De fabula artis

This photo was taken on top of Mount Subasio, over the assisian Eremo delle Carceri, at the end of a week spent doing something with someone.

Matter what? Possibly yes.

Will it make history (historia)? I do not know.

Certainly it will make tale (fabula): this one. This present small tale, that I am also writing in order to thank each “someone” who took part in the something, making it worthy of being told.

Thank you Amelia, Danke Anett, Danke Anselm, Grassie Beatrice, Danke Christoph, Thank you Erica, Danke Erik, Danke Gerhard, Thank you Jessica, Danke Katharine, Grazie Livia, Danke Martin, Dziękuję Mateusz, Grazie & Danke Michaela, Danke Susanne, Danke Vera, veramente grazie a tutti.

Sure, I know that is not formally correct to start a story from the end and even from the “thanks to” without even having begun to tell. But many outstanding tales include from their beginning some kind of secret allusion to the conclusion. Just want to tell in the opposite way. Even if at the beginn of that week I was not already telling, but just living, I actually belive to have experienceda similar kind of allusion to what I’ve seen on the Monte Subasio and then, on the same evening, I’ve tried to share during the final discussion. It is one of those things one simplistic calls “signs of destiny”, as if we’re living lifes written by someone else!

Just arrived in Assisi I headed, suitcase in hand, to a fresco in the Lower Basilica of San Francesco: a piece that I extensive studied in the books and I was anxious to see/watch for myself.


While I sneak through the crowd of believers-vacationers, a priest commented on a passage from the Psalms. In fact, I was only interested in the fresco by Simone Martini in the Chapel of St. Martin, but I could not even prevent me from understanding his words, which were broadcasted in surround sound throughout the House of God.

I went intentionally on-site well in advance: to prepare and test my theme a few hours before the arrival of those still unknown companions, with whom, in the following days, I would have had the honor and the burden of engaging in a speech. For that occasion a presentation should  stand as the most scientific and detailed as possible.

I had not come to terms with the simple fact that I was not going into a museum and the preaching appeared, at first glance, a kind of unexpected hurdle to my intention to recollect myself in front of the ‘”work of art” in his pureness. Obviously I had to surrender to my lack of foresight and accept – not without some discomfort – to reconcile these two dimensions.

According to the priest, we must learn to number our days. In fact, as he claims, it does not matter exactly knowing until what age we will live. Our remaining days are anyway numbered, limited; in any case not many. In order to have wisely his own mortal and fleeting life – I still report almost literally from his homily -, we must learn to count days and then give to each single day his proper value. I listened to this Interpretation with the right ear, while the left eye was trying to observe Martini frescoing Martino.

So, as a sector of my brain tried to focus on the expert and ambiguous use of gold in the cycle of frescoes; another, equally active sector wondered simultaneously if perhaps, more than learning to count (contare, zählen) the days, we should possibly learn how to do something more meaningful, perhaps to recount/tell (raccontare, erzählen) them. More than a simple counts, is a tale that can give meaning to the lived days or to those which are planned to live. Although the counting ensures an abstraction and a reassuring distancing, the telling/recounting presupposes a participation (certainly relative and subjective), that makes and gives sense (senso, direzione) to the days. Regardless of the number of days, the fact of giving them a sense through a tale increases its quality. Then, by combining the various day-tales to each other, can eventually result a story.

But then: what about the history of art? What about that history which, with the other part of the brain, I’m trying to analyze? Is this a simple sum of individual tales? A conglomeration of viewpoints artificially held together by a huge immaterial bookbinding? If one observes the remuneration of a soldier, one can not avoid to refere that counting (zählen) to a paying (bezahlen), and then to a recounting (erzählen).

Le monete di San Simone Martini

What and how is determined whom and how much should be paid? Who is/treats? (Chi tratta? Di chi si tratta?) The mercenary soldier or the hired artist? Both have to work the best they can, for an agreed monetary compensation.

What and how it is determined who and how something should be told? What kind of tale is the appropriate form for  a certain kind of experience?

In short: what is the thing that we did / tried to do / wanted to do in our week in Assisi?

I suppose that each of the participants has drawn upon personal conclusions, mutable, presumably partly conflicting and fundamentally incommunicable. Still was built a common base, a shared sense, worthy of being told, in infinite possible ways. This experience of community is there. I see it. I saw it when, on the last day, alone but not alone, I went to the top of Mount Subasio, after a collective excursion Eremo delle Carceri. Others may have seen or imagined it elsewhere, perhaps even in a church, in a completely different form. Yet it is the same thing that I saw and I’m telling about.

Without illusions nor cheating.



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