BELLINI and MANTEGNA : FAMILY LIFE

having derives from another’s possession

Transformation, where true possession takes place,

Transformation, all transformations, man’s furnace,
crucible of patience,
I say all waiting is pure patience
If these words be spoken at the crossroads of space!
(The voice of the Karaw,  African praise poem)

ANDREA MANTEGNA, Presentazione di Gesù al Tempio, c. 1453, tempera su tela, egg tempera on linen, 77.1 x 94.4 cm  Gemäldegalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
   © Gemäldegalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

GIOVANNI BELLINI,  Presentazione di Gesù al Tempio, 1470, olio su tavola, oil on wood panel, 82 x 106 cm
Fondazione Querini Stampalia di Venezia   © Fondazione Querini Stampalia Onlus – Venezia

HAND OF THE FUTURE

by Rosanna Albertini

Pure patience in me had evaporated. It was early June and Venice was as hot as Africa. Yet I was cooking patience in my crucible as if my love for Venice were floating on the laguna, waiting to reach at least one place, one image calming my senses. Eventually I found two. Right now Venice is a theater for lost souls, a market of cheap, repetitive masks and glass beads to feed the savages, a park of shaggy grass surfaces, Chinese Cafes and bridges and floors trodden by a million feet. My self was an empty basket quickly filled with nausea from lack of space between humans, and disgust in front of German kids filling their mouth with water and spitting it brutally on the pigeons. The charming place where I had lived in the early 70s was gone.

“One participates in things (understands their language). In this condition understanding is not impersonal (objective), but extremely personal, like an agreement between subject and object. In this condition one really knows everything in advance, and the things merely confirm it. Knowing is reknowing.” ROBERT MUSIL

You have been here already, haven’t you, you know where to go, right?” I crossed the entire third floor of the Querini Stampalia palace, the art gallery, as fast as possible, attracted by a magnetic force toward two paintings, or the same painting made twice, the first by Andrea Mantegna, the second about twenty years after by his brother in law Giovanni Bellini. Noticing I was spellbound, the museum guard, an old Venetian, couldn’t wait to tell me the story.

 

PREMISE: The two versions of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple were painted when Venice was at the peak of its power and splendor: 1453 and 1470. Venice was the second biggest European city after Paris and the richest. Jacopo Bellini, Giovanni’s father and an artist himself, who was the head of the most interesting and successful “bottega” in Venice, will be my principal narrator. His slightly strabic, dark and piercing eyes, look at us from center of the paintings. He is a grumbling man, for good reasons.

The two paintings are family portraits. Bellini enlarged the group with two figures. From the right: Giovanni Bellini and Andrea Mantegna are the young men (self portraits), Simeon the priest not identified, Jacopo Bellini the father, Jesus is the baby boy born from Mantegna and Jacopo’s daughter, the Madonna a symbolic figure with no name, at her left Nicolosia, Jacopo’s daughter and Mantegna’s wife, the last woman at the left is Giovanni’s wife. 

Because both these paintings underwent five centuries of transformations in the restorers’ hands – Mantegna’s background was probably blue, hard to imagine now – I will avoid conjectures already deployed by art historians and experts of technology, often contradicting one another. I will stick to the story. Not long ago Venice was still permeated by whispers and talks in Venetian, flying around like a wisp of wings. We are in Bellini’s bottega.

 

Jacopo (father)          Would you close the curtain please? I saw the usual shadow coming up from campo Santa Margherita. Yes, I know you like him he is a good artist, but I don’t want Nicolosia to see him and besides, I do not want to scuffle with her.

Giovanni           Cossa vusto, father? What do you want?  Antonello da Messina gave us access to the oil color making he learned from the Flemish, so we learned to make more luminous works, almost sparkling. He is charming, has curly hair and big eyes. Think of the business. 

Jacopo          I do, but, Nicolosia is my daughter, she just gave me a boy to adore, Mantegna’s sun. Maybe a son of ambition rather than love, with marriage Andrea bought his freedom from his adoptive father Squarcione and got his own studio in Padua. It’s true the family painting he just gave me as a thank you present is still mat, quite sculpted on linen with perfect proportions —he always loved the colors of ancient sculptures, and the stones’sensuality. He is so good he doesn’t need oil paint. The other guy from the south instead uses every kind of trick. Tempera, you know, is still my favorite. He likes pretty much to slip under the skirts…That’s why he came to Venice, our putee (unmarried girls) are wonderful. Oh, the boy painted by Mantegna is a mummy, a cocoon. Antonello could give me another grandchild… can I be a collector of grandchildren from the most talented painters of these days?

Giovanni           True enough, Mantegna is the master. Perspective! You are good father, and have been innovative, but he is like anybody else. Too much work in Mantua. Nicolosia is young and lonely. Did you notice his self-portrait in the right corner? A tired face. He is so meticulous. Admirable, no stencils, no cartoon. I keep learning from him. Who knows if in a far away future people will understand the emotional depth of each detail, his ability to make lively figures out of lines and brush strokes, almost revealing their souls’ precision with egg tempera!

Gertrude Stein          I am thinking of attacking being not as an earthly kind of substance but as a pulpy not dust not dirt but a more mixed up substance, it can be slimy, gelatinous,  gluey, white opaquy kind of thing and it can be white and vibrant, and clear and heated.

Jacopo       Whose voice is this? It makes me nervous. I’m talking about men and women. Not my language. 

Gertrude Stein           I begin again with telling it, the way I feel resisting being in men and women. It is like a substance and in some it is as I was saying solid and sensitive all through it to stimulation, in some almost wooden, in some muddy and engulfing, in some thin almost like gruel, in some solid in some parts and in other parts liquid, in some with holes like air-holes in it, in some hardened and cracked all through it, in some double layers of it with no connections between the layers of it.

Jacopo           Who is she? Stein? Never heard of her; familiar though, she sounds like a painter. We were saying of master Mantegna that each of his painted characters is locked into an invisible hole, inside. Six bodies together, in the family portrait, and the bottom of them is somewhere else. 

Giovanni          Starting with you, father, What were you thinking? 

Jacopo          Oh, I was jealous, I wanted to kill him for being so young.

Giovanni             For the same reason would you kill me and my brother Gentile, like Chronos did with his children? I’m for sure your son, although I heard rumors about my real mother. I don’t blame you, and I love Gentile, we often put our brushes on the same painting. Did you call him Gentile because of your apprenticeship with Gentile da Fabriano?

Jacopo           We all share the same passion. First I want to see what you are able to paint. Maybe I will save you for the business.

1470 – Seventeen years later

As the former baby is already searching a mate, Giovanni remakes the family portrait adding himself and his wife to the scene. Same structure, same figures, not at all the same imaging: this family is not sacred anymore, halos around the heads have disappeared. Mary and Simeone look at each other, Mantegna sends an oblique gaze toward his wife, Giovanni looks obliquely out of the painting, his wife and Nicolosia seem to share a secret, pensively. Jacopo looks directly at us, is he thinking of his death, that will happen one year after? And the baby is the only one speechless, probably hoping to reach his mother’s breast. 

Dresses are more simple, and colors are dominated by a light bouncing on them from the outside world. Not anymore contained in each figure like the mystery of life. “The image of each [painted] object becomes a wordless experience; and the description of the symbolic face of things and their awakening in the stillness of image belong without doubt in this context.” (ROBERT MUSIL) Then undeniably symbols move out of the hands, like the growing baby, in a world of conflicts, of doubts and uncertainties. As if by accident, or accepting fate, the painter had left the invisible hand of future modernity posed on the painting, transforming its message.

Willem De Kooning           When I used the newspapers in the paintings, it was just an accident. When I took it off, I saw the backprint of the papers, and I thought it was nice. That’s about all.

