Sound in Stone: Day 10 & Closing Thoughts

Wednesday 8th March 2023

We leave the residency space and drive across the highways to Naples Airport, returning the car. There is always something strange to endings, especially in contemporary capitalism. You leave behind the connections, pay the tollway, buy a cheap sandwich, return the rental car, board a plane and one world dissolves and another materialises.

This accelerated life, defined by commodities, distances and a profound lack of time, contrasts so violently with the cool timelessness that dripped from every stone we cradled inside.

We remember back to where this journey began back in 2015 in our slow movement journey about migration; perhaps it was on this day, in a stone quarry, although it would be hard to place it there, exactly there as a beginning. In the stone quarry I couldn’t help but think of the labor of the men down in the mines. It would be hard to say where precisely this journey began. But we know that this place, this Murgia region always brought us back.

We came back because what we had found was something we were not looking for. We found something that could be considered the opposite of migration—we found stone. Everywhere, stone. We found and felt the geological magic of the the murgia—The Altopiano delle Murge—a karst topographic plateau. Ancient rocks have pushed up from under the sea, joining a once island sliver of land to the rest of the mainland. And yet in this land there is a movement, there is motion. In stone that seems the only thing one can say is dead, is, rather, life.

In this land there is a road of pilgrimage, an ancient road of migration from the Rome to Jerusalem where travelers would traverse, stopping every 40 kilometers or so at another resting point, “estacion del poste”.

These songs and sounds found in stone – suoni pietra – colors our entire journey and we carry it through, and back to Berlin, and will carry it when we return.

From the murgia in Puglia to the erupting Etna mountain above Catania; from the marble quarry in Apricena to the natural caves and eco-instruments in Ariana Urpina; from the powder released from a broken stone that the artist Vito Maiullari cracked and had us taste with our tongues (“this is the way to Touch Time” he said); to the stone streets paving every city. The stone is that which cannot move but manages to. It moves with horrific lethargy, terrifying slow-motion drama. Moves despite everything. And as Vito showed us—produces sound despite its density. We broke stones in two, and the two halves formed the half of eternity, and they formed the magic of time, of all time, tasting time. We began throughout all time bound, bound in stone and bound in the geology of the earth. And yet despite this, we MOVE. We must MOVE.

Yes this time our theme was something else, something that perhaps I did not intend, that I could not have embarked upon with intention.

It was Maria Teresa the translator we met years ago, in 2015, who may have first uttered the word recuperare (recovery) when speaking about the vision of Ferula Ferita, the arts organization in the Old Station on the Antique Road. Recuperare–recover, recuperate, regain. In relation to architecture, it means to take ruins, old run down spaces, unoccupied buildings, and make them functional again, even if just for a temporary amount of time. In relation to things it means to find old furniture, discarded bits of trash, and to refurbish them. In the way of land it means to pull away the weeds from nut trees and give them the chance to breathe again. It means both to scavenge and to reuse. It resists consumerism, resists the tendency to discard and build or buy anew. It resists the idea of supporting an economy where jobs are generated in order to make new things and we toil at making new things to buy new things to make new things.

“The reality we dream is the connection between dreams and memories. It is a reality. Ferula Ferita is a dream and preserves the memories. It is a sense of recuperare (recovery).”

When I ask her about how this fits in with the stories of migrants who come to a new place she tells me, How do we preserve memory of place and tradition and welcome new people?

“It’s a collective work … Maybe the people who come from the sea, have a connection between our dreams and our memory. Maybe they are the dream and we are the memory! And just with this connection, we could have a real revolution, a real exchange in society … It doesn’t matter if you are Tunisian or from Milan or Alta Mura, you will have that memory because you live in that memory, it will become a part of you. I think that memory can be transmitted … if you now live in that place, in that place there is memory, people preserve it, you will learn it, it will become part of your reality.”

In relation to migrants it means, to hold on to the old stories, to pass down stories and to keep them and share them with people who enter the community. It means a collective memory, a collective preservation of stories.

