uprooted, dispersed, disrupted across space-time

Volcano is an exploration and meditation on uprootedness - bringing together volcanic and technological eruption and extinctions. The volcano is Stromboli, a mythic site of European uprootedness. It was also a departure point for migration to Australia, including Giuseppe Russo, Maria's grandfather. Stromboli was a place of inner vision for him as his outer world dimmed and he lost his sight. Multiple monitors show the image, sometimes still, sometimes frantic, positioned somewhere between landscape photographs, mountain scenes and abstraact colour fields. There is a blurring of expectations - are they scenes captured by the camera or are they internal visions from Giuseppe's remembered past?

In late September 1999 we visited Stromboli, just off the coast of Italy. The first thing that strikes you about Stromboli as you approach the island by boat is its perfect cone shape – rising out of the sea. As the boat gets closer, you can see the sparks and fire of its constant explosions.

Stromboli is one of those almost forgotten Mediterranean islands that occasionally surface into the Western psyche. It is the island where Jules Verne’s characters find themselves at the end of their search for the Centre of the Earth. In 1946 Rossellini directed Ingrid Bergman in the film Stromboli. In this film a woman uprooted from a northern culture comes to terms with life on the southern island. Stromboli is also mentioned in the ancient myth of Thira:

The shape of the island is strange, nearly circular – a mountain like a ring in the sea. In the middle, a magnificent volcano. It seems that Hephaestus, being displeased one day, had taken the island of Thira in his hand and thrown it some distance, like a stone. It had fallen in the sea not far from Italy giving birth to the volcanic island of Stromboli. But in uprooting the center of the mountainous island, Hephaestus had left its edges, with the volcano in the middle. They say that if one were to put Stromboli back in its former place, it would take up precisely that part of the island that was pulled up. (E. Ionesco)

In Volcano we wanted to work with a Deleuzian becoming. How could the work become volcano – a mountain, enormous and still, that moved and erupted. We also wanted to explore interactivity away from our usual work on the screen. In this case interactivity in a space, where the audience itself is moved around the room. The animations, which attracted the participants to close viewing, worked volcanically as still moving images. The sound was ‘thrown like a stone.’ The room itself was their eruptive ground.

In Volcano multiple monitors show the image, sometimes split across two screens, and then repeated on several others. The monitors, already relics of a bygone age repeat the image, although never quite the same for any two monitors. Digital perfection this is not. The images, still photos that move, flicker and slide, play with the literal gap between the monitors, a reminder of the digital gap. The monitors are placed on the ground, a reference to the ground of eruptions and a strategy to shift the horizontal gaze.

The sound jumps between multiple speakers, echoing the image's play across the gap between the monitors. Localised rather than immersive, thrown like the stones in the myth of Hephaestus, the sound also unsettles a stable listening/viewing position. Both the images and sound were collected from the island volcano of Stromboli.

'What!' I shouted. 'Are we being taken up in an eruption? Our fate has flung us here among burning lavas, molten rocks, boiling waters, and all kinds of volcanic matter; we are going to be pitched out, expelled, tossed up, vomited, spit out high into the air, along with fragments of rock, showers of ashes and scoria, in the midst of a towering rush of smoke and flames; and it is the best thing that could happen to us!'
from - Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jules Verne

Italian translation


  Italian translation

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This work was assisted by the Australia Council,
the Federal Government's arts funding and advisory body.