Bellini                         Mantegna

 

A legacy by Giovanni Bellini: the most remarkable students of his studio were Giorgione and Titian.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bellini Mantegna – Masterpieces face to face – The Presentation Of jesus to the Temple, Milano, SilvanaEditoriale, 2018  and Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venezia (Italy)

Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans Being a History of a Family’s Progress, 1906-1908.  Something Else Press, Inc., 1966

Robert Musil, Precision and the Soul, Edited and translated by Burrton Pike and David S. Luft, The University of Chicago press, 1990

The African praise poem from Technicians of the Sacred, edited by Jerome Rothenberg, University of California Press, third edition, 2017

Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Artists, Oxford University Press, 1991

Emile De Antonio and Mitch Tuchman, Painters Painting – A candid history of the modern art scene, 1940 – 1970  New York, Abbeville Press, 1984

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHILIPPA BLAIR : her book of painting

Philippa Blair’s

Pictographs – Ideograms

by Rosanna Albertini

 

When a human abandons the world of senses, his/her/its soul gets demented.

Quand l’homme abandonne le sensible, son âme devient comme démente.

From Nicolaus Cusanus (1401-1464) to Michel Foucault (1926-1984)*

PHILIPPA BLAIR, Pioneers 2015
card, paper, ink, gesso, graphite   21″ x 36″   Courtesy of the artist

Los Angeles, May 2009. The trip to Philippa’s house in San Pedro by bus and train was three hours of damnation. But Philippa was there at the bus stop, waiting for me, the exact moment I arrived. Looking at each other’s face, we could read it with no words as Maori do in New Zealand. Accidentally, we are the same age, she is one month younger than me. Although Philippa isn’t a Maori woman, like them she can go through human or material density as if bodies weren’t obstacles. In her mind, the buildings where she lives are bodies around her own person, or sometimes scattered parts of her.

She is a painter.  

Like birds, she migrated from Ponsonby NZ to San Pedro, from Los Angeles to Australia and Europe, and now she is back in Ponsonby. Her nest on the hills. Paintings and drawings help her keep track of life, as if a bird could rub the feathers on the narrow space of a canvas, depicting and revealing vectors, figures, the intensity of the flight, the frequency of the heartbeat.

As Robert Rauschenberg would say, she can’t make life or art, and has to work “in that hole in between, which is undefined. That’s what makes the adventure of painting.” Almost ten years after our first encounter, I happened to stop my eyes on Philippa Blair’s works on paper she made in 2015. This post is dedicated to them. 

PHILIPPA BLAIR, Language Barriers 2015
card, paper, ink, acrylic 23″ x 36″ Courtesy of the arti

PHILIPPA BLAIR, Terrain 2015
card, tape, paper, wood, acrylic, ink, netting   28″ x 40   Courtesy of the artist

 

PHILIPPA BLAIR, Shelter 2015
paper, card, ink, wood, graphite   21″ x 36   Courtesy of the artist

PHILIPPA BLAIR, Gridlock 2015
card, paper, tape, acrylic, wood   21″ x 30″   Courtesy of the artist

Little by little, surprised at every piece, my brain is revived by the reasonable, friendly closeness, in the same space, of broken parts removed from any functional duty —as it happens after an earthquake, or social turmoil. Different languages in the same brain raise unpredictable barriers one against the other, producing stuttering or silence, or a closed door. Yet each piece is one place, the visual configuration of only one ideogram.

Each place gives support to what remains of an implosion: because they were blotted out, lines and colors readjust themselves on an irregular landscape as if learning to smooth down tensions or pain. Soft is the white, spots of color reassert a new explosion of beauty: maybe self-sufficient, I’m tempted to say ‘natural’ in a physical process, but words fail me. They can’t replace the secret of perception. 

Is the artist blowing underneath the paper’s fragile surface the breathing that inflates her chest? Paper can’t hold it so it needs rolls or sticks or cardboard filling the space, sculpting a landscape. Wind inflates a forest: the trees are curved, while the carriage of light following the hours stretches fragments of color between the branches. (Terrain) 

Oh no, not abstraction at all. They are paper works, basically black & white. Black lines break and disconnect, they are the opposite of lines of words looking continuous even when thoughts are not. Although the grid of life is always there, it is at times crumpled, other times rigid, never imposing a predictable order. The heartbeat prevails. Paintings? They could as well be visual songs of a mind burning edges, borders, and final forms, in favor of fluid sceneries sucked into the artist’s black hole inside her, to be emotionally reconfigured. They can’t be flat. 

PHILIPPA BLAIR, Return to sender 2015
paper, card, gesso, ink   27″ x 17″   Courtesy of the artist

They are flashes of life with some hope of love for the crazy world we share. 

PHILIPPA BLAIR, Armour/Amore 2015
card, paper, tape, acrylic   23″ x 21″   Courtesy of the artist

Philippa Blair’s painted books, almost pictographs,

 and here THE PAINTED BOOK  by  Nezahualcoyotl**  (1402-1472)

1….

Your heart is a book of paintings,

You have come to sing,

to make Your drums resound.

You are the singer.

Within the house of springtime,

You make the people happy.

2

With flowers You write,

O Giver of Life:

with songs You give color,

with songs You shade

those who must live on the earth.

 

Later You will destroy eagles and ocelots:

we live only in Your book of paintings,

here on the earth.

With black ink You will blot out

all that was friendship,

brotherhood, nobility.

 

You give shading

to those who must live on earth.

We live only in Your book of paintings,

here on the earth.

3

I comprehend the secret, the hidden:

O my lords!

Thus we are,

we are mortal,

men through and through,

we all will have to go away,

we all will have to die on earth.

 

Like a painting,

we all be erased.

like a flower,

we will dry up

here on earth. 

Philippa’s life precipitates in her paintings without blocking in permanent forms the fleeting, indistinct movements of the visible world. The paper can barely contain her effort of breaking chains, melting objects, building broken castles for feelings and tracking the rhythm  of a perpetual change, which is never the same, but not for a change of time and space. It is the artist  floating in her own boat, through her own spirit, the one who makes them new.  She gives to her figures of paint the freedom of material presences quickly disfigured by their own variation, she lets them go. It’s a flux of time that only happens, and is present time. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Rosanna Albertini, New Zealand with an Italian Accent, Oreste & Co. Publishers, Los Angeles 2010

*Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses, Gallimard, Paris 1966

**Technicians of the Sacred, edited by Jerome Rothenberg, 3d edition revised and expanded, University of California Press, Oackland 2017. “From Mexico & elsewhere in Mesoamerica arise generations of pre-Conquest poets & books: a written tradition that reenforces & expands the spoken one. … Above all, Nezahualcoyotl (1402-1472), author of more than thirty surviving compositions & chief of Texcoco for over thirty years. While the tradition would still seem to be oral, the writings/paintings enter as a real presence: on stone monuments, fired vases, & painted books or ‘screenfolds.’ “(The Commentaries, p. 543)

Leo Steinberg, Encounters with Robert Rauschenberg, ©2000 Menil Foundation, Inc.

SCRATCHING SOUND OF DESPAIR

SCRATCHING SOUND OF DESPAIR

 

excerpt

  Ivan Mrsic : N G A  H E I H E I  O R C H E S T R A

At Te Tuhi Center for the Arts – Auckland New Zealand, on Saturday, August 13, 2016

and human chickens click their feet in the dust, apparently with no clue

(Nga Heihei is a Maori word for a cacophony of sounds or the commotion of kicking up dust. Chickens are called Nga Heihei because of the noise they make stirring up the dust. And the word Nga is a suffix used to change a verb into a noun, especially to denote a tribe of people. As a noun, moreover, it means ‘breath.’)

