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Jo Melvin Lost in Spoleto

Special Insert Lost in Spoleto

Artists' Books Program 2018
Mahler & LeWitt Studios
guest curated by Jo Melvin and in collaboration with Viaindustriae

Herczeg 1998
Herczeg 2000

Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #301, Torre Bonomo, Spoleto, 1977.

Photo credit Joschi Herczeg

General Introduction

What does the notion ‘lost’ entail? Where might it find a location? What is a retreat? Taking a walk, visiting a monastery, a library, absorbed by a book, a work. This special ‘insert’ into Issue 2 of Soanyway takes its name from Richard Nonas’ book, ‘Lost in Spoleto’, also the title of Jo Melvin’s display, a title which seems to find a location for this ‘lost’ IN Spoleto, and inevitably in the work itself. Spoleto, with its powerful sense of layered narratives, streets and buildings containing a palimpsest of marks left by previous inhabitants, wall drawings of the 1970s and frescos of the 15th century, revealed itself as a place for the convergence of ideas, drawing people together from a variety of disciplines to interact there.

The special insert is loosely divided into three sections. First, a form of background to situate an expansion of ideas regarding location and practice: the place of Spoleto, exhibiting in spaces holding layers of thought and practice, merging old and new. Second, locating the archive and approaching the object of the book: accessing materials, processes of making/realisation, the instructive figure of the artist, the trace left by the object. Third, ‘translating’ practice and performance: processing across mediums and spaces, conceptualising strategy, ways of looking and narrating. The Artists’ Books Program engaged with the shifting interaction between idea and practice. How might an event be recorded, located, in a work; how might a work be realised, located, in an event?

Situating 'Lost in Spoleto'
Introduction from Guy Robertson (Curator and Co-Director, Mahler & LeWitt Studios)

Our program at the Mahler & LeWitt Studios in Spoleto, Umbria IT, is based around the former studios of Anna Mahler and Sol LeWitt, as well as the Torre Bonomo, a medieval tower used for artist projects since the 1970s. The Artists’ Books residency, symposium and public program, guest curated by Jo Melvin, Reader in Archives and Special Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL, London, stemmed from interactions with a unique artists’ books collection, owned by former textile-manufacturer Primo De Donno, and the connected Viaindustriae Archive in nearby Foligno. Residents were not asked to respond directly to the collection, but could use it as a resource throughout the September session. At the end of the month, we were joined by artists, curators, writers, publishers and designers for a week-long symposium and public program (click here to view the schedule): An itinerary of open dialogues and excursions, including visits to the De Donno collection and hikes, as well as performances, screenings and exhibitions. Soanyway joined us on this exploration. We are delighted with the contributions compiled here by Gertrude Gibbons, which document some of the many conversations and events that took place. The program was supported by a Chelsea Arts Club Trust, Barry Flanagan Curatorial Award. We are grateful to the following organisations for their support of individual residents: Artifex Press, Culture Ireland, Yale School of Art, Tate, University of Edinburgh, and Fitzcarraldo Editions.

Jo Melvin - Lost in Spoleto

Display of Artists' Books, Richard Nonas Lost in Spoleto bottom left

Richard Nonas’s book of this title indicates some of our thinking around the notions of being lost and then being found, as well as drawing on the processes of finding, literally or metaphorically – what we encounter and discover – here in this terrain. Sol LeWitt’s book ‘From Montelucco to Spoleto’ connects the Eremo Di Santa Maria Maddalena to the Torre Bonomo. Stratospheres are constantly being opened up and placed before us.

These thoughts on the books on display are notes towards devising a source book, or rather a compendium for Spoleto. Compendious intersections, topographical strata of the land, the rhythm of walking, as a tradition and to inhabit now, in and around the land by foot. A space for contemplation and not knowing what might ensue but creating a possibility, a platform for production. Books and ephemera are the tip of intersections, between artists. Tracing exhibitions, artists books and some recent inhabitations and conversations with walking, with the specificity of the place enable an illumination of how Spoleto the town and its peoples exist as a point of intersection in different material and immaterial forms. The Maurizio Nannucci’s neon multiple Listen with your eyes in Primo De Donno’s collection suggests a sensory bifurcation to employ for this process.

Joanna P
Joanna Pocock - The Letting in of the Light

September 27, 2018



Nobody shall violate this grove, export or take away what belongs to the grove.