I suppose in relation to music, it means to remember the songs that we learned as children, to remember and revive the songs that live within. In relation to dance, it means remembering first impulses. First instincts. Teaching and sharing those with others.

Maria Teresa’s words reminded me of the connection between the scavenger and the migrant, though they are often separated along race and class lines, separated by nation. They are separated by the complex social lines that keep us divided in the circles that we tend to swim in. And yet so many of us in fact are living with the idea of recuperare running in our daily lives. So many people who I see as moving and intersecting in parallel with alternative communities, not always directly in alliance, but certainly with a common goal of recupare.

Some have found success with money, but most have next to none. They live with little, they make sacrifices to live softly and simply do their art and find ways to survive. Vito and Domenico and Donato and Maria Teresa and ourselves included, even the gallery inside the Conad Shopping Center, where we encounter the opportunity to juxtapose our show with the theater of consumerism, all of these people are making it work, somehow. And I had to say to myself, and I wish I could say this more clearly to others: lets stop having the conversation where we judge everywhere else as so closed—lets stop having negative expectations and malprophetic analysis of our own communities. Instead lets have positive expectations, higher goals, expectations to reach towards.

Even the idea, so often put forth by well meaning souls – “they just need you, need art, to be brought to them, to open them up” – it makes me feel deeply uncomfortable. Its not true—I’m not a savior, I’m not a sage. I’m essentially just living my life as I feel that I must. The project of performing for and with other people is about an exploration in social interaction and social integration, but it is not essentially a self-less thing—if there is such a thing.

Perhaps people are shy, but so also are performers. Performers are discontent, shy, socially awkward, sensitive creatures. Often afraid, often insecure. Perhaps people are essentially OPEN or WANT TO BE OPEN but don’t know always where to go to, whom to ask. We look for art on the Internet, for music videos, we look for it on TV.

And what is fed to us constantly in the music industry, in the film industry, in the startup world? Generate Content. Generate Content. Generate Content, without regards to what the content is. Fill up the space—resist dead air! (Which reminds me of the way that we think about work in the capitalist economy. Simply WORK, simply DO SOMETHING. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you don’t like it, it doesn’t matter, you “have to” do something, in order to survive. This is just “the downside” of capitalism, so they say. This is simply what we must do … we must survive, so if you have to do something you don’t like or doesn’t interest you or you don’t love, just do it. Content content content. Make something, an image, fill the social media world with content. Stupid promotional videos encouraged by Kickstarter or Snapchat. “Show us the real you—all of it!” Show as much as possible, regardless of its value, regardless if you really mean or want to say anything.)

To resist the resisting. This is, essentially, the acceptance of dead air. The acceptance of our socially awkward tendency towards shyness. The acceptance of silence. The acceptance of lack of content. The active welcoming of different silence(s). The resistance to simply WORK without regard to its implication for the greater world. The resistance to simply take a job, any job, for the sake of generating an income, an income of survival, an income of leisure, wherein we begin to lose sight of what we need and what we really need.

When I looked deeper at the word recuperare, I began to see the links forming all around me. I see where and why we traveled as and where we did. We were finding those who want to think differently about labor. We found also about labor, as we always do, there is labor all around us and how we make a living, in the fields, moving about brush from the trees, people who have decided to decentralize instead of centralize around cities.

The impossible imperative of coming together and combining forces. Now moment now of “taste time “ in stone. Breaking of rock, Murgia pushing together stone shall capture, encapsulate all, all time, all people ,still impossibly it moves. Now and every now caught in this timelessness, lack of time.

Now place now, or here place here. We are all here, neither native nor migrant but both. If we can “see” this juxtaposition, this paradoxical truth, we might think about the imperative of us “sticking together” or “moving together”, tasting the timelessness of time.

Listen to the unedited recording of our conversation here and read more from Maria Teresa’s blog: