ON BLACK MEDITERRANEAN
ON BLACK MEDITERRANEAN
ON BLACK MEDITERRANEAN
ON BLACK MEDITERRANEAN
AN INTERVIEW WITH INVERNOMUTO
This interview with Invernomuto follows the publication of a flexible body of suggestions, which the reader can find in the Atlas section of this website. This array of visual fragments represents a further path in the on-going investigation initiated by the duo in the context of Black Med –a manifold project, which first started taking material form in 2018.
The interview aims to unveil Black Med’s process of investigation through the particular, dense and even casual elements composing it.The visual references that found home in Atlas have been collected by Invernomuto over a period of research at the American Academy in Rome, in Spring/Summer 2019. The material has been composed in three clusters, which we could name Black in Antiquity, Libya/Cities in the Sand and Atlantis. These are non-titles, as they are directly deduced from the books in which the images were found. The artistic intentions remain only partial to the already existing identities of the material itself.
We would like to start the conversation asking you to tell us more about your residency in Rome, how did the process of research unfold while there, and which more specific lines of enquiry have you discovered in the city?
We decided to take the residency at the American Academy as a period of time to invest in pure research. The access to the library allowed us to go deeper into the history of the Mediterranean, sometimes just by means of observation –of pages, photographs and illustrations–some others through studying.
It’s interesting for us to have a perspective on Academia, without actively engaging with it. And it’s also interesting to declare that much of the research behind Black Med is actually not made on books, but online, through a common ground we share with other musicians and practitioners from other parts of the world. Black Med is actually about creating a network with other people, and being as open as we can.
As Academy’s residents we had full access to online archives such as JISTOR, and that was very useful – we did quite a lot of tests inserting keywords and hashtags. For example if you search for “mediterranean music” you get hundreds of queries related to Israeli music traditions…
Do you believe being in Rome for a longer time changed the course of Black Med, the route you were already following within the project?
We wouldn’t say it changed the route, it was more a chance for us to focus deeper on certain parts of it. While in Rome, we started collecting material for the 4th chapter of the listening sessions, which was then completed a couple of months later during a residency at Alserkal Avenue in Dubai and premiered at the Venice Biennale in November 2019. So in a way we were already moving the research toward a specific path, which was related to a possible enlargement of the sonic research on the Mediterranean to include – real and imaginary – eastern routes.
For instance the 4th chapter starts with two compositions from the 18th century related to Orientalism in music – this interest started in Rome, but finally made sense in Dubai, when we discovered that in the last decade a lot of art collectors from the region are curiously buying more and more 1700s Orientalist paintings, especially by Italian and French painters.
The images and suggestions you proposed for Atlas gravitate around three macro-areas of investigation, each of them carrying a potential depth of implications greater than the space of an interview would allow to catch. However, we would like to go into details in order to better explore the reasoning of your interest as well as of your selection.
Let's separate what is not meant to be separated, and proceed with an analysis of the elements. First, we would like to explore in more detail the interest in collecting images of Blackness in antiquity. Representation of race has been an interest of yours for a longer time, and that translated broadly in your previous work, while looking more at the contemporary condition. How do you approach this topic in the context of Black Med, beside the collection of material, which further development of this line of enquiry do you foresee?
Searching for traces of “Blackness in antiquity” in the Mediterranean context is a useful process to discover that, from an historical perspective, there are many Mediterraneans. The common Eurocentric narrative considers the Mediterranean only from its northern shore – and contemporary conservative politics strengthen this perspective, using definitions such as “Fortress Europe” etc.
But luckily one can embrace also different vantage points: David Abulafia’s book “The Great Sea” for instance is a history of the sea rather than of the lands surrounding it, of the people who crossed it and who lived by its shores, in ports and on islands; he defines five different Mediterraneans that appeared throughout history – and of course each of them is not strictly separated from the previous, but already mixed, remixed and uprooted.
Some of the images we selected from “Blackness in antiquity” – or our series of sculpture “MED T-1000” on the Sicilian tradition of Teste di Moro – emphasise this angle.
Let’s talk about Libya. Of course finding images of colonial Libya in Rome opens a very vast scenario of historical as well as contemporary reasoning. In particular there is an image that you have included in the Atlas: a segment of a map, which is intentionally lacking context, limiting the very possibility of its own reading. We understand that your intention here was to create a ‘fluid geography’, an anti-geography of sorts.
Could you tell us something more about that? How a fragmented colonial representation of Libya fosters a more fluid geographical imaginary for you? How much this understanding is the result of Black Med’s prismatic point of view, and which other political implications do you read in this particular approach?
La decolonizzazione del passato by Massimiliano Munzi was an interesting source because it explained in-depth how the exploitive use of archeology serves as a tool to create historical excuses for Italy to occupy Libya. History repeats itself: just think about the rhetoric of the occupation and expansion that Israel has always been undertaking to claim new segments of land – also in this case archeology plays a fundamental role.
At the same time, let’s consider that the way we dealt with the American Academy impressive library was somehow like old school DJs crate-digging in a records warehouse. We got attracted by the section of antique maps, most of them looked like they have never been open before. In those maps lies the actual idea of “colonisation of the past”: segments of Roman empire ruins were heavily underlined, for example. We honestly don't know why those maps were there, but their reverberations through the paths of research we were pursuing were visually very strong.
Finally, Atlantis. The imagination of another possibility at sea. The myth, or alternative reality of Atlantis seems so fitting Black Med that almost looks like there is no need to discuss it any further. The lost continent – hybrid and all-encompassing – is the offspring of an ancient imagination of the Mediterranean.
Can you talk more about this? Which part does Atlantis play in your work, why and how does it fall into the context of Black Med?
In fact we prefer not to talk too much about the Atlantis’ myth. There are plenty of detours in that sense, antique and recent – our favourite is for sure Ayesha Hameed’s take on Black Atlantis.
We are obsessed with the wrong map of “The World according to Plato”. Around the Mediterranean basin Plato places Europe, Asia and Libya only; then there is the TRUE OCEAN and the outside circle is the TRUE CONTINENT. Atlantis is part of that, on the side where geographically you can place the Americas. We don’t think a comment is needed, its imaginative potential is there to be taken as a sci-fi movie coming from the past.
We would like to conclude this conversation trying to catch a glimpse into the future of the Black Med project.
How do you configure, if you do so, a unity in the different paths one can identify within this more recent moment in Black Med’s development? What are the points of contact between the contexts of representation and imagination we addressed above?
It is hard for us to identify a unity – as you say Black Med is generating different paths, which sometimes overlap and some others are just not able to meet. Moreover, Black Med is still a work in progress. If we have to identify a common element it could probably be located in the approach we take while selecting materials and minor histories to be dissected and included in the project.
In general, we took sound as an exclusive indicator of imagination; it is harder for us to treat those topics visually – we are not saying the work won’t be developed in visual terms, for sure it will, yet we are not familiar with its future features at this stage.
How all of this is put in dialogue with what Black Med has been thus far, and what will it be in the years to come?
At the moment we are redesigning the Black Med web platform: blackmed.invernomuto.info – and this will for sure be a way to connect Black Med contents with all of its branches.
We are designing an algorithm, which is able to “play” by itself all the musical contents collected so far; audio files are being processed, tagged and expanded in order to become instructions for the algorithm. Users will also be able to upload new sounds into the system: the goal is to have a growing archive, a Black Med magma, which evolves constantly.
Together with Fondazione Morra Greco (Naples) we will adapt this machine for a sound installation, which will premiere at the Parco Archeologico di Pompei later in 2020.