Nobody shall cut (wood) except for the requirements of the annual divine service ...

If someone violates (this rule), he shall offer … an ox to Jupiter.


From the Lex Spoletina, a standing stone at the entrance
.to the Sacred Wood of Monteluco, circa 300 BCE

lex spoletina.close-up.jpg


I am half way up a mountain in Umbria called Monteluco. The town of Spoleto sprawls at its feet, a jumble of terracotta tiles, limestone and sandstone bricks, ochre walls and lanes of granite cobbles. Against the crazy blue of the sky, the view from this hill consists of bands and patches of pure, sharp, arid colour. The day is not cold but the air has something in it, the portent of autumn. I don’t know where I am, in that way that comes over you when you allow yourself to be a passenger. I am one of a group and we are winding our way up this mountain. We are not exactly strangers, but many of us have never met. I have no idea where I am in space. But this place is where I want to be, so I am not lost.



We pass a replica of the standing stone known as the Lex Spoletina, (its original having been tucked safely away in a museum in Spoleto). It is inscribed with the rules of this land and marks the entrance to the Sacred Wood of Monteluco: a concentrated mass of ancient evergreen oaks, with deep, dark green leaves, almost black in the shade. More like holly than the version of oak I am familiar with in Britain. Translated from the Latin, Monteluco means ‘sacred wood of the mountain’. There are three other words in Latin for ‘forest’, but ‘lucus’ is the only one to bestow a spiritual dimension. Some believe it is derived from ‘lucendo’, a letting in of the light.


Much of this forest has no undergrowth, as if these monoliths need only soil and sun – nothing earthly in between. Seekers have been coming here for centuries to find God, solitude or some version of a higher power. According to the Earth, every forest is sacred so I am trying to feel what drew the hermits, the holy people, the visionaries to this particular grove. There is something here – a feeling that this place has held tight to the secrets told to it during the night. And then there is the pull of Jupiter – the deity to whom this wood is devoted. With his thunderbolt and his eagle, he is god of the sky, the most powerful of the Roman gods. These are his woods.


I wander through the oaks, the light filtering from above masking out the forest floor in shifting patterns. The trunks of these trees are broad. Although they have been here for centuries, they are too young to have met Saint Francis when he walked this ground in 1218, spending his days praying and meditating, kneeling at his wooden bed in the monastery now bearing his name. Nor would these trees have looked down on the 81-year-old Michelangelo, who it is said rushed here from Rome to flee Spanish troops in 1556. There are holes dug in the rockface where hermits have slept over the years. I want to curl up in one and spend the night. But I walk on, pulled by the force of these trees and this mountain to go higher.



When the acorns for these oaks were softening, probably some time in the early nineteenth century, their shells would have cracked open in the pitch black soil. Their first leaves may have already sprouted on 3 January 1818, the day that Venus occulted Jupiter. Those who looked up into the sky on that cold night would have seen Venus, the planet named for the goddess of love, the Roman version of the wise woman who embodied the soil, the land, blood and fertility. And they would have seen her moving across Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, obliterating him from view. The trees I stand among may have witnessed this. The next Venus-Jupiter occultation will be on 22 November 2065. Will these trees still be here? They have seen things I never will. They understand things in a way I cannot. As we are about to begin our descent, I stand before an oak examining its furrowed bark. Someone says, ‘You look like you want to hug it.’ I turn and smile at this stranger. ‘Yes, I do.’ I wrap my arms around this ancient tree, this witness to things I can’t comprehend. I hear laughter. I hear people made more alive for being here. I hear the woods and the tales they tell us and I get a faint whisper of the stories spoken on a frequency we cannot tune into. We begin our descent. Something in every one of us has shifted, such is the power of these trees. These sacred trees and their blessed letting in of the light.

Grace Weir - In Parallel
Grace Weir

Grace Weir’s film In Parallel, which begins with her father’s palimpsestic drawing board, mysteriously found its way to Sol LeWitt's similar board. LeWitt’s board became a pedestal for the film, the echoes of works made upon it meeting the echoes of Weir’s father’s board behind the echoes of the film’s drawings. The origins, sources, of multiple works and thought were indeed seen here ‘In Parallel’. Spoleto had lent itself to a complementary coming-together of works, such that work from elsewhere came to be perceived as a dialogue with the new space. The film’s exploration of Euclid’s Elements, reflecting on “how the shapes of thought in which our beliefs are expressed affects our perception of ourselves within our environment”, seemed to be mirrored and realised into the three-dimensional space in which we stood.