Ivan Mrsic during the concert

by Rosanna Albertini

“The real is a closely woven fabric. It does not await our judgement before incorporating the most surprising phenomena, or before rejecting the most plausible figments of our imagination. … Truth does not ‘inhabit’ only the ‘inner man,’ or more accurately, there is no inner man, man is in the world, and only in the world does he know himself.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty*

NGA HEIHEI is a music from the inner core of an artist, and a splinter of War and Peace in our time, that hits the brain like a storm. Facts and images of facts around us shriek in our consciousness, piercing our dreams. One child on the beach, dead like a shell out of water, we only see the nape of his neck, grateful his face isn’t visible, sucked into the sand. Another boy on the ground was abandoned, a lifeless doll embracing flatness, crucified without a cross. They stayed in me like symbols of sacrifice for a long time, those two boys, and yet, as much as I would like to avert the very idea, I know the massacre will not stop. I’m waiting for the next. Hordes of refugees escape wars and poverty, they are treated like new barbarians. None of us owns an ideal truth. We have music instead, if nothing else, as an act of devotion.

And through Ivan’s sounds, history takes the form of a huge storm including Napoleon’s cavalry, canons and machine guns from World Wars I and II, and recents battlefields like big mouths vomiting voices and falling mountains, tsunamis, angry gods of the oceans, and an endless lack of meaning, what is it for?  Instruments, especially the digital alteration of natural sounds produced, at times, with a simple kitchen metal bowl, translate languages and stories into one long impersonal lamentation, the mediterranean expression of grief.

In such a bewildering human landscape, half gardened half destroyed, the artist, Ivan Mrsic, and the four performers next to him** become an island of resistance. Torn between his native Croatia and the new homeland he found in New Zealand, Ivan’s feelings float in both places. Transpierced like everyone else by things perceived, he/it/she shows the strength of resilience, and spreads around not intelligence -almost impossible- nothing more than the fastest beats of a heart.

 

The imaginary war in his head could not be expressed through words, or images, it’s a long river of steps on the ground, screams, trees shaken by winds, bombs, fountains of blood, and singing birds, despite the horror. Because our sense of dismay isn’t disjoined from an equal awareness of joyful attachment to this absurd world. Arts of our time merge into the living. No more illusions about the brain, our friend enemy personal engine, emotions come first. Physicality, sounds sometimes. We are not right, not wrong, not saints, not monsters.

Non-involvement, so far, has replenished the holes of the old wars.
As Hone Tuwhare*** wrote in his Haikuku

To reach the dizzy heights
of non-involvement
one must be unattached

In order to reach the peak
of non-attachment (ah yes)
one must be dissolved.

Ivan Mrsic dissolved himself, for a limited time, in a piece of music.

 

All the stills from a piece of video documentation commissioned by Te Tuhi, Auckland.  

https-/vimeo.com/181915486.webloc

BIBLIOGRAPHY

* MAURICE MERLEAU PONTI, Phenomenology of Perception, translated from French by Colin Smith, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, 1962

**The performance of Nga Heihei Orchestra premiered on Saturday, August 13 2016, at the opening of the Te Tuhi exhibition Share/Cheat/Unite, Auckland, 5.30 pm. With Ivan Mrsic, the performers were: Hermione Johnson, Pat Kraus, Jonny Marks, and Andrew McMillan. John Kim as a sound engineer and a performer.

***HONE TUWHARE, Deep River TalkCollected Poems, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1994, p.77

This text was published in SHARE/CHEAT/UNITE VOL. 3, online catalogue edited by Anna Hodge and Rebecca Lal. Curated by Bruce E. Phillips. Te Tuhi, March 2018, Auckland, New Zealand.

 

MORE CHALLENGES for Alberto

MORE CHALLENGES, AROUND THE WORLD (Fragments of memory)

by ALBERTO ALBERTINI

Photos: Alberto Albertini

The seventies were a time of violent events in our country, and because I traveled a lot, it wasn’t difficult for me to find coincidences between my movements and those episodes. It’s also true that such coincidences are easier to remember than all the other travels that went smoothly.

Philips was a technological company: manufacturing, selling, researching; it was not by accident that the CD was born from the Philips-Sony collaboration. But earlier Philips big commercial success was the magnetic tape audio cassette. Born as a small portable recorder with battery, the tiny Philip cassette entered into the high fidelity circuit among builders who produced recorders/players with unexpectedly high quality.
The pioneers in the commercial distribution of audio cassettes had started to duplicate tapes using banks of consumer recorders and at real speed. Considering the demand, someone started to produce machines able to duplicate at high speed. Very quickly cassettes became more popular than the 45 record. It was also market in which the production of audio cassettes was not always legitimate.
One of my clients had made enough money, thanks to “his” productions, to address his mind towards building a recording studio in order to complete the production cycle: from the singer to the finished cassette. This client was so incompetent, and not only in the details of production, that to explain to him the quality of my machines seemed to me not only an impossible task, but also a pointless one. And yet my competitor, who had the advantage of providing duplication machines, had infinite patience trying to introduce data into my client’s brain! My tactic was: to also have a lot of patience, so much so that one day I brought my client to London, to visit a fabulous studio and see a recording console that was the best at the time . It was the winning move. A challenge, always!
The studio for him was completed and I was on vacation at the beach, reading the newspaper under a big umbrella. On the inside pages I saw the picture of a person who looked familiar to me, yes, for sure! it was him, my client. But his presence in the paper was also certifying his absence from our world: he had been killed by a gun shot! Uncertain gossip told me that it hadn’t been a story of jealousy, rather a failure to reimburse the expenses to his wife’s lover, which he had agreed to pay if he would end the affair.
Mah!

PARIS

March 14 1972, coming back from Munich (Germany), I was struck by the news that a corpse had been found underneath a tower carrying high voltage electric cables: it was Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, the publisher. I had met him at TTC in 1969.

The chief exists but is invisible. Only in some rare occasion he shows up, and not for lack of time, just because this is required by his role. So was the founder of Fonoroma, and so was Willie Studer, the creator of the Studer factory. I don’t believe Studer was formal, he seemed to me a reserved man, maybe a little shy, not very communicative for sure, and probably aware he had created the biggest and more perfect factory producing magnetic tape audio recorders.
He had two lines of production: REVOX semiprofessional for amateurs and the professional A80 for recording studios. In a few words, the construction was “Swiss.”
The factory I visited several times was a model: the labs for planners-technicians filled with instruments, and with automatically precise production machines.
The coffe pause was at ten, canteen and gardens. They, the Swiss, had the industrial zone separate from the residential zone… and their taping machines could record on magnetic tape, the text could be corrected and only at the end one or more copies were printed.
Gas was self-service and paid by Bancomat. It was 1970! All that because the personnel was scarse, those available were used in production, everybody produced, the factory couldn’t afford non-productive people. The Italians employed also did produce, and in order to learn the language they had a small blackboard with a written sentence to be learned every day.

 

SWITZERLAND

On September 5, 1972, eight members of Black September, a movement connected to Yasser Arafat’s Organization for the Liberation of Palestina, entered into the Olympic village quite easily, helped to cross the surrounding wall by a group of athletes who had drunk too much and didn’t realize what they were doing. From where had I returned? I don’t remember exactly, probably from a sleeping coach on the train from Monaco!

I had a long technological relationship with RAI (Italian Radio-Television), at every level, because they needed audio equipment for their radio and television programs. I introduced for the first time Studer audio recorders; the representative’s function as a mediator is quite interesting. From my previous experiences I knew the existence of synchronized audio recording system using a pilot tone (NAGRA), and RAI needed to have that kind of system. I convinced Studer to produce such recorders to provide them to RAI. Later on, RAI gave me the job of building a truck equipped for audio recording outdoors. The project had been developed by RAI technicians, and I was providing equipment and following the preparation. It was the occasion for me to introduce my design for the air conditioning diffusion, distributed by large surfaces in such a way that one couldn’t detect from where the air was coming, or the noise.

