Ruins - by Gaetano Cunsolo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monte Moro, Genova, 2014.

Photo: Gaetano Cunsolo

Monte Moro, Genova, 2014.

Photo: Gaetano Cunsolo

Monte Moro, Genova, 2014.

Photo: Gaetano Cunsolo

Between 2013 and 2014 I went for long walks on the Ligurian seashore, precisely, in the area of Monte Moro (more or less 15 km from the city centre of Genoa). Stretched out throughout this area, is a concatenation of bunkers built at the beginning of World War Two by the allied forces. Although these bunkers hardly ever opened fire during the war, they remained active and in use until the landing of the American troops. Thinking of those hikes, I can only wonder about the way structures so “dreadful” in appearance can blend and adapt so well to the environment that contains them. Somehow, it is as if these structures always existed. Their anthropomorphic conformation justifies this reality, but only partially, in my opinion.
 

Now: what's so important about these structures? In Bunker Archaeology Paul Virilio writes about bunkers as structures belonging to a broad military system, though differentiating themselves from the traditional Third Reich's architecture. They were developed within the context of modernity, that also made itself increasingly felt within the military industry. With WW2, weapons and the whole warfare apparatus experienced a technological shift, a turning point within which the bunkers must be considered. But, despite these circumstances, they seem to assume a mostly mythical value: the physiognomy of a greatness that will reveal itself totally ineffective at a practical level. Following a totally modern fabrication process – of which the use of concrete is but an evidence – they belong to a wide strategic system that extends through great part of the Atlantic coast and that, aside its premises, is linked to the notion of unidirectional war, a war fought on land, that does not contemplate water and air.
 

However, as combat techniques are progressively evolving, distance and obstacles – the first and foremost problems of all military strategists, as Virilio tells us - are quickly diminishing.

 

«A homogeninzing process is under way in the contemporary military structure […] this homogenizing movement of combat techniques and instruments of warfare is coupled to one last movement. This is, with the “weapon-vehicle” contraction and the cybernatization of the system, the volumetric reduction of military objects: miniaturization.» (1)
 

My reflection starts exactly from here: despite the invention of an expansive device, bunkers have revealed themselves to be ineffectual; their profoundly modern characters amounting only to a wish. Today, they have become aesthetic objects, by all means a form of «simulacrum so close to children’s playful warring... after the real warring. » (2) Over half century after the end of WW2, they seem to have been reabsorbed by the landscape, detritus of a growing urbanization that is not capable of assimilating them, aside for some rare attempts at museologizing them, or for some forms of “dark tourism”. (3) The bunker is a ruin that resists any speculative programme. It constantly appears to be asking for attention or presence; but upon attempting to approach it, we get forced back. The bunker refuses any kind of long-term plan, favoring only short-lived, occasional and unforeseeable moments.

 

Gaetano Cunsolo, Bunker's Border, temporary installation,

Monte Moro, Genova, 2014. Photo: Gaetano Cunsolo

 

« ... it had been forgotten, that the largest fortifications will naturally attract the largest enemy forces, and that the more you entrench yourself the more you must remain on the defensive, so that in the end you might find yourself in a place fortified in every possible way, watching helplessly while the enemy troops, moving on their own choice of terrain elsewhere, simply ignored their adversaries' fortress, which had become positive arsenals of weaponry, bristling with cannon and overcrowded with men. The frequent result, said Austerliz, of resorting to measures of fortification marked in general by a tendency towards paranoid elaboration was that you drew attention to your weakest point, practically inviting the enemy to attack it, not to mention the fact that as architectural plans for fortifications became increasingly complex, the time it took to build them increased as well, and with the probability that as soon as they were finished, if not before, they would have been overtaken by further developments, both in artillery and in strategic planning, which took account of the growing realization that everything was decided in movement, not in a state of rest. » (W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz(4)

 

 

« … show us how, unlike birds, for instance, who keep building the same nest over thousands of years, we tend to forget ahead with our projects far beyond any reasonable bounds. Someone, he added, ought to draw up a catalogue of types of buildings listed in order of size, and it would be immediately obvious that domestic buildings of less then normal size – the little cottage in the fields, the hermitage, lockkeepers's lodge, the pavilion for viewing the landscape, the children's bothy in the garden – are those that offer us at least a semblance of peace, whereas no one in his right mind could truthfully say that he liked a vast edifice such as the Palace of Justice in the old Gallows Hill in Brussels. At the most we gaze at it in wonder, a kind of wonder which itself is a form of dawning horror, for somehow we know by instinct that outsize buildings cast the shadow of their own destruction before them, and are designed from the first with an eye to their later existence as ruins. » (W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz) (5)

 

Passo del Faiallo, Genova, 2015.