Grace Weir
Grace Weir
Grace Weir
In Search of the Object: Locating Book and Archive
Eloise Bennett - Fragmented Approaches

How might we approach an archive that resists linear narration?

        that sits between catalogued and uncatalogued


Rather than imposing an overarching narrative and structure, can we instead pay attention to fragmentation, incoherence and chaotic elements of the archive?



Reflecting on presence, on the contemporary condition of an archive or repository, and on its potential reactivation, I feel heavy, fleshy and cold in the grey archival reading room.


Can we approach an archive such that we do not erase the body – our feelings, sensations and thoughts – but also attend closely to the objects within?


Can we prioritise being with objects in an archive?

From the position of being an object, is it possible to move towards more agential, political, embodied terrain. [1]


How might we nurture and promote sympathy with and between our non-human neighbours?

Can this be an act of care?



What might these approaches look like in practice?


touch, mediated by archival/surgical blue gloves

listening to incidental sound, to accent, rhythm, voice

gleaning – reading – writing – beginning again




[1] Katherine Behar, ‘An Introduction to OOF’, Object Oriented Feminism, (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2016), 3-13.

Giovanni Rendina - Artists' Platforms

Giovanni Rendina presents his research at Caffè Collicola

In preparation for ‘1962 Sculture nella Città’ exhibition, curator Giovanni Carandente partnered with the Italsider factory to organise residencies for artists.  Assisted by the workforce, they realised new metal sculptures (for instance, Alexander Calder made what in 1962 was the largest sculpture in the world). Giovanni Rendina's research in Carandente Archives, Spoleto developed his interest in artists' platforms and extended collabrative networks. 

During my period of residency in Spoleto I started inquiring into contemporary sculptural practice in relation to the materials used and their affordability. For majority of artists, the choice of materials is driven by the self-sustainability of their pieces according to their incomes. I have started asking if it was possible to define a style from these qualities.

Futurism was one of the first artistic movements that put an emphasis on new and ephemeral materials. In 1912 Futurist Sculpture Technical Manifesto, Boccioni writes about the importance of using materials such as glass, wood, cardboard, cement, iron, horsehair, leather, cloth, mirrors and electric lights as a political attempt to destroy the traditions and perceived nobility of sculptures. Unfortunately, Boccioni died in 1916, never realising his intentions.

Many years later, in 1967, the first Arte Povera exhibition took place in Genova. Its curator Germano Celant wrote in “I territori dell’Arte Povera” that the context giving birth to Arte Povera, from 1964 to 1966, was strongly influenced as a reaction to Pop Art. In his estimation, Pop Art’s exaltation of consumer products was perceived by the Arte Povera artists as a means of artistic and cultural colonisation. Their use of everyday raw materials can be seen to oppose the iconic approach of Pop Art and its creation of capitalist symbols. During those years, 50s to late 60s, the United States, and consequently Europe, were undergoing unprecedented economic growth. Through large-scale production plants built following the Fordist guidelines, top down management and just in case approach, mass production started flooding the world with objects.

Nowadays we are living in an era of digital capitalism where raw materials can be bought at big distributors like Leroy Merlin, a French company that is fourth-largest organisation in the world’s do-it-yourself industry, or on E-Commerce platforms like Amazon allowing people of all different incomes to access them, still reinforcing the capitalist structure in place.

In this production context I have started considering how contemporary artists’ work relates to it and why they are interested in the realisation of new objects.

Di Franco
Karen Di Franco - How does a work end?*

Connecting thought and practice through the object of the book, Karen Di Franco explored how an event might be recorded in a book, or a book performed in an event.

The presentation was located in the space of description, where materials connect and reveal themselves. The serial artist’s book, The Complete Works of Constance DeJong I-V, published between 1975-76 by Constance DeJong provided the focus to think through published and performed material and how multiple iterations refocus ideas around originary texts, into something more durational. When an artist chooses to excerpt or re-tool text for other purposes it presents a set of issues around description when accessioned into a collection or collections. 