Air conditioning was my specialty: everywhere clients complained of the cold air blowing on their backs, or the lack of cold air. My system for recording studios consisted of using large surfaces with small holes, or long vents, in such a way that the air was moving at a low speed, but the change of air was fast and complete. Even the smoke —people used to smoke in the studios— immediately disappeared. I was also paying a lot of attention to the noise sent through the air conduits.

 

UK

May 17, 1973. Another return, another accident: the attack in front of the police headquarters Fatebenefratelli, organized by Gianfranco Bertoli. Four people passing by were killed, and forty five wounded.

London, the gray and foggy city. Absolutely not. I went there many times: the air was always clear and windy, in the winter the climate is often mild. The London I saw was lively and colored, music overflowing from houses and stores, maybe on the wave of the Beatles success sales grew, or maybe the Beatles were a great opportunity to export an impressive professional audio production.
Beatles, cockroaches, is there a relationship to carpets? Carpets everywhere, with cockroaches underneath? The empire has left its marks: big marvelous parks with benches that are not flimsy, consistently made with cast iron; marble palaces and red brick houses around a little square with a garden that becomes a small park.

A festive Heathrow. Meadows and hills by the freeway spread with people in groups, isolated, laying on the grass as if participating in a gigantic picnic organized by a national treasure hunt, waiting for a historic event:  the inaugural flight of the Concorde!

They were better off, the English people, under the benevolent eye of the Queen, yes the Queen, “the better sold product”, my client used to say, a perfect gentleman. Although he had a  slight limp, his style was impeccable. Perfect connoisseur of high society, he knew all the most “in” places to bring his guests. He never told me he could speak Italian until one day, suddenly, in perfect Italian he asked me how sales were going. What own earth? We were only beginning. Later I earned a champagne party and a gold record. At the toast, he lifted his goblet exclaiming: “the Queen!!!!” Perbacco, he really believed it.

November 2, 1975. I arrive to Rome for a fair of my equipment: they had murdered Pier Paolo Pasolini!

 

ALTRE SFIDE, FRAMMENTI DI MEMORIA

di ALBERTO ALBERTINI

Anni 70. Quei tempi erano ricchi di episodi di violenza in casa nostra e io, viaggiando molto, non avevo difficoltà a trovare coincidenze con alcuni di questi episodi. Naturalmente si ricordano le coincidenze e non tutti gli altri viaggi andati lisci.

Philips era veramente un serbatoio di tecnologia, fabbricava, vendeva studiava, non a caso il CD nasce dalla collaborazione Philips-Sony. Prima però il grande successo commerciale di PHILIPS è stata la cassetta a nastro magnetico. Nata come piccolo registratore portatile a batteria, la minuscola cassetta Philips era riuscita ad entrare nel circuito dell’alta fedeltà con costruttori che avevano prodotto registratori/lettori dalle qualità inaspettate.
I pionieri del commercio cassette avevano cominciato a copiare nastri su batterie di registratori consumer e a velocità reale, poi vista la richiesta, qualcuno cominciò a produrre macchine per la duplicazione ad alta velocità, in breve la casetta divenne più popolare del 45 giri. Nell’ambito di questo mercato sorsero produttori di cassette registrate un po’ ovunque con produzioni legittime e anche non.
Ebbi un cliente che con le “sue” produzioni aveva guadagnato a sufficienza per pensare di fare uno studio di registrazione per completare il ciclo produttivo: dal cantante alla cassetta finita. Questo cliente era totalmente incompetente in materia, e non solo quella specifica, cosicché spiegargli i pregi delle mie macchine pareva impresa non solo impossibile ma anche inutile, eppure il mio concorrente, fornitore delle macchine di duplicazione e che per questo si trovava avvantaggiato, aveva una pazienza sconfinata nell’inserire i dati in quel cervello! La mia tattica era: se resiste lui, io non posso essere da meno ed ho avuto anch’io tanta pazienza, tanta che un giorno l’ho portai a Londra in uno studio favoloso per vedere una console come si deve e questa fu la mossa vincente. Sempre una sfida!
A studio completato, mi trovavo in vacanza al mare sotto l’ombrellone a leggere il giornale. Nelle pagine interne vidi la foto di una persona che mi sembrava familiare, ma si, certo! Era lui! Il mio cliente, solo che la sua presenza sul giornale certificava le sua assenza nel nostro mondo: era stato ucciso con un colpo di pistola! Indiscrezioni non confermate mi dissero che non era stata una storia di gelosia ma di un mancato rimborso spese del marito all’amante della moglie per fine rapporto! Mah.

14 marzo 1972, al ritorno da Monaco di Baviera la notizia del ritrovamento di un cadavere sotto un traliccio: era Giangiacomo Feltrinelli! ( l’avevo conosciuto nel 69 in TTC! )

Il capo esiste ma non si vede, si concede solo in qualche rara occasione, non perché non ne abbia il tempo ma perché il ruolo lo richiede, così era il fondatore della Fonoroma, così era il creatore della Studer, Willy Studer. Non credo che Studer fosse così ligio al ruolo, mi sembrava un uomo schivo, forse un po’ timido, certamente poco espansivo, probabilmente consapevole di aver creato la più grande e perfetta fabbrica di registratori audio a nastro magnetico.
Aveva due linee di produzione: REVOX semiprofessionale per amatori e A80 professionale per studi di registrazione. In poche parole, la costruzione era “SVIZZERA”. La fabbrica che ho ripetutamente visitato era un modello: i laboratori dei tecnici progettisti erano colmi di strumentazione, le macchine per la produzione automatiche di precisione.
Pausa caffè alle dieci, mensa e giardinetti. Loro, gli svizzeri, avevano la zona industriale separata da quella abitativa…poi avevano le macchine per scrivere che registravano su nastro magnetico, si facevano le correzioni e solo a controllo finale si stampava in una o più copie.
La benzina era self service e si pagava col bancomat. Era il 1970! Questo perché mancavano le persone, quelle che c’erano erano in produzione, tutti producevano, non potevano permettersi uscieri portieri, gente improduttiva. Anche gli italiani producevano e per imparare la lingua, c’era una lavagnetta sulla quale veniva scritta una frase da imparare ogni giorno.

Il 5 settembre 1972, alle 4 del mattino, otto membri di Settembre nero, un movimento affiliato all’Organizzazione per la Liberazione della Palestina di Yasser Arafat, entrarono senza troppe difficoltà nel villaggio olimpico, aiutati a scavalcare la recinzione da un gruppo di atleti che avevano bevuto e non si resero conto di quello che stavano facendo. Da dove ero tornato? Non ricordo, mi pare in vagone letto proprio da Monaco!

La RAI è stata oggetto di un lungo rapporto a tutti i livelli tecnici perché necessitava delle apparecchiature audio per i programmi da trasmettere. Ho introdotto per la prima volta i registratori Studer e quello che può essere interessante è la funzione mediatrice del rappresentante. Dalle mie precedenti esperienze, avevo la conoscenza di un sistema di registrazione sincronizzata a mezzo frequenza rete ( NAGRA ) e la RAI televisione aveva bisogno di un sistema simile. Riuscii a far produrre a Studer, registratori con questa possibilità e fornire quindi la RAI TV. Più avanti, la RAI mi affidò l’appalto per la costruzione di un autocarro attrezzato per le riprese audio esterne. Il progetto era stato sviluppato dai tecnici RAI ed io fornivo le apparecchiature e seguivo i lavori di allestimento. In quell’occasione introdussi i miei criteri di diffusione aria condizionata, distribuita da ampie superfici in modo che non se ne rilevasse la provenienza e nemmeno il rumore.

