on the way back we can stop off and have a closer look at it. Once in Matera, we start looking for a parking space. We go to the town centre, where we have some appointments. But some things catch the attention of our group along the way; after all, they are artists! The chiesa del Purgatorio is a must-see along via Ridola. The church’s baroque decorations are inspired by death and souls’ redemptions. After a few metres we stumble upon the Open Design School’s stand where visitors are greeted during the days dedicated to Materadio radio programme. We finally get to Piazza Vittorio Veneto, where our friend Enzo Montemurro, a guide of Matera as well as manager of the Palombaro, is waiting for us to give us a tour inside. The place is really captivating but we only have a little time and must move on. As we are walking, we stop by the cathedral, recently reopened to the public after a number of restorations. Our guests are mesmerised by Matera’s alleys; as soon as we have descended, the view stretches out to the Gravina River and the Murgia plateau. The group stops and takes in such a unique scenario which has often been chosen as a movie set. It’s 1:30 PM and someone’s hungry. We go for a quick break. Before we leave Matera, we decide to visit the neighbourhood of La Martella, a 1950s experimental housing development that Luca had talked about on many occasions. This project involved Adriano Olivetti as well as many important scholars and intellectuals from a number of fields. On our way back, as we promised, at the Senise crossroads we head towards the shore of the dam. We get close to one of the houses that was abandoned in the 1980s when that land got flooded. Everybody is captivated by a detail: the water, the dyke’s massive structure, the houses made of straws and clay (ciucioli). These were sheds built by those peasants who used to harvest this land which they then had to give up. For a while we take in this apparently natural view, which in actual fact was deeply influenced by man’s intervention. We carry on to Latronico, where we will be briefed on today’s activities and will listen to the presentations of Silvia Agostini and Camila Salvatore’s works. Tonight, Francesco will talk about his own. Then we all go to have dinner.


When talking over the phone with Claudia to organise the residence programme, the only thing she kept asking was to see the heldreich’s pines! In 2009, when she was busy in the making of the project, she only managed to see some things. The heldreich’s pine (Pino Loricato in Italian) is rather uncommon, seeing it implies some hours walking as well as willingness, as if it was a pilgrimage, which is one of the reasons it’s so special. Luckily, having put off the excursion for days, the weather forecast is not as dreadful, at least until later on in the afternoon, so we can head to Serra di Crispo; we are going to be walking for 3 and a half hours on the way there, and a little less on the way back. We leave our 9-seater by the Madonna del Pollino sanctuary, roughly 1500 metres asl. Annalisa and Agnese are back today too; they stoically woke up very early in the morning so they could walk with us. The instructions are unvaried: walking but no talking. As he is our guide and knows this area, Gaetano will be the only one who talks, should anybody want to draw the group’s attention to something specially important. Furthermore, today we are asked one more thing: we should avoid taking pictures all the time, minimise the number of shots as much as possible. Yet again, we will have to create a familiar and reflective atmosphere, suitable to the work we are carrying out. For quite a long while, we manage to hear the sounds of nature and our steps only, then at some point we hear some voices. It’s a small group of excursionists who is clearly not having the same experience as we are, nor do they know that our silence is due to no coincidence. For their part, they are chatting, laughing, making jokes about somebody’s fitness; this chattering, after so much silence, is annoying. Maybe someone could even picture us as a bunch of picky people, showing off some sort of sensitiveness or refinement; no, nothing like it! Actually, when one experiences being silent for a while, the ears, as well as the mind, only wish it to last longer. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Without revealing any annoyance, we try to slow down so they can walk ahead of us, but it doesn’t work. So we stop to think of the next step. Gaetano, who is setting the pace, decides to accelerate a little and take them over. We manage to do so and reconquer our longed peacefulness. As of that point on, we come across horses and grazing cows only. After the usual breaks, we finally spot them, clinging onto the rocks; we are almost there, Gaetano tells us, and in fact after about twenty minutes we can touch with our own hands the bark of the trunk and the pine’s needles. We have climbed to more than 2000 metres asl! Everybody looks for a place to gather themselves and fully feel the energy radiated by this place, that by no coincidence is called ‘The Garden of the Gods’. Mist gives it a distinctively elusive, indefinite trait. On our lunch break we all meet in a more sheltered spot, but nobody stops looking around. We had been asking Dora for days to sing something for us, after we had discovered this passion of hers, and this is the right moment, in this natural temple, immersed among hundreds-of-years-old trees, monuments enclosing the ancient bond between Italy and the Balkan area. Under Bora’s specific request, we don’t record nor take pictures, but her shut eyes and the sound of her voice improvising a song (which by no means sounds improvised to us) will most certainly be remembered by all of us. The way the sky looks forces us to stand up and get back walking; we have to descend before it starts raining. We reach Madonna di Pollino, we are tired but satisfied, and we haven’t even got a drop of water. We head to Latronico, and our only desire is to have a shower and enjoy a good dinner. The atmosphere at the table is light-hearted, our work has been carried out the best way it could, and with much satisfaction; we cheer contently to the time spent together and what’s ahead of us. Freed of any embarrassment, Camilla sings some Italian melodic tunes, stealing clapping and laughter. The day, and the residence, end up with a hat on the square, and it couldn’t have been otherwise. One by one, the elder give up and go to bed. The only survivor among the younger is Luca.


The time to set off has come. The first ones who left this morning were Camilla and Silvia. Luca went along with them until Maratea, where he took a train to Naples; here, Silvia will get on a plane to Berlin, where she lives. The rest of the group will go to Rome by coach and then we will all go home, some by plane, some by train. We have our last coffee all together at the bar and the we say goodbye, committed to carry on working remotely and to keep in touch until 2019, a crucial date for all of us.