Book I in the series was published by The Vanishing Rotating Triangle Press (TVRT) in 1975, a press established by the writer Ted Castle and supported by Sol LeWitt, who were introduced to DeJong through her friendship with the writer Kathy Acker. As DeJong’s concept for the project developed, she founded Mirror Press, Inc. and produced the subsequent editions II-V herself across 1975-76. It was again through Acker that DeJong found the idea for distributing her books by the post.


Before the final two books in the series were published and distributed, DeJong reworked sections from each book into a spoken word performance at The Kitchen, on Sunday 25 January 1976. DeJong would make another version of this performance at The Women’s Free Arts Alliance in London on 11 November 1976, under the invitation of the writer and critic Barbara Reise. The performance was reviewed in a feature that included a text by DeJong, in issue 1 of READINGS (eds, Annabel Nicolson and Paul Burwell, 1976). Retitled Modern Love, the performance comprised several elements, including a taped recording of an actor, David Warrilow, reading the description of India from book one and Alan Harrison, a friend of Reise’s, who sat on stage with his back to the audience, and played the part of Rodrigo, one of the main characters, as DeJong read live.


After a rejection from Editions Seuil, DeJong would instead start her own press, Standard Editions, with the support of the Surrealist artist Dorothea Tanning, who was the aunt of a friend of DeJong’s, Mimi Johnson. Standard Editions published The Complete Works of Constance DeJong I-IV as a single edition, retitled as Modern Love in 1977.



*The title of the presentation has been updated with a quote by the poet Ron Silliman, from book 16 of For Language. The original title was ‘When is a work complete?'

Tommaso Faraci - Spoglie

The process of making was very playful...There is no predetermined shape. I started with staining black paper doubles with bleach, alcohol and fuel, trying to understand the materials’ reactions, sometimes controlling my gesture but mostly willingly messing it up. Once dry I drew on them with graphite, watercolour, enamels, and pen. Finally I bound it in the shape of a book. 

Spoglie is a book about symmetry - and its defects - as the wellspring of the image. Symmetry as a precarious equilibrium; a self-staring and blindfold painting practice. 

Tommaso Faraci - Spoglie
Julian Bittiner - Published on the occasion of…Artists’ books posing as catalogues

In recent years a phenomenon has emerged wherein major arts institutions and their publishing partners are producing publications of a surprisingly experimental nature, both conceptually and materially. What are nominally exhibition catalogues, recording an event while doubling as a marketing tool, are really artists’ books. Publications by MoMA, the Whitney, and global galleries like Gagosian blur the lines, creating hybrid artist’s book-catalogues or perhaps simply ‘odd catalogues’ as Lucy Lippard described her 1970s ‘index card’ exhibition catalogues to Julie Ault.

Edward Ruscha (Ed-werd Rew-shay) Young Artist, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1972

Edward Ruscha (Ed-werd Rew-shay); Young Artist, a publication made in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1972, is cited by historians Barbara Moore and Jon Hendriks as an important precedent.

The diminutive yet bulky hardback form of the book sets an ironic tone for the interpretation of its contents. Much of it is conventional – illustrations of drawings, prints, and books – but a quirky sequence of illustrated biographical anecdotes, an unexplained list of key words, and blank pages that constitute nearly a third of the book, point to ulterior motives.

Sol LeWitt, Four basic kinds of lines & color, Lisson Gallery, 1971

Sol LeWitt was a prolific maker of artists’ books and many were made in conjunction with an exhibition. Four basic kinds of lines & color was made to accompany a solo show at Lisson Gallery in 1971. The publication is a catalogue in the sense that it records at least part of the work that was exhibited. But the conceptual nature of the work enables it to be interpreted directly in printed form, so that the book becomes a quasi-autonomous art object rather than a representation of an artwork.

Franz Erhard Walther, OBJEKTE, benutzen, Walther König, 1969

OBJEKTE, benutzen (OBJECTS, to use), made to coincide with Franz Erhard Walther’s exhibition Werksatzdemonstration at Galerie Zwirner during the 1968 Cologne art fair, was simultaneously launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair. A combination artist’s book, exhibition catalogue, and ‘manual’ as the publisher Kaspar König described it, it features discrete sets of black & white images documenting the myriad possible uses of works. Accompanying each image-set is a series of interpretative typographic diagrams inspired by newspaper layouts. Multiple blank pages separate the image-diagram sequences, said by Walther to invite readers to make their own responses (though like Ruscha’s catalogue it seems designed to add bulk). Included in the back are instructions for the handling of the work. A description under the last title, ‘use’, is deliberately left blank.

