Studio Azzurro

Arte Video D'Autore

This year the fifth international video exhibition in Taormina was dedicated to inter-media exchanges among film, video, and television. The Studio Azzurro team chose the myth of Icarus as its theme, in order to demonstrate the victory of the virtual dimension over the real, in a universe dominated by codes, by the seriality of events, and by the inexorable transformation of all natural or historical data into signs.

The video installation consisted of 24 monitors, with their screens turned skyward, placed on the ground, in a large X formation. One of the quadrants formed by the X contained a pile of lava stones from Mount Etna, which overlooks Taormina. The opposite quadrant contained the program of projections organized by a Meteosat receiver and by three video recorders. In a cyclical sequence, the information sent by a weather satellite broadcast the image of the earth as it looks from above onto the ground, which functioned as a kind of virtual monitor. Above this total image a cursor in the form of a small X shifted about, indicating precise points within the geographic totality. But with each pass the small cursor dragged along a shadow, which blocked out part of the global image, until it entirely disappeared, as if swallowed up by the ground. Each trajectory of the cursor over the image on the ground coincided with a sort of “electromagnetic storm” on the screens of the monitors, produced by acceleration of the recorded images. Like a wave that sweeps away a mass of signs and information, the static corresponded to noisy interruptions in the musical accompaniment. The coinciding visual and aural confusion became dominant precisely as the visibility of the global image was erased with successive passes of the cursor. At the moment that the global image completely disappeared from the ground, a fixed image of a specific place planned by the video recorders appeared on all the individual monitors. In the meantime, words were projected above a long strip of salt, naming the sites now depicted on the screens.

Thus the view of concrete data amidst infinite spatial possibility seems to be the promise that motivates the entire circuit. But it is precisely this concrete reality that is revealed to be a mirage, a dream, which is all that the voyager is left with.

In effect, the myth of Icarus (for which the Studio Azzurro team quotes Raymond Queneau’s interpretation: “On the pages, among the pages, no Icarus”) is referenced in this installation, with the goal of investigating the possibilities for the sign to become a character, an actor in a drama. Paradoxically, the sign becomes an actor only at the moment of its physical disappearance from the stage. This is the response that this installation offers to the problem of whether the heroic identity of Icarus is realized when the character, in flight, is in direct relationship with the images of the world beneath him, or at the moment that he, through excessive desire, disappears from view. In effect, both the “passing into shadow” and the “bringing into light” of the images bear witness to the virtual character of their localization. When the writing appears in the place of the canceled global image on the ground, the concrete image of the place to which the writing alludes is presented on the screens, yet the distance between the word and the “real” site remains inexorable. At the same time, the now imageless support—the mute and opaque earth—corresponds to the name of the thing. On the other hand, during the cancellation performed by the cursor, the accelerated images visible on the monitors dissolve the concrete data into ephemeral decoration, so that only the cancellation of the total image acquires an aspect of authenticity.

And so the goal of the voyage of the small X sign seems to be the point of coincidence between darkness and name. When this coincidence is realized on the ground, the X sign also disappears, swallowed up by the very shadow with which it covered the projected image. Thus the sign/character has become the substance of its own dream. Salt, stones, television screens—these become enigmatic monuments of reality. The writing itself, projected on the white line of salt, is comparable to a gravestone inscription.

What has died? Not Icarus, but reality. As long as the voyage of the sign remains visible, it is a fictional voyage. This is also suggested by the videos on the ground, with their screens turned skyward, like open tombs. But the contents of these tombs are always geographically elsewhere. It is symbolic substance that is missing from the scene. Indeed, like sepulchers of lived experience, the videos remain empty, desecrated by the absence of the corpse.

But “elsewhere” is also the realm of freedom, where the sign disappears, escaping the codified information system. Icarus doesn’t vanish from the historical scene because he flies too near the sun, but in order to invent new heroic, uncodified projects in the realm of shadow.

—Luciana Rogozinski

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.