Photo: Gaetano Cunsolo

Passo del Turchino, Genova, 2015.

Photo: Gaetano Cunsolo

Fertilia, Sassari, 2015.

Photo: Gaetano Cunsolo

«DOCTOR OF HUTCHES

 

My Esternome and his Ninon settled somewhere on the hill, just like one settles in new country. His spirit seemed struck, that's the word, with possibilities. Around him, no Big Hutch, no one to cut the wind in his sails, no cane rustling over suffering. The world was yet to be made, and he would tell his Ninon, The world has yet to be planted. He felt himself glisten like sea under moon. Valiantly, he set to work. And this valiance he kept until the hour of his misfortune.

 

His first hutch was made of bamboo. Bamboo partitions. Bamboo roof. Braids of coconut straw to stop the waters. Guarding against humid winds, the straw covered the whole hut with an old woman's hair. Depending on his moods my Esternome erected other kinds of hutches. The most beautiful one was a nest of wild sage picked from the driest areas. He was lucky because up there his profession was blessing. All the blackmen that moved up into the hills called on Estermone, Doctor of Hutches, for help, agive me a hand at such a time please. So much did he help everyone that he and Ninon never lacked anything, neither plants for the garden nor medicine leaves. On one terrace after another, my doctor built hutches made of turtleshell tree for others, hutches made of ravine, low-wall, drumstick, and of course of logwood trees. He built hutches easy to move if the ground changed too much, and hutches that held tight to the cliff heads. When there wasn't too much wood, he finished the hutch with an oily mud mixed with little leaves that he kneaded with his heel to the cadence of drums. In other places he'd smear onto the walls a coating of his own making (limestone-shells-sand and ox caca). Oh Marie-Sophie, the hutches covered with earth stay coolest. To stop the sun, I would add another layer of white earth to the façades and protect them by lengthening the roof's edges, and they would last a decade.» (Patrick Chamoiseau, Texaco(6)

Marina di Bibbona, Livorno, 2015.

Photo: Gaetano Cunsolo

Marina di Bibbona, Livorno, 2015.

Photo: Gaetano Cunsolo

Marina di Bibbona, Livorno, 2015.

Photo: Gaetano Cunsolo

Gaetano Cunsolo

Gaetano Cunsolo (1986) firstly graduated at the Academy of Fine arts in Florence and then from the Master in Visual Art and Curatorial Studies at NABA, Milan. Currently he is teaching drawing and sculpture at FUA, (Florence University of Arts). Preferring installation, drawing, photography and video, his work consists in aesthetic studies and art investigations which mainly focus on relational models and connections with public life. Among the many exhibition he took part in, Gaetano is currently showing work at the exhibition “Florenz Contemporary”, curated by Angelika Stepken, Italian Ambassy, Berlin (2015).

 

 

 

( 1 )

Paul Virilio, Bunker Archeology, Princeton Architectural Press, New York 2012, 18

 

( 2 )

Paul Virilio, Bunker Archeology, Princeton Architectural Press, New York 2012, 15

 

( 3 )

 Michela Bassanelli, Gennaro Postiglione, The atlantikwall as military archeological landscape, Lettera Ventidue, Siracusa 2011, 174

 

( 4 )

W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz. Translation by Anthea Bell, 2001. Vintage Canada Edition, 2002, 16

 

( 5 )

W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz. Translation by Anthea Bell, 2001. Vintage Canada Edition, 2002, 18-19

 

( 6 )

Patrick Chamoiseau, Texaco. Translation by Rose-Myriam Réjouis and Val Vinokurov, 1992. Mackays of Chatham, Great Britain, 1997, 132-133 

 

 

 

 

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