Christopher Williams, The Production Line of Happiness, MoMA, 2014

In ‘Christopher Williams Shakes Up the Exhibition Catalog’ (Hyperallergic, 2014) – an article solely about an exhibition catalogue – Williams discusses his intentions behind the catalogue for his retrospective The Production Lines of Happiness at MoMA in 2014. Devoid of almost any reproductions of his work, the slimmer volume takes the form of a university reader featuring an eclectic set of texts that engage ideas of art production and parallel his work without directly addressing or representing it. On the book’s cover is a text about the history of the barcode, and on the back are brand guidelines for the correct use and placement of the logos for the book’s co-publishers. Williams described it as a “site-specific work or a system-specific book”. The second volume is in William’s words “the book everybody wanted…a big picture book”. It does not include any text except “Printed in Germany”, words he claims were legally required but are printed on a removable insert, thus leaving the book textless.

Such contemporary artists’ catalogues could be construed as artists’ books having been co-opted by mainstream institutions, losing much of their anti-establishment DNA in the process. More optimistically, perhaps artists are the ones co-opting the institutions, helping to fulfill the original democratizing aims of artists’ books, a step towards Lippard’s vision: “The fantasy is an artist’s book at every supermarket checkout counter, or peddled on Fourteenth Street (‘check it out’).”

Lindsay Aveilhé - Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawings

Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings relied on a somewhat precarious chain of events for their genesis. Once the wall drawing was installed for the first time and documented, then and only then could the process be repeated, and the wall drawing be brought to life anew by the drafter. In his lifetime, LeWitt continually standardized, refined, and adapted wall drawings after their first installations. This fact, and the margin of error inherent in the process of documenting an ephemeral art practice, further complicates any singular understanding of a wall drawing. Each new iteration provided the artist with the opportunity for renewal or redemption. In a 1970 talk given to students at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, LeWitt stated: “The chain of events are important, from idea to how it comes out; it all matters.” In the newly published catalogue raisonné of Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings, each substantive twist and turn in a wall drawing’s life has been rigorously traced.

The role of the drafter and LeWitt’s many encounters with the collaborative process that he had set in motion would strongly influence the evolution of his wall drawing practice. LeWitt very quickly moved away from the more objective “plan-based” works, those based on broader pre-set systems of seriality, to embrace the collaborative and interpretive framework he had put in place. Still following the format of a pre-set plan, this was achieved through the creation of text-based instructions. For example Wall Drawing #26, first installed at Art Institute of Chicago for the exhibition Art by Telephone in October 1969, was installed following LeWitt’s instructions as relayed by him over the phone.  The instructions were for the drafters to draw a 60 x 60 inch black pencil square filled with a one-inch grid, with some of the 1-inch squares filled with lines in the four directions (vertical, horizontal, diagonal right, diagonal left). Some squares could have more than one line superimposed and some could be left blank. As he further specified: “The person that does it can exercise his judgment within these rules. It's more like...I think of it more like a composer who writes notes, and then a pianist plays the notes, but within that kind of situation, there’s ample room for both to make a statement of their own." In this case, the decision by the drafters was to fill each 1-inch square with all four directions of lines. Like many of his wall drawings, LeWitt later edited the title to specify that only one of the four line directions in each 1-inch square. All of this and so many more wonderful examples of the complexity of the ephemeral and iterative qualities of these captivating works are now captured for the first time in the catalogue raisonné.

Riccardo Venturi - Who was Francesco Lo Savio?

Who was Francesco Lo Savio (1935-1963)? In the early sixties he wrote a summary tracing his career: “1957 takes up experimental researches in architecture; 1958 works as industrial designer; 1959 physic-scientific experiences with new materials; 1960 researches on experimental architecture and publications on the subject; 1960 works on notions of pure physics, nuclear physics, and electronic techniques in connection to his realm of research”. However, a more intimate picture can be found through the words of his friends:


“He was always somewhat annoyed, he didn’t look like a painter, always in his Loden coat, he looked like a designer” (Fabio Mauri, artist, 1993).


