Marissa Morelli/Max Rommel Case di cartone

On the 9th of October 1963 a portion of the side of Monte Toc, in the Friuli region in Italy, breaks away resulting in a land slide 3km long and consisting of more than 270 million cubic metres of earth and rocks.The landslide reaches the below lying valley, generating a seismic shock wave and fills the artificial basin below.

This impact with the water within the basin creates two huge waves: the first smashes against the mountain, the second, rises over the dam and, gushing down the valley engulfs the city of Longarone together with other surrounding villages. The result is the complete destruction of the town and a death toll nearing 2000 people.

The affected communities start immediately to rebuild the social fabric of society that has been destroyed, and it is during this rehabilitation period that they decide also, to build some “new” villages. As a result, Vajont and other smaller settlements are constructed from scratch, like in Belluno Provence where the displaced inhabitants settle.

Nestled between the mountains of Friuli, in Claut, 50 prefabricated houses are constructed as a result of that particular natural disaster as a way of temporarily housing the displaced inhabitants. The village is set nearby, in flat and sunny clearing. Some of those families continue living in these prefabricated houses for over 40 years afterwards.

Between 2005 and 2008, Marissa Morelli and Max Rommel have documented that which remains of the village of Vajont, on the outskirts of Claut. The precarious housing structures have continued to survive much longer than expected, challenging the laws of time, transforming the surrounding landscape and creating a memory that disperses boundaries. In the summer of 2008 the village was demolished.

The work of Marissa Morelli and Max Rommel demonstrates that which remains of the identity of those places and the private and collective memory of it’s last inhabitants.

All images © courtesy of Max Rommel

Marissa Morelli e Max Rommel “Cardboard houses”

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Gian Mario Villalta “The Inner Gaze of the Outward Appearance”

I haven’t visited this place, I haven’t seen these

houses, I haven’t met these people.

I will say that which I see in these photographs, in

the seeing that they offer to my eye and in the

intention that constructs it by means of a meditated

direction. I will trust to this seeing, because it

trusts me. I don’t perceive the search for originality

at all costs, in these images, nor the will to find

illustrated again in the images one’s own idea; for

this I have faith, because I feel that the will of

comprehension and of closeness asks the form for

resources, even though so well-studied and

known, and it isn’t the will of the form – as often

happens – to impose itself upon the matter.

The vicissitudes of these people, the story of

these houses, the reality that exposes itself in

these images doesn’t attack (and yet it is a

‘strong’ circumstance, a dramatic page of history)

but emerges with quiet force and, I might add,

with delicacy, from the composition. And thus

the eye digs its path of reasoning, which from the

first impressions, all of attentive intensity, but

also of objective concentration, finds the way

for an incessant confrontation with some

essential themes.

A deeper examination resulted from this and,

almost, an overturning of the habitual judgements

about some places of reflection that today have

become common. One of these is the precariousness,

the impermanence of values and references,

dominant argument for the definition of the present

‘liquidity’ (to use the fortunate notion of

Zygmunt Bauman) of our existence. To this liquidity,

which defines the sense of the inconstant and

unstoppable change of the reality in which we

live, and that determines the insecurity and the

dysphoria widespread nowadays, we oppose the

symbols of protection, of the absoluteness of

value, of the duration in time. With mediocre outcomes,

palliatives soon unmasked. So our houses

are equipped with bars and with alarms, with

devices in which the so-called ‘comfort’ ever more

often reflects the character of self-defence. Thus

we choose the furnishings counting on a certainty

of taste, on the durability – well knowing to comply

equally to the fashion – on the originality that

should testify to our precise and untouched personal

identity.

And yet, looking at these photos, something different

comes about. There is a duration that doesn’t

want to impose itself in time or on time, but

that offers itself as place of a lasting of time. There

is an essential intimacy, that takes away the veil

of our prejudicial conviction on the nature of

domestic protection. An intimacy that protects its

own self, I would dare say, the flimsier the shelter

offered to it from the precariousness the stronger

the need for closeness and sharing of a space put

beyond reach of imponderable events. These interiors

are home, where not only are we given the

chance to cast a glance of curiosity or evaluation,

but where the gaze is invited to linger, perceive a

quality, a living. These interiors are ‘home’ in a

testimony clearer and more essential than all

those that we can find in the images of the publications

or of the advertisements that propagandize

domestic security and serenity, to which we

unconsciously conform. There are lives that have

this place as shelter of their essential intimacy,

there is no doubt about it. How elusive, how fragile

all of this, and how at the same time it is powerful!

For the same reason that brings the most

solid houses, when they are uninhabited, to a

rapid breakdown and to a sudden catastrophe

(and that seems mysterious even when reason

explains it in every detail) these habitations,

example of temporariness, show that it isn’t the

walls that ‘make a home’, nor the most perfect

and comfortable inventions of technology, but it is

humanity that manifests itself in everyday life,

when it constructs the internal space of its own

being in the world.

With these observations I don’t intend to say that

temporariness is defeated, or annulled, but just

the contrary: in the more evident light of temporariness

appears unmistakable the essence of intimacy,

of protection, which gives substance to a

material dimension, but at the same time transcends

it, to show, as if there were any need (and

today there is a real need), that the quality of the

material dimension derives from the gestures and

from the sharing of life, and not vice versa.

Another motive for reflection, that derives from

observing these photographs, even this silently

guided by their able direction, comes from the

resemblance of these forms of dwelling with innumerable

others disseminated on the face of the

globe. As there is no doubt that these habitations

are contemporary, for one who looks without

being absorbed entirely by that known of this circumstance

they have even something of the timeless

within the contemporaneity. They speak of a

condition of the contemporaneity, still more than

the precise event that they illustrate. They could

find themselves in another country, or on another

continent, and they would speak of the same

dependence of the individual on the complex of

social life, of the same effort to conquer a space

where to ‘set up house’, still today inalienable to

be able to be part of humanity. Never like today a

‘house’ is less the mirror of a tradition, as much

as it is the evident fruit of a series of correlated

causes that highlight the social, political and economic

reality of a territory. In this sense, the

resemblance on a global scale of these forms of

dwellings tied to the ‘misfortune’ of the cultural

dimension becomes the sign of a more ample and

unacknowledged worldwide community of exclusion.

I use the expression ‘misfortune’ of the cultural

dimension to signal the co-implication of

society, of politics and of the economy in the

same repeated succession of stereotypes one

after the other, where individual responsibility

isn’t sufficient to explain an uneasiness that is

much deeper and that strengthens the condition

of liveability of an entire area. The sensation that

these images could come even from another continent

doesn’t diminish their value of specific testimony,

on the contrary, it gives breadth to the

opportunities to analyze a fundamental aspect of

our current way of living.

I would like to add, finally, a few words on the

suspension of the drama, of the spirit of denunciation

and of other similar frills that these photographs

set forth. It is something that I find important

and deserving of ample consideration. It is

the fruit of a project that gives the time for the

experience, for the comprehension, for the reelaboration,

and that rejects any preconstituted

contrivance, even – and above all – on the level

here decisive of emotivity. There is no trace of

provocation, indignation, nostalgia (what to make

of it? what would it add? what would it help to

understand?), but there is the light that frames the

construction of a vision. In this vision one goes

through the maximum approximation possible

between experience lived ‘from the outside’ and

lived ‘from the inside’, without ever cultivating the

illusion that there can be identity, without ever

thinking, however, to have understood more, to

know more than the others.

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www.workingonmemory.com