L’aria condizionata era una mia specialità. Ovunque i clienti lamentavano il classico fastidio dell’aria condizionata che, arrivava gelida nella schiena, o non si avvertiva affatto. Il mio sistema, nella progettazione degli studi di registrazione consisteva nell’utilizzare ampie superfici con piccoli fori, o fessure lunghe, in modo che la velocità dell’aria fosse bassa ma il ricambio rapido e completo, anche il fumo, allora si fumava negli studi, scompariva immediatamente. Grande attenzione per la trasmissione dei rumori attraverso i condotti dell’aria.

17 maggio 1973. Altro ritorno, altro accidente: l’attentato davanti alla questura Fatebenefratelli da parte di Gianfranco Bertoli. Morti 4 passanti e feriti altri 45.

Londra, la grigia e nebbiosa. Assolutamente no. Ci sono stato innumerevoli volte: sempre limpido e un po’ ventoso, spesso d’inverno il clima è mite. Londra mi era apparsa vivace, colorata, le case, i negozi che traboccavano musica, forse sull’onda del successo dei Beatles vendevano tutto ma soprattutto, forse, i Beatles sono stati l’opportunità per una imponente produzione di audio professionale da esportare.
Beatles, scarafaggi, forse c’è una relazione con le moquettes, ovunque moquettes, non ci si accamperanno sotto gli scarafaggi? l’impero aveva lasciato le sue tracce. Meravigliosi grandi parchi con panchine costruite senza economia fatte di consistenti fusioni di ghisa, palazzi marmorei e caseggiati di rossi mattoni, a quadrilatero in modo di farci stare un giardino che è un piccolo parco.

Heatrow in festa. I prati, i dossi che fiancheggiavano l’autostrada, cosparsi di gente, a gruppi, isolati, accomodati sull’erba come partecipanti ad un gigantesco picnic organizzato da una caccia al tesoro nazionale o in attesa di un evento messianico imminente: attendevano il decollo inaugurale del CONCORD!

Come stavano bene, gli inglesi, sotto l’occhio benevolo dalle regina, si la regina, il prodotto più venduto, diceva il mio rappresentato, perfetto gentleman. Zoppicava un pochino ma riusciva a contenersi in uno stile impeccabile, perfetto conoscitore dell’alta società sapeva tutti i posti più “in” dove portare i suoi ospiti e non mi aveva mai detto di conoscere l’italiano finché un giorno, improvvisamente, in perfetto italiano mi chiese conto dell’andamento delle vendite. Diamine eravamo solo agli inizi. In seguito mi sono meritato un party a champagne e un disco d’oro, al brindisi levò il calice esclamando: “the queen!!!!” Perbacco, come ci crede!

2 novembre 1975, arrivo a Roma per una fiera di settore: avevano assassinato Pier Paolo Pasolini!

 

Eileen Cowin: MAD LOVE n.6

Eileen Cowin: MAD LOVE n.6

 

EILEEN COWIN,  The Dangerous Edge of Things, 2015,  from Mad Love series, 7.7″ x 9″

How we don’t see

by Rosanna Albertini

The curtain pulled through the open window trembles slightly; sunlight, and rumbling noise from the freeway and birds screeching interrupted by silly mockingbirds who imitate snoring early in the morning, make a density of sounds kept in the distance, outside, by the luminous screen, vibrating and warming. Yes Kristin, for the first time I understand why you painted on canvas a big, vertical curtain with little blue and green flowers. The painting becomes an absorbing screen, an opaque surface  asking things from the world to stay out for a while. For a moment, let me veil their impact. The curtain makes me feel as if my body were absorbing echoes and reflections, I don’t have to see and be touched by the shadows of the day. Sounds, light and wind are filtered. Maybe the Muslim veil over women’s faces, that allows them to see through, though remaining perfectly hidden, is much more than a discriminatory symbol, it could be a privilege.

Not to be seen anymore is the reason one leaves, not to be regarded by people who are only partially in touch with our life and yet ask for attention, surrounding us with a cloud of pressure. I have been biting my tail over and over for decades, chasing a story of mine that followed me like an unknown ghost. I see why people do not usually leave their hometown, or their country, unless their roots have been snatched and pulled out. If they leave, then often they move as if wearing a diving suit that makes them slow, as if the air was water winding its way with unfamiliar vibrations.

It took me a remarkable number of years to realize how strongly my eyes have been wide shut while adapting my senses to the New World’s sky, my nervous system to the vibrations of the soil, and my mouth to the tongue. My perception of American life was that it was going to be forever new. I’m always yearning for the excitement of the new, that’s a curse that makes me think of my own death as the very last adventure. You float over your used body and fly, god knows where. Will I join you, mother? Instead of receiving food from you, or dresses that I did not like, I would rest with you on an apricot tree. We rest and laugh, hidden by the foliage. “Your body was your screen, wasn’t it?” I ask her.

She smiles like Alice’s cat, her smile expands in the air until there is nothing left but an impression of her. She is back being an absence. I can only sing through her genes, enumerating the few keys she gave me to understand her mysterious withdrawing —most likely not knowing what she was doing. A movie and an opera have become indelible clues to discover her. My mother’s pink lipstick was called “indelible.” The cream for her face —why am I remembering such details?— was named from herbs and leaves: “botana.” Names, events, work in my mind like the little pebbles of the fable. Pollicino let them fall behind him on the ground in the woods, so he could find his way back.

There was no way mother and I could miss Pietro Mascagni’s most popular opera. We walked the narrow pathway behind the house, with stinging nettles between two low wire nets covered with vines; despite precautions we did wake up the dogs of the neighbors, and in no more than five minutes were sitting in the smoky room of our Circolo Familiare, the only public TV space in the village. The card players did not stop slamming on the tables, coughing and laughing. “Let’s go to the opera,” she had told me, which for me, at the time, was only one: Cavalleria Rusticana. Had I known that the author was from Livorno I would have been even more confused; I always thought he was Sicilian because the singers wore Sicilian names and costumes. Despite the small screen, and the rural lack of respect for musical performances, amid spectators much more excited by Mike Bongiorno and his TV quiz than by opera singers, I entered with my mother into a space of tension that isolated us from the smoky, humid room. Tension grows, the story makes a strong impression on us: a figurine that seems to have escaped from a Neapolitan crib runs towards the edge of the stage. He wears a short, black vest, a white scarf around the waist and white socks to the knees. The story is about to be doomed. The loud dwarf brings terrible news at the end of a too long vocalization and shouts, “Hanno ammazzato compare Turiddu!” (Somebody killed godfather Turiddu!)

As my mother shivers, I am taken by surprise; I don’t really like that music, or the ridiculous look of the scene, and wait for an explanation. In short: two men were in love with the same woman, and one of them stubbed the other to death. I spent my whole life making fun of the ridiculous way Italian operas expand a long stretch of feelings on the vocal cords. But never had I connected to my mother’s silence, and emotion, during that loud recitativo. It was maybe her real story, safely represented in a fictional space for everybody to see. Her story, there, dramatically resolved: one of the contenders had killed the other. In real life, she was the one who stepped to the Acheron and the two who loved her survived her.

 

EILEEN COWIN,The Possibility of Regret, 2016, from Mad Love series, 6.6″ x 10″

 

THE CHALLENGE : Milan in the Sixties

THE CHALLENGE: to plan and build from zero two recording studios in three months

ALBERTO in Milano

Text and images by ALBERTO ALBERTINI

The best conditions for damage to a company, a family or a political party, are when one creates or tolerates an inner conflict. “The Challenge” was a textbook case: the perfect conflict. The idea of disturbing my peaceful work by giving me a boss who was not really useful to me, but rather involved in projects totally distant from me, created this conflict. I need to emphasize the dimension of the challenge: to create from zero, in an empty loft, two recording studios in three months. The project implied decisions about what to buy and the complete planning, to the slightest details. Not having any intention to replicate the Roman Fonoroma studios, I paid attention not to do what I had learned doesn’t have to be done and, what’s more, I improved my work thanks to my five years of inventions and innovations. I can’t explain the trust I received.