“to talk to him was not easy. He would entangle you in a thick web of ideas on the thread of an allusive, bristling, jagged speech. It was as if he tried each time to start again from an always different, unexpected point of view [...] but each time you would realize that his words were leading to the same direction. They would tend to clarify a nucleus of gnawing thoughts and images” (Filiberto Menna, art critic, 1979)


“You could tell that Lo Savio had a constructivist intention, which would push him closer to Uncini and set him apart from Schifano, Angeli, and Festa; back then people would also speak of Neo-Dada” (Maurizio Calvesi, art critic and historian, 1993)


“Francesco was almost completely silent, he was there, he was present, but mainly present to himself” (Enrico Castellani, artist, 1993).



“I found Lo Savio’s paintings immersed in the half darkness. They looked like they wanted to climb out of the wall” (Gian Tomaso Liverani, gallerist, 1993)


“In his experimentations, in his idea of space there was some sort of fixation, obsession, an almost metaphysical concept of light. This light was black in his spirit, radiant black with no reflection, similar to a magic word, a reference to a higher order he was not able to assess, but that was some sort of transcendental metaphysics” (Pierre Restany, art critic, 1990)



“I wanted to build a ‘thing’, not a painting anymore; something concrete, self-standing and self-signifying, in order to reset image and colour […] In this adventure I had very close Lo Savio, close Schifano and Festa, then Angeli. We used to meet also Kounellis […] who was going in the same direction.” (Giuseppe Uncini, artist, 1993)


“Marianne [who met Lo Savio, her husband to be, in August 1961] recalls the hours Francesco spent in the workshop cutting metal plates and exploring different ways to curve it, and the obsessive precision of his work. If some detail or the paint came out imperfect, he would tirelessly start all over again” (Silvia Lucchesi, art critic, 2004).


“His black metallic objects, which were not understood at all, greatly interested me, as back then I painted in black. […] his black reliefs were also luminous objects, since the shadow is the negation of light but still reflects light. Such a phenomenon, such a self-retreat, was to me an expression of ZERO” (Heinz Mack, artist, 2004).


“Generally considered in the light of sculpture history, Lo Savio’s Metalli offer much more via the heterogeneousness of their medium. What if they – beyond all appearances – could be considered mental objects? Their materiality an implication of their mental nature? Objects that live in unresolved suspense between their industrial workmanship, and the psychic life of these obtuse and intransitive forms so far from reality” (Riccardo Venturi, 2018).

Filtro 1962

Filtro, 1962

Progetto per Metallo, 1962

Jacopo Rinaldi - Futurismo Triste
Jacopo Rinaldi
jacopo rinaldi
Translating Practice: Conceptual Strategy and Performance
James Hoff - Infecting Images

Skywiper 95, Dye sublimation print on aluminium, 2015.


Skywiper 94Dye sublimation print on aluminium, 2015.

The works are made from infecting images of monochromatic surfaces (bare aluminium) with computer viruses. I take a digital photograph of the aluminium and then using a program, I break it into its hex code before inserting the source code of the Skywiper computer virus. I re-output this contaminated file as an image file that then gets printed. Everything we do online or on computers is driven by language, by unseen code. This has implications for writers and image makers – what does it mean to write creatively in a world driven by new languages and what does it mean to create images which will largely circulate online, on top of an easily corrupted language? Communication systems are the networks through which viruses and illness travel and there is a parasitic relationship between them. With the works I've created by exploiting viruses, the intention is to try and disrupt or reverse this relationship, to see if communication or image/sound making could be created by the virus and not simply be its host. Another aim of the project is to release the viruses into new contexts to see how they could mutate and evolve outside of their digital environments... viruses need humans to survive and evolve into new contexts, even computer viruses, just like painting.


Skywiper 85Dye sublimation print on aluminium, 2015.


Skywiper 82Dye sublimation print on aluminium, 2015.


Skywiper 77Dye sublimation print on aluminium, 2015.

