Flag in the Water

F L A G   I N   T H E   W A T E R

SIMONE FORTI in the Rice River (Northern Minnesota)

July 27, 2015 

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SIMONE FORTI,  Flag in the Water, video 19’46” 2015.  Cinematography Jason Underhill

Courtesy of the artist and  The Box Gallery, Los Angeles
(All the images are stills from the video, kindly provided by Jason Underhill)

N A K E D  F E E T   O N   T H E   G R O U N D

by Rosanna Albertini

Written and printed words had to be dry because water melts the paper. But I would like to write on the   paper when it’s wet and see the words expand like corals or marine anemones for a while until softened, melted, they let go the strength of their meanings. And truths often thrown like stones would have the look of washed out shadows.

My goddess is Simone Forti: the old woman who builds figures of speech, silent, dragging the soaked body of an American flag back to one day of our life, an uneventful day in the brownish water of the Rice River: July 27, 2015. The sky seems to frown, covering the scene with a handful of clouds as the day goes on. In front of the artist, beyond the two banks covered with trees, is the illusory point where the small river hands over his entire body of water to the bigger, Mississippi brother.

Even cut in two parts, the flag is heavy. Simone is a frail woman already carrying eight decades and the strongest figure at the same time: she is a vessel of freedom. For one day, the flag is her personal companion. It floats under the surface like a lover who invites her to lie down on her his its chest and close her eyes, to feel their new and welcomed union. “Myths are the soul of our actions and love.” (Paul Valéry). A soaked flag is much closer to human heaviness, to the liquid chemistry of our brain and blood. As Simone embraces the fabric, holds it underwater maybe sharing with the flag the impression they can both be deaf and blind for a moment, a million of unwritten stories, around that summer day, have vanished in the thin air. The real bodies rocked by the waves as many plankton forms, have been absorbed into the fabric. They were bodies searching for freedom.


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Rivers are roads that walk and bring us where we want to go.” (Blaise Pascal) The stars on the flag drive Simone’s eyes to the sky, the stripes drip down like blood. Simone is withdrawn, perhaps moving away from the sharpness of the news, sometimes they sound like bullets. Her body in movement is a fullness of feelings channelled into a slow motion physical language, which does almost savor the quality of each gesture.  A horse appears on the bank, bringing Roland Barthes, the prince of subtleties. Both horse and chevalier stop and look at Simone. “That’s the real pleasure, the moment in which my body will follow its own ideas — for my body has ideas different from my owns.” And puff! he disappears.

Simone doesn’t see the intruders. Completely absorbed as she is into the secret effort of bringing back the symbol of freedom, the national dress of her country to human actions and love. Out of the water, she folds the fabric with care, always keeping the bundle pressed on her breast. Then, for no particular reasons, she picks up a burned stick from the floor and traces a few lines on the double, wet flag.

For memory and art now, in the caves, naked feet on the ground.

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By Rosanna Albertini

American, but a son of Los Angeles which is America and the edge of it, lapped by the Pacific. Our young artist had to go to London and stay there for two years to realize that post-colonialist echoes in Europe have a resonance and a flavor that is missing in his frontier city. But he needed one more step out to personally experience a colonized country. In November 2103 he went to India for a month keeping his behavior perfectly coherent with a “gross” —as he says— American side to whom he is attached more than he thought.

JASON UNDERHILL, Paradise Lodge Catalogue Text, 2013 Silkscreen print on paper 6 x 8 inches Courtesy of the artist

JASON UNDERHILL, Paradise Lodge Catalogue Text, 2013  Silkscreen print on paper, 6″ x 8″
Courtesy of the artist

Only after coming back he started to think about his residency at the Paradise Lodge in Lonavala, among eight artists, as a long game that changed his life. Jason is nor afraid of clichés, for self irony saves him from shots Munchausen style. People from the Valley (continental part of Los Angeles) do act sometimes like barking dogs and laugh about it. It’s a natural thing like yawning when the day is too long, but “it being a natural thing makes it a curious thing a very curious thing to almost anybody’s feeling.” (Gertrude Stein – Narration) No doubt Jason is Jason because his dog recognizes him. Simplicity shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, “it just does take about a hundred years for things to cease to have the same meaning that they had before.” Stein again. And besides, it’s extremely hard to understand the habits of societies in constant transformation all over the world.

Underhill landed into a hilly place non far from Mumbai. Monks excavated the mountains with caves. People of these days filled the walls with simple graffiti. Four castles towered on four of the hilltops. In the small town the foreigners became bizarre celebrities: children wanted to be filmed with them.

Jason Underhill, INT. CHICKEN STALL – NIGHT, 2003

Running: Camera by Chinmoyi Patel, Merike Estna. Driver: Justin Gainan

Train: Camera by Justin Gainan

Kumar Resort: Camera by Chinmoyi Patel

Slam Book : Camera by Justin Gainan

Underhill filmed his own daily life in Lonavala. He looks like an American character incrusted into a place where jogging on the road, or sleeping as a standing horse on the train, do not make any sense. The image of India that he grabs, on the other side, gallops across imitations of western water parks and urban settlements by the same, undeterred pertinacity that fills the image of the young American guest. The two images might merge their foolishness, yet they don’t. None of them is idealized.

Underhill brought to India his human nature and gently revealed his displacement. India crossed over him cutting his breath with pollution and filling his sleeping hours with local music and sounds; he did the equivalent looking deaf. Reality was much more effective than Jason Underhill shows in the films and left marks on his mind. But, as everyone knows, the mind only relates to human nature, they are not the same: the India visitor needs to make sure he is still himself, despite the pleasure of being immersed in a much more communal life than the one he has known in Los Angeles. I’m sure for instance he wants to keep his dog for himself. Mind or nature? Never mind. Of course, there is more.