A constant in my planning activity is a certain incompetence. As Anatole France used to say, the specialists of a discipline know everything about it, but beyond that, they grope in the dark. Being an outsider and not a specialist at all, I did not grope in the dark. Never having had the right school over the years, the son of a painter who had been a mechanic and grandchild of a carpenter, I had studied chemistry, physics, photography, film technique on my own, that’s why maybe I had a bent for applying techniques of one discipline to another. I mean, in developing my first sound recorder I applied in the control system of the reels  the technique used in motorcycle brakes. To the film developing system for the Cineservicefilm I had applied the technique used in a steam engine heat exchange mechanism. A panoramic vision, joined to my natural thoughtlessness, allowed me to face problems certainly bigger than me.

After my departure from Rome in 1959, Fonoroma became something completely different and for sure not my responsibility; maybe their investments to try and make “Cinema in Milano” were excessive or wrong. In the late 50’s people in the film business in Rome used to say that Fonoroma was losing in film production what had been gained by dubbing, but was able to recover. But this time, in the 60’s it did not recover. The workers, after various ups and down, organized a cooperative that maintained the prestigious name. But they had to move, abandoning the marvelous palace behind Piazza del Popolo.

 

There was, in Milan, a factory of film development and film and sound printing created in 1945, immediately after the end of the war, as a present to his daughter by a textile manufacturer from Veneto. The name was Filmservice. The audio equipment of Filmservice didn’t have the quality required by the new market: the “Caroselli,” the very first TV advertisements. In ’58-’59 this factory owner asked Fonoroma to manage the sound department. In 1959 I was sent to Milan by Fonoroma as a manager of the department, to be immersed in the hell of an industrialized dubbing system. I was meeting a completely different reality. The transition that leads to the “Challenge” was five years spent as a manager of the Milanese Fonoroma.

For Fonoroma, sending me north was a big opportunity: I was a Northerner speaking the same language as the clients, and a pain in the neck eliminated from Rome. They easily convinced me with a very good salary to go to Milan, where I found a different world in which producing television advertisements had promoted a style of work adapted to short films. Studios, cameras, microphones were all the same as in feature filmmaking, but designed for very short shoots and with top level audio, because each advertisement had to be clear, intelligible and powerful!

They were the fabulous years…a banal commonplace or cheap sentimentalism? Fabulous years are those containing a more or less defined hope, certainly perceived by intuition, a hope today quite hard to feel. Although those Sixties were fabulous indeed, I didn’t know it, but my instinct pressed me to keep going. In those years the construction of the first subway turned the city upside down, it was the time of miniskirts, and the famous Giamaica bar was nearby, but I didn’t have the time to go there, and Paolo Sarpi Street was not one way yet. These were also the pioneering years of the new electronic solid state technology, those tiny worms with three threads sticking out before they became integrate circuits and then microprocessors. Electronics was then something one could touch, made visible by few and simple tools, now instead it’s the unknown, entirely analyzed by processors indicating if it works or not! The new field was so satisfying to me that I also made one of the first solid state commutators. I could describe the technical aspects of my work, and yet they would be impossible to comprehend even for a competent persons today, so much have technologies changed. In another report I will try an accessible description. More interesting are the clouds approaching on the horizon…

When I arrived in 1959 I found the space of the recording studio in Milan was similar to a submarine: steep metal stairs, a closet for machines, another for directing. The room for actors speaking at the microphone, although bigger, was smelling of humidity, dust and the passing of years. Projects recorded there were absolutely inadequate to the new requirements. RAI (the Italian state television network) had a department of quality control and rejected our products that were not good enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A young engineer had renewed these studios in Milan. The son of Fonoroma’s owner, he had either tried to save money, or to put to the test the new electronic devices: transistors. In conclusion, I found myself caught in a multitude of technical and methodological troubles because the feature film sound approach was different from the approach for producing sound for TV advertising; they were both effective, and their conflict was only due to the arrogance of the young engineer. On one side there was a fantastic relationship with clients, actors, dubbers, editors, producers, but on the other hand, I had to deal with the problems created by thermal drift in the circuitry of the studio that lead to a decline in sound quality after a few hours of work. It became necessary to quickly examine the new devices, analyze and solve the design problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember that between 1962-63, the owners of the Filmservices studios sold the whole activity to a financial group owned by the Cefis. Filmservice became TTC: tecno tele cine. 

The financial group was concerned with another project, initiated under Fonoroma’s wings, that started to take shape in order to attract to Milan the film production centered in Rome. A “Cinelandia” was supposed to be built by Fonoroma and other investors on the outskirts of Milan. This project would be far from the film processing labs. Because TTC where I worked was in the city center, our actors used to go quickly to the RAI nearby, if the scripts needing to be recorded were only a few minutes long. The new project would have implied inconceivable long traveling, or otherwise disrupted the advertisement production.

My collaboration was as loyal as the one of a dissident in his own party. I was waiting for the right opportunity. The “Cinema a Milano” project continued with general indifference from outside, but for Fonoroma it was a must! A remarkable quantity of money had been invested to build everything ex novo. Since I had built the new film mixing studio in the old TTC place, the director of TTC, seeing how I worked, believed I was in a position to solve his problems. He asked me to build two new studios in the same building, on the top floor, where there was an empty space of 30 x 15 x 5 meters.

The challenge was to accomplish everything in three months and open the activities before the “Cinema a Milano” could open. Their construction were already quite advanced.

From April to September 1965 we planned the entire project, in order to complete it and open in December. This included the planning of acoustic walls as well as the mechanics and electronic components. Orders and construction had to start within planned, rigid times, in a way that every piece could enter the plan precisely at the right time and in the right space: contractors, modified projectors, recorders for magnetic and optical film, general mechanics, plus the parts built by me. At my little table, I had prepared all the audio and network connections, with orders and deliveries precisely calculated.

There, in that empty and bleak, immense pavillion, the ceiling still a naked, sagging roof, masons pour the floating floors and the double walls for  perfect acoustic insolation, carpenters place the pipes for electric and audio connections, while our workshop prepares the frames for the mixing consoles, the consoles and recording machines arrive, with a collaborator helping me we proceed to work at connections, we install the screens…the sheets of paper for invoices are printed: we start recording!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calculations had been precise. We succeeded in starting to record before the engineers closed the old studio to move it out of town. The hardware project was also supported by a method to manage recordings, archives and invoices, so that the work started immediately in a fluid way. I had learned what does not have to be done and planned all the possible improvements I had discovered in years of work.

These studios, as I had conceived them,  worked for 25 years. The studios of our competitors never took off, stalled in telefilm dubbing. The recording studios were given in the end to private televisions. Now, 2015, I don’t know what remains of the out of town studios. Those I had planned and built do not exist anymore. The whole building was demolished and replaced by a luxury apartments building. It’s a new time. After all, fifty years have passed.

(For the translation of all the technical details and more, I had the invaluable help of my husband Peter Kirby. Thank you Peter!)

 

 

LA SFIDA: progettare e costruire da zero due studi di registrazione in tre mesi

ALBERTO a Milano

La condizione migliore per danneggiare un’azienda, una famiglia, un partito, è la creazione o la tolleranza di un conflitto interno. “La sfida” era un caso da manuale: il conflitto perfetto. L’idea di disturbare il mio pacifico lavoro dandomi un capo che non serviva a me ma ai progetti a me estranei, creò il conflitto cui ho accennato. Quello che intendo sottolineare è la dimensione dell’impresa: creare da zero, cioè da un capannone vuoto, due studi di registrazione in mesi tre. Il progetto comportava la decisione sui prodotti da acquistare e la progettazione completa, nei minimi dettagli. Non intendevo ripetere gli studi romani della Fonoroma, ma fare tutto quello che avevo imparato che non bisognava fare, e in più tutte le migliorie del lavoro in base alle esperienze di cinque anni di invenzioni e innovazioni. Non trovo spiegazione della fiducia che mi era stata accordata.

Una costante nella mia attività di progettazione è l’ incompetenza specifica. Come diceva Anatole France, gli specialisti di una disciplina sanno tutto di questa ma, al di fuori di essa, brancolano nel buio. Io ero al di fuori, e non essendo specialista non brancolavo nel buio. Non avendo mai frequentato la stessa scuola negli anni, figlio di un pittore che era stato meccanico e nipote di un falegname, avevo studiato chimica, fisica, fotografia, tecnica cinematografica per conto mio, forse per questo tendevo ad applicare le tecniche di una disciplina a un’altra. Per dire, al mio primo registratore avevo applicato al freno di svolgimento della bobina la tecnica delle frizioni motociclistiche. Alla sviluppatrice della Cineservicefilm avevo applicato la tecnica dei vasi comunicanti e degli scambiatori di calore delle locomotive a vapore. Una visione panoramica, non unilaterale, unita all’incoscienza congenita di cui godo, mi consentiva di affrontare azioni sicuramente più grandi di me.

Dopo la mia partenza da Roma la Fonoroma non fu più la stessa, non certo per causa mia ma perché gli investimenti per “fare il cinema a Milano” dovettero essere eccessivi o sbagliati. Si diceva, a Roma, che la Fonoroma perdeva, nella produzione di film, quello che aveva guadagnato con il doppiaggio, ma comunque si riprendeva. Questa volta non si riprese e dopo varie vicissitudini, i lavoratori finirono in cooperativa, conservando il prestigioso nome ma cambiando sede, abbandonando il meraviglioso palazzo dietro Piazza del Popolo!

A Milano esisteva uno stabilimento di sviluppo stampa e sonorizzazione film nato nel 1945, subito dopo la guerra, come regalo di un industriale tessile veneto alla figlia: si chiamava Filmservice. Le apparecchiature audio del Filmservice erano di qualità insufficiente a soddisfare le richieste del nuovo mercato: i Caroselli, pubblicità televisiva. Nel ’58-’59 la proprietà di questo stabilimento propose alla Fonoroma di gestire il reparto suono. Nel 1959 sono stato spedito a Milano con l’incarico di gestire questo reparto, immerso nella bolgia del sistema di doppiaggio industrializzato; mi venivo a trovare in contatto con una realtà tutta diversa. La transizione che conduce alla sfida è un interregno di cinque anni passati come gestore della Fonoroma milanese.

Come settentrionale ero una grossa opportunità: parlavo la stessa lingua dei clienti ed ero un rompiscatole eliminato a Roma. Con un’ottima retribuzione mi convinsero facilmente a tornare a Milano nel ’59, dove ho trovato un mondo diverso. La pubblicità televisiva aveva promosso un modo di lavorare su misura dei brevi filmati. Teatri di posa, pellicola, microfoni, tutto come nel cinema vero ma solo per brevissime riprese per giunta con un audio ai massimi livelli perché ogni pubblicità doveva essere chiara, intellegibile e potente!

Erano i favolosi anni…un banale luogo comune oppure sentimentalismo a buon prezzo? Gli anni favolosi sono quelli che contenevano una speranza più o meno definita, sicuramente intuita, speranza che oggi è difficile nutrire. Quegli anni sessanta erano favolosi, io non lo sapevo ma il mio istinto mi sollecitava ad andare avanti. Erano gli anni della città sottosopra per i lavori della prima metropolitana, delle minigonne, del Giamaica a due passi ma che io non avevo il tempo di frequentare e via Paolo Sarpi era a doppio senso, ma erano anche gli anni pionieristici della nuova tecnica elettronica allo stato solido, quei minuscoli bruchi con tre fili sporgenti destinati a divenire circuiti integrati e poi microprocessori. Allora l’elettronica si toccava con mano, cioè la si vedeva con pochi semplici strumenti, ora invece è l’ignoto, tutto analizzato da processori che dicono se funziona oppure no! Questo mi dava soddisfazione ed avevo pure realizzato una delle prime commutazioni allo stato solido. Certo potrei descrivere gli aspetti tecnici del mio lavoro ma sarebbero incomprensibili anche agli addetti ai lavori del giorno d’oggi, tanto le tecnologie sono cambiate.
Tenterò comunque in altro rapporto di farne una descrizione comprensibile.
Più interessanti le nubi che si approssimavano all’orizzonte…

Lo studio di registrazione milanese disponeva più o meno degli spazi che si trovano in un sommergibile: ripide scalette di metallo, un buco per le macchine e un altro per la regia. La sala, il luogo dove gli attori parlano al microfono era più grande, si, ma puzzolente di umidità polvere e tempo. Progetti assolutamente inadeguati alle nuove necessità. La RAI aveva un reparto di controllo qualità e respingeva i prodotti deficienti.

Il progettista del rinnovamento degli impianti di Milano era un giovane ingegnere, figlio del padrone degli studi romani, che aveva voluto sia economizzare, sia sperimentare i nuovi dispositivi elettronici: i transistori. In conclusione mi sono trovato in una moltitudine di guai tecnici e metodologici perché la scuola di suono cinema era diversa da quella del suono pubblicitario, pur essendo entrambe valide erano in conflitto per via della supponenza del nuovo progettista. Se da un lato si era instaurato un fantastico rapporto con i clienti, attori, doppiatori, montatori, produttori, dall’altro mi trovavo a gestire apparecchiature che principalmente soffrivano di deriva termica tale che dopo qualche ora la qualità del suono decadeva. Dunque necessità di studiare i nuovi dispositivi, analizzare i problemi e risolverli.

Intanto, la proprietà dello stabilimento sviluppo, stampa e sonorizzazione film (Filmservice) cedette tutta l’attività ad un gruppo finanziario facente capo ai Cefis, mi pare fra il 1962-63. La Filmservice diventa TTC: tecno tele cine. Questo gruppo era preoccupato da un altro progetto, promosso da Fonoroma, che cominciava a prendere forma, per attirare a Milano le produzioni cinematografiche romane. Avrebbe dovuto diventare una “Cinelandia” fuori città, dove la Fonoroma avrebbe deciso di trasferirsi. Sarebbe venuto a mancare lo studio di doppiaggio che faceva da supporto all’attività di sviluppo film. Siccome lo stabilimento dove lavoravo era in centro città, gli speakers facevano un salto dalla vicina RAI per registrare testi di pochi minuti. Il nuovo progetto avrebbe richiesto tempi di spostamento impensabili, ovvero sconvolto l’attività pubblicitaria.

La mia collaborazione era leale quanto quella di un dissidente entro il proprio partito. In definitiva aspettavo l’occasione giusta. Tra l’indifferenza generale il progetto “Cinema a Milano” andò avanti, doveva! Furono investiti parecchi capitali per costruire tutto ex novo. Poiché io avevo costruito il nuovo studio mixaggio film nella vecchia sede TTC, il direttore di questa, vedendomi al lavoro, mi reputò in grado di risolvere i suoi problemi e mi contattò proponendomi di costruire due nuovi studi nello stesso stabile all’ultimo piano dove esisteva uno spazio libero di 30X15X5 metri.
La sfida consisteva nel farlo in tre mesi e aprire l’attività prima dei “facciamo il cinema a Milano”, già avanti con i lavori.