Lina Hermsdorf - Bona Dea Teatro Romano
Sacred Forest Bona Dea

Sacred Forest Bona Dea


Altar Bona Dea

"It’s a beautiful evening. The artificial terrace, the vaulted ambulatory that delimits the pit but also supports the embankment behind it" - this is the first part of a script that I worked on in the former studio of Sol LeWitt, or more precisely in a guest apartment attached to his studio. I spent two weeks in Spoleto, unravelling the traces of the Roman goddess Bona Dea who was worshipped in the region. Initially, I was drawn to two prominent spots in Spoleto: the Bosco Sacro in Monteluco and the Teatro Romano. As sites, they seemed to operate at opposite ends: seclusion versus assembly, but shared the facet of ritual ceremonies. Through the local archeological museum, I came across a description of a sacred forest dedicated to Bona Dea. I located the site and spent the rest of my time listening, translating, writing, editing - "keep the epicizing distance, play with the logic of tension and release. Low density. The image exhibits lots of gaps. It’s an organised flashback".

Teatro Romano Interim Presentation

Teatro Romano Interim Presentation

Tony Tremlett - Waves and Sirens

Sections from Nicolas Jaar’s artist book were realised in the event of this exhibition. The search for radios to facilitate the show revealed a secondary narrative as to the task of realising a work; Tony Tremlett structured these objects to channel concepts into practice, linking, fragmenting and guiding sounds across space.

spoleto tremlett

In 1913, the Italian artist and builder of experimental noise-instruments, Luigi Russolo wrote his first manifesto L'Arte dei rumori (The art of noises) — a pioneering text that instructed modern sensibility to, ‘break at all costs from this restrictive circle of pure sounds and conquer the infinite variety of noise-sounds’.[1] Twenty years later Filippo Marinetti and Pino Masnata wrote the manifesto La Radia (The Radio), and Marinetti began developing sintesi radiofoniche (radio syntheses). Together these manifestos and noise compositions explored the conceptual and sensorial density of wireless communication, alternating sounds, noises and silences through the complex use of interruptions and intervals. Sounds were unpredictably cut, pasted and mixed in montage, culminating in important temporal effects that manipulated the passage of time: ‘an art without time or space, without yesterday or tomorrow’.[2]


Network (2016), a selection of conceptual audio works produced and compiled by Nicolas Jaar, were shown for the first time in an exhibition context in the Torre Bonomo, Spoleto, interspersed throughout its rooms. Jaar’s radio world takes form as an online platform of semi-fictional interlocking radio channels built around chance operations, and invites users to sieve through 333 stations with a radio like dial and random number inputting system. Each audio space takes us on a journey into fields of abstraction, meditation, or straight-up confrontation that together seeks to give theoretical and contemporary consideration to the inherent possibilities of radio broadcast.


Selected stations for the Torre installation included Channel #267 MATTA CLARK DEMOLITIONS which gestures towards the art of materialist noise and its physical sensations as it broadcasts a composition of noises collected from the structures that Gordon Matta Clark transformed into architectural and geometric cut-ups in the 1970s. Channel #138 The Tennis Underground plays with expectation and indecision as it endlessly transmits a tennis match without any hits of the ball. Moving upwards through the tower you began to hear You Don’t Know What Love Is #9 and Billionaire FM #35 which tease out more contemporary matters — the latter of which broadcasts a countdown and commentary on the annual Forbes list of the world’s top billionaires.


Accompanying the radio network is Jaar’s 2017 artist book of the same name, co-published by Printed Matter and Jaar’s label Other People. Designed by Jaar, Jena Myung and Maziyar Pahlevan, the book takes the illogicalities of the radio network into physical, pictorial and written form.

Together the puzzles, rhythms, and words of Network read as a meditation on the success and failure of our current social, political, and economic structures. The book and audio pieces stand as a series of experiments that probe our ability to perceive more than one medium simultaneously, or interpret multiple ambiguous images. No easy solution is offered for synthesising these worlds, leaving instead a suggestion of how we might draw meaning from their pre-existing relationships.


[1] Luigi Russolo, L’Arte dei rumori, 1913

[2] Filippo Marinetti and Pino Masnata, La Radia, 1933

Tremlett spoleto
Tremlett spoleto
Tremlett spoleto
Tremlett spoleto
Sean Lynch - Peregrine Falcons

Film stills from Peregrine Falcons visit Moyross (2008)

In the conversation preceding the screening, Sean Lynch and Jo Melvin discussed how and why the town of Spoleto had attracted artists over the centuries. They focused on Sol LeWitt's relationship with the area and how conceptual art set precedents for artistic strategy and operational tactics in today's practice. In the film screening, Lynch showed ‘Peregrine Falcons Visit Moyross (2008)’, a way of looking, narrating and strategising artistic practice in society.

