Eighty Miles into the Northwest Wind

Proceeding eighty miles into the northwest wind
you reach the city of Santa Euphemia D’Aspromonte
but the pictures of the dwellers
reach you long before the arrival.

Their faces are wounded and deformed.
They are also hostile and proud.

They all come to you at the same place and at the same time
some twenty miles before the gates
when you already crossed the desert
and travel up the river.

These are the first lines of the texts we read when we head out to ten Calabrian towns. In the end we got a CD out of it: Rinus van Alebeek and Michal Libera play Alvin Lucier Chambers.

Michal wrote:
“The whole idea came from reading Italo Calvino’s „Invisible Cities” while travelling among unknown cities of Calabria. The similarities had been striking. The book became a guide, Kublai Khan – an emperor of the land in the south of Italy and the idea, irrepressible urge to actually perform this similarity. The original text by Calvino was overwritten with some information – including the names of towns – distorted, filtered and overdubbed by its local reflections.”

“Armed with it, Rinus and I set out for a dozen of excursions into Calabrian towns to recite, talk, read, listen, drink coffee, perform, play, record, play back… or: blow, bow, rub, explode, scrape, walk, ignore, talk, screw, dance, whistle, which are all suggestions of Alvin Lucier to make large and small resonant environments sound. The material recorded during these attempts to make invisible cities of Calabria sound was then composed by Rinus to form a road-audio-book.”

Michal’s idea made it possible to explore more of Calabrian’s still relatively untouched countryside. The long car-rides led us over roads littered with stones and rocks, or damaged by frost and winter and neglect. We drove some fine new roads that connected to a far away Italy. We found narrow streets that winded up and up to one of the many peaks of the Aspromonte region. We ended up driving amidst pine trees, right on the spine of a mountain range where the view opened to the Tyrrhenian coast in the west and onto the Ionian coast to the east.

We stopped at bars in the middle of nowhere to drink a coffee that could bend iron. We drove through remote villages that seemed to be held together by steel-wire and pieces of rope, their bare concrete constructs covered by wood and Eternit. People stared at the car with the foreign number plate passing. We saw the most beautiful landscapes: valleys that cut through mountains, their last resting poses, tired from being a nature’s force. Riverbeds, more then a hundred meter wide, filled with rocks, of which you knew that winter’s melting waters and rainfall would turn it into a dangerous stream, unrooting trees and houses.

The unforgettable ride to the Ionian coast once we passed the mountains and the sunshine over the gardens and fruit trees, the colours made me think that life was meant to be eternal, a continuum of simple gestures. We marvelled at the rundown periphery of the smaller towns, the brutalist look of the unfinished magnanimous houses, the wealth of small things attached. And at the end of each ride we found a place to make recordings and recite our text.

We came to Catanzaro, city of huge pillars.

We walked through the remains of Roghudi

We arrived in people’s back gardens in Bova


We listened to the harbour of Gioia Tauro


And found some waste near one of the abandoned storehouses

We entered the other side on Monte Poro

Discovered the semi-deserted village of Ziia


How strange then, that a late twentieth century invention, a container of data, can take over the part of a messenger and bring you these tales of cities that turned invisible again.




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