Per la versione in italiano, cliccate qui.
(The above link is for the Italian version of the post, English is below)
This month, on November 4, we remember 50 years since the harsh Alluvione (flood) of the city of Florence, Italy.
The flood took the lives of many and also destroyed artwork and literature artifacts (some may be familiar with the Cimabue crucifix's damaging). With Florence being my hometown, I remember how elementary-school teachers would take aside the day each year to focus on what had occurred. In a sense, if you walk around Florence it is almost impossible to escape the memory of the flood, as you'll be surrounded by streets and buildings containing plaques detailing how 'on Nov 4, 1966, the water of the Arno river reached this height': a historical and physical mark of the terrifying height of the flood.
[Below are some pictures of the natural disaster and one of the plaques I was mentioning]
My father was 25 years old when the flood occurred and he remembers details of the disaster very vividly. It was actually one of his narratives that inspired me to approach two of my colleagues and friends here at Dartmouth, Dominic and Xanthe, to create an audio-visual art piece in remembrance of 50 years since the event. I am very thankful they decided to collaborate and share their skills! One of my father's narratives told of how, after the river water had dried, dust overtook the city - he was shocked at the amount and the after-effect of the Arno's waters sweeping through.
My colleagues and I then became fascinated with the idea of using natural, physical, materials to evoke the components of the natural disaster. We then decided to experiment by projecting historical footage of the flood (a special thanks to firenzealluvione.it) through a glass tank - due to the tank's curved nature on one end and flat surfaces on others, the projected source would create multiple images across surfaces - they were powerfully stunning on their own. We then compiled footage of us pouring water and distorting the image, adding sawdust to evoke the experience of the dust-filled/mud-like water experienced by the people of Florence in 1966. Below are just a few frames from the current version of the film. While some of the coloring was caused by the slight tint of the historical clips, the DSLR lens would further generate colored bars, surprising us with the hues that were emerging, as we did not add color.
It's really beautiful how these seemingly intricate visuals and effects could be created naturally, without the use of special effects or strong editing. Natural effects recalling natural disasters.
For the audio of the film we thought of using songs popular in Italy during the year of the flood, 1966. After compiling a list, the two that were selected were Mina's "Se Telefonando" and Rita Pavone's "Fortissimo". The sound was manipulated by both Xanthe and Dominic, as they altered elements, adding drones and a destruction of the sound as the flood water 'took over' the visible image, evoking the erosion of artworks also.
At the start and end of the video one can hear recorded audio of my parents, both alive during the flood's occurrence. The piece opens with the words of my father describing, in first person, events he experienced the day of the flood: phone lines going silent, electricity disappearing, water seeping into doors, fleeing to a hill and being amazed at how trees were being carried swiftly through the streets of the city by the water of the overflown river.. The piece ends with the words of my mother recounting how the disaster, despite its horrors, brought the Italian people together in solidarity and in helping - a brief remark about the famous 'Angeli del Fango' (Angels of Mud) who aided with the city's recovery.
The projected historical footage is shot in a manner as to evoke recollections of memory - sometimes clear and at times obfuscated. The combination of the footage, natural effects, and combination of survivor testimony and music from the period, make this modern art/film piece more than just what meets the eye and I hope it brings people to reflect about the Alluvione, raising awareness for others and making us Florentines re-live a part so linked to our history.
The current version of the film can be viewed here - we are still in the process of finalizing.