Ignazio Mortellaro, portrait. Courtesy of the artist
April 30, 2020

A Room with a View: Ignazio Mortellaro on his isolation experience

"A Room with a View" is a new editorial initiative which aims to illuminate the positive and creative potential of time spent in isolation. The sixth contribution comes from Italian artist Ignazio Mortellaro
Words by Ignazio Mortellaro

Dear My Art Guides Readers,

I thought that I had a lucid outlook on the world, but with everyday that passes everything seems to become shrouded in a strange sort of fog, the world outside, with its myriad of distant objects, is evermore opaque and indistinct, it is as if I have been struck by a form of myopia as the objects surrounding me at home remain clear-cut and luminous.

The world once appeared fast and light, now it seems as though everything is slowing down, vehicular traffic no longer measures the speed of travel and whenever a car sporadically passes beneath my window, the effect is that of a sudden crash produced by impetuous rushing water, instead now it is the heavy and silent steps that drag our bodies from one room to another that measures space and time.

It is as if the world outside is slowly becoming petrified, as if the gaze of Medusa had erroneously rested upon it. But as immobility points to the idea of death, for the world outside this quiet means rest and sedimentation in the absence of exploitation, allowing the plants to breathe again and the stairs to reveal themselves.

The solo show I was supposed to inaugurate in Milan on April 15th has the title “Nisi respirent venti, vis nulla refrenet res”; it is not the first time that “Nisi respirent venti, vis nulla refrenet res” surprises and guides me by games of chance. This verse is a fragment from the liber VI of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura, a book in which the author seeks to explain the atmospheric and catastrophic events of nature, his translation is “If the winds did not cease, no force would hold things back”, I find beautiful the idea of ceasing, expressed in Latin with the verb Respiro – breathing becomes an action of rest.

I have stopped cleaning the window panes, that sort of transparency is no longer of use, now that that world is out of focus I have more time to observe it, the pearly traces of the snails that have returned to plow the windows illuminate the dark catastrophe unfolding outside, I like to lose myself in that shine, enthralled by the heroic enterprise of these little beings, an unattainable example of perseverance and strength.

Ignazio Mortellaro, Autoritratto in forma di Natura, 2011. Courtesy of the artist
Ignazio Mortellaro, Wu-Wei, 2015. Courtesy of the artist

Every day that passes through this quarantine is a small epoch, that Anthropocene of which everyone talks about only consumes itself day by day, it is as if every morning a new humanity arises from a calm lake, and subsequently they become extinct as the sun sets in the evening, an evolved civilisation drowning in the sea of night. It seems that time has suddenly lost its past and future. It is as if the days are confused. This is probably a form of self defence but I like to think that it was the same for our ancestors of the savannah and I feel closer to them now.

However bright, full of fetishes and food, our houses are nothing more than caves, shelters for the night or the accumulation of food, occasionally good for the celebration of some ritual, but the life we need is outside, we have an ancestral need to run, to discover valleys and woods, to navigate the seas and fly over the great plains.

The reality is that we are not enough, having tried to get to know ourselves and building upon the great illusion of progress, we must go back to dissolving ourselves into the compact nature of the world, accepting the infinitely small, the mobile and the light. Those specks of dust that exponentially multiply is what makes up the landscape, the boundless deserts and savannahs is where the imagination takes on its new path.

Nous causâmes aussi de l’univers, de
sa création et de sa future destruction;
de la grand idée du siècle,c’est-à-dire
du progrès et de la perfectibilité, et, en
général, de toutes les formes
de l’infatuation humaine.

Baudelaire, 1869

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