Da aprile 1965, inizio dei contatti, a settembre, il progetto doveva essere pronto per l’esecuzione che doveva terminare in dicembre. Questo implicava sia la progettazione murario-acustica che quella meccanico elettronica, cioè far partire ordini e costruzioni con tempi previsti e impegnativi in modo che ogni pezzo si incastrasse in tempi e luoghi precisi: impresa di costruzioni, proiettori modificati, registratori su film magnetico e ottico, meccanica generale più la parte costruita da me. Anche tutte le connessioni audio e rete, erano preparate da me a tavolino, ordini e consegne calcolati con precisione.

Ed ecco che nell’immenso padiglione vuoto e squallido, il soffitto ancora a tetto nudo e spiovente, i muratori posano i pavimenti galleggianti e le doppie murature, per un perfetto isolamento acustico, i carpentieri posano le tubature per le connessioni elettriche e audio, la cabina elettricità, l’officina prepara lo scheletro del mixer, arrivano le macchine, con un collaboratore si procede alle connessioni si installano gli schermi…si stampano i fogli lavorazione/fatturazione: si registra!!

I calcoli erano stati precisi, riuscimmo a iniziare le registrazioni prima che gli ingegneri chiudessero il vecchio studio per trasferirsi fuori città. Il progetto dell’hardware era affiancato anche da un software: il modo di gestire le registrazioni, le archiviazioni e le fatturazioni cosicché il lavoro iniziò subito scorrevole. Avevo imparato ciò che non bisogna fare e progettato tutte le migliorie possibili osservate durante il lavoro.

Quegli studi, così come li ho concepiti, hanno lavorato per 25 anni. Quelli dei concorrenti non decollarono mai, ripiegarono sul doppiaggio di telefilm e i teatri di posa infine ceduti alle nuove TV private. Ora, 2015, non so cosa sia rimasto degli studi fuori città, di quelli che ho progettato io, più niente. L’intero palazzo demolito e al suo posto una nuova costruzione residenziale di lusso. Segno dei tempi, in fondo sono passati cinquant’anni.

 

 

TRANSMIGRATIONS : Indian and Italian Times

INDIA from afar

through the images by BIANCA SFORNI

and a text by ROSANNA ALBERTINI

BIANCA SFORNI, Le Corbusier Watches at Mill’s Owners Association, Ahmedabad, 2016

Confession of a soul from Charles Louis de Montesquieu’s Histoire véritable, True Story (mid eighteen century):

“No doubt I was the biggest rascal in all Indias, and the servant of an old gymnosophist [naked wise man] who spent fifty years to obtain a happy transmigration and, practicing rough penances, made himself a skeleton in this world not to be transformed into a vile animal in the afterlife. As for me, persisting in a cruel behavior at every occasion, I was terrible, executing all the animals falling into my hands. To tell the truth I didn’t dare touch the old cockerels in my master’s court, or some old goose almost sixty years old, and I took good care of an old wrinkled cow that made me crazy, because she didn’t have teeth to graze anymore and, when my master ordered me to walk her around, I was almost forced to hold her in my arms.” (Montesquieu)

Many stories of cruelties follow. From the time they happened to the confession we read, there is a gap of four thousand years.

“I engaged myself in the seduction of a young woman. Her husband happened to discover it and killed me. Because my soul was brand new and hadn’t yet animated other bodies, she was directly transported into a place where philosophers had to judge her. They measured the weight of my whole life: the scales fell violently on the side of the evil acts. I was condemned to migrate through the most shameful animals … but, instead of been stunned, distressed or complaining, I kept my usual good mood and, seeing other shadows scared, I burst into laughter. One of the major philosophers admired my bravery and became benevolent: ‘To show you that I appreciate your firmness, I will grant you the only gift which is in my power: it is the faculty to remember everything that will happen in all the revolutions of your being.'” (Montesquieu)

BIANCA SFORNI, Regina della Notte, Kolkata 2016

BIANCA SFORNI, Quando le ruote non avevano i raggi, 2016

BIANCA SFORNI, Agricultura, 2016

BIANCA SFORNI, Pastoral, 2016

I also transmigrated more than once in my life. I have been a scholar long enough to absorb so many stories from the past, from centuries old volumes that had lost their weight from the infinitely small insects eating the paper, that in the end I found some treasures never touched, never studied, but was forced to abandoned them. The academic rules were hard, and their imposition on the volumes and on me was an insane mortification. I saved one volume, deciding to expose it to the public as much as I could. This time I succeeded: Elvira Sellerio –  publisher from Palermo – put it in her Blue Collection: Montesquieu, Storia Vera, 1983 (second edition 1991). I translated the little book into Italian, with an essay I wrote realizing that our Western way of looking at India’s religious beliefs is marked by a misunderstanding we will not overcome. Transmigrations are only deaths without pain, they won’t be stopped by human desire to trace their history. To us from Europe, instead, memory is the only road to reconnect the fragments of an invisible movement. I don’t know why, we call it history.

BIANCA SFORNI, A Street is a Room Without a Roof, Kolkata 2016

When my friend Bianca recently went to India, for real, she probably borrowed the spirit of some soul who allowed her to see, through a transparent light, figures moving across a living space in which there is no distance between past and present. Humans merge into a sort of density, objects lose their opacity. Stones and metals show through their bodies the shape of the mountains they are made of. All of that in order “to avoid the paralyzing effects of experience, to use the mind in different ways.” (John Cage)

BIANCA SFORNI, Dancer, 2016

BIANCA SFORNI, Comari, 2016

BIANCA SFORNI, Our Cousins: the Sacred Squirrels, 2016

And now, even knowing that the description of my very first transmigration is affected by frames of thought rooted in Italy, in the Greek-Roman civilization, I lay it down next to Bianca’s Indian photographs for this is, to me, the only way to figure out what a transmigration is, without relying on two thousand years of books. My personal attempt at stepping into that world.

BIANCA SFORNI, Librarian, 2016

I was a girl looking down at the floor of a semicircular room of an apartment, the entrance room. A combination of red, green, gray and brown stones irregularly cut and randomly recombined. They were as hard as me, standing up on them and discovering my feet with clean shoes over that shiny surface. My mother brought me there. She was there and then she was not.

A small suitcase remained next to me, I was wearing a red coat with golden bottoms I didn’t like. I was ten years old. Nobody had spoken a word to me about my new life in the city, in an apartment of two sisters, friends of my grandfather. There I was. Not at all in my mind that I was going to spend in that place the next eleven years of my life.

Middle school was about to start in a few days. It was the end of September. I was scared by how neat and clean things were around me. The house was built with a curved wall on one side, as the building looked half toward a square, and half toward a street. Vibrations produced by the tramway were so strong that, at the passage on the curve, the walls trembled.

I don’t remember having feelings of any kind: I was an empty body quickly growing on a couple of legs, with short hair, and my usual freedom compressed in another me, out of that house. It took a long time before a soul joined my body again. When it happened, she found a different person: taller, language cleaned up, no more countryside accent after a constant work of correction, sort of linguistic surgery operated by the sisters. A new language called French had started to spurt from my lips, my brain was lost in rules, grammars, Latin, my behavior cleaned up from a body-language considered socially dangerous. For a street child from a village, education was hard. My natural paradise was lost.

I realized a soul (mine? someone else’s?) had reentered my mind, guiding at least some of my wishes, when despite the foreign environment, made out of replicated mental habits strongly persistent in the aristocratic principles rubbed on me every day by the two aristocratic sisters, I found my new freedom reading books. I fell in love with them. The first very long book I read, at 13, was Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, of course in French.

 

BIANCA SFORNI, Anand’s Magic Guardians, Ahmedabad 2016

“keep a clicker / in / your pocket wittgenstein / just in case you / encounter / ugliness that needs / transformation / ugliness that / after / one / click / you accept / as beautiful / transformation / sudden change / of / mind / the third india is dharma / good’n’evil / true’n’false / right’n’wrong / in the / moral sense / discrimination / following in a general way.” John Cage, A Year from Monday, 1963