Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The art and the forces of nature: 
catastrophes and artworks between inspiration and description

(Stefano Solarino, INGV)

L'Aquila (Italy), 19 July 2013

Which is the link between the Italian hero Giuseppe Garibaldi, the famous actress Ava Gardner, the painter and photographer Andy Warhol, the writer Charles Dickens and the philosopher Seneca? They are only a part of those artists, politicians and soldiers that have described, witnessed, studied or survived a big natural catastrophe, in particular an earthquake. Some of these people directly experienced a big earthquake, in few cases several times like the Italian poet Francesco Petrarca. As a consequence he lost her love Laura, main inspiration and muse of his talent. Ignazio Silone, another important Italian writer, described the fears and pains of the Avezzano (1915) earthquake in many of his future scripts. Charles Dickens devoted several articles of his journal “Household Words” to describe the phenomenon and the consequences of the big earthquake that struck southern Italy in the December of 1857. The earthquake, but especially the slow reconstruction that followed the event, was one of the causes that helped Giuseppe Garibaldi and his thousand soldiers to annex the southern part of the Italian peninsula to the reign, only three years after the deadly failure of another patriot, Carlo Pisacane, whose actions have been described in the poem by Luigi Mercantini “La spigolatrice di Sapri”.
The need for a greater attention to the consequences of earthquakes were the motivation for worldwide known artworks like the “Fate Presto” by Andy Warhol, reproducing three times in different colors the first page of the newspaper “Il mattino” through which the journalists were describing the lacking situation of first aids after the 1980 Irpinia earthquake, or the painting “Sussulto” by Mario Schifano. Both were included in the “Terrae Motus” exhibition together with more than 60 contributions from artists from all over the world.
The same target has also been at the base of the many music initiatives that also had the goal to collect money for the reconstruction (the most recent is the “I love Emilia” concert and cd) or the establishment of the first pirate radio (“La radio dei poveri Cristi”) that broadcasted illegally for 24 hours after the 1968 earthquake in the attempt to draw attention to the very sad situation of the people living in the Belice area.
Finally, cinema filmed many virtual earthquakes and partly contributed to the culture of preparedness. Many famous actors were involved in movies with a scientific background. Among the others, we must cite Ernst Borgnine and Pierce Brosnan. In some cases the cast has been of complete excellence, like in the movie “Earthquake”, written by Mario Puzo (author of the best seller “The Godfather”) and interpreted by Ava Gardner, Chartlon Heston and Walter Matthau. To the success of the movie also contributed important technical features: the movie has in fact been the first film ever recorded in Sensurround.