Moyross developed as a social housing project between 1973-87 on the northern edge of Limerick, comprising of 1,160 houses divided into twelve individual parks with large greenbelt areas between. The design derived from the Garden City movements of the early twentieth century, allowing inhabitants to combine the best aspects of being close to serene countryside while still connecting with urban dynamics. Yet, little civic infrastructure and access to basic amenities were initially provided in Moyross, and soon the area became synonymous with social strife and disenfranchisement.

In 2008, following a series of gun-related and violent incidents, Limerick City Council announced a regeneration vision, intending to demolish the entire estate and rebuild it on a smaller scale. Large green areas now used as grazing for horses, and high partition walls between each housing estate would disappear – features that the City Council consider partially responsible for the socially subjugated character of the area. President Mary McAleese arrived to help unveil the proposed three billion euro investment, to be made through public private partnership schemes over a ten-year period. With the economic downturn, this program has aroused much controversy and has only been partially implemented. The archetypical view generated of Moyross in 2008 was of a troubled place, as images of boarded-up doorways and derelict houses were reproduced frequently in local and national newspapers. This journalistic impulse created a haze of oversimplification, stigmatizing any sense of community to the casual outsider. With this in mind, an attempt was made to generate a different kind of visuality of the area.


Three specially trained peregrine falcons were introduced to Moyross. These birds of prey, the fastest creatures in the world, were chosen for their ability and confidence to fly around urban areas. Their arrival deliberately drew parallels with the reintroduction of rare or endangered animals into peripheral geographical locations. While the peregrine was once populous on the island, DDT insecticides formerly used in agriculture were poisonous to falcons and their eggs. With the banning of harmful chemicals and more general awareness of the bird, the peregrine is no longer endangered but is still a threatened species. In Limerick, many people still remember two peregrine falcons resident throughout the 1990s in the spire of St John’s Cathedral. While these birds were generally popular, members of Saint Mary’s racing pigeon club claimed the falcons were killing as many as ten pigeons a day, swooping down from the cathedral spire into coups in backyards of the city.


Moyross residents met the falcons at the local community centre, in school, and in the streets and alleyways. Understanding that the peregrines attack other birds, a special timetable for the skies was agreed with fifteen local racing pigeon-owners. Then, the falcons took off, with miniature video cameras attached. Their free flights act as a phenomenological recording of a complex place about to potentially disappear under the failed agendas of urban planning. Afterwards, copies of the resulting DVD were distributed freely around the neighbourhood.

Jeffrey Isaac - Chimeracarousel
Federico Antonini and Marcello Newman - Baldessari sings LeWitt

Federico called me to explain the project. It was warm out and I was in the Porta Palazzo market in Turin. I think this was on a weekday. This fact is relevant: I have recently switched to working part-time, in an effort to make more art and music (my main job is in education policy). Federico might have known this, though I’m not sure. Since I moved from London to Turin I got to see more of him as he was often in town, leading a workshop series at an arts college with Alessio D’Ellena. We would go out to dinner with other Romans, both reminiscing and updating each other on what we were up to. The first time Federico came I told him about Orchestra Futuro, a project I had been thinking of and writing about for several years and had unsuccessfully pitched to Villa Medici in Rome for a residency program. At the time, Orchestra Futuro was meant to be a small orchestra (10-15 people) comprised of amateur musicians whom I would write music for, exploring the potential of mistakes and clumsiness to joyfully express the inevitability of failure in performance and life. Several years later, Federico noted that Orchestra Futuro is more a methodology than a project and that the project itself could take lots of different forms. I agreed. Our collaboration on Newman performs Baldessari sings LeWitt is the first of these incarnations: the arrangement and performance of Baldessari’s classic rendition of LeWitt’s Sentences on Conceptual Art in some kind of cosmic piano bar fantasy. In this version, the manifesto becomes more about everyday experience than about art: a justification and celebration of fallacy and the resistance of good ideas to poor execution.

Baldessari sings LeWitt
Federico Antonini and Marcello Newman
Baldessari sings LeWitt
Baldessari sings LeWitt
Federico Antonini and Marcello Newman
Baldessari sings LeWitt
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