The Simulacrums


The horrible

The theme is “the Event”, the Reality that violently bursts into our lives, in all its inhumanity. Not a “fact” like September 11, Liberation day or the Storming of the Winter Palace, that are inside a historical / rhetorical narration (and therefore inside the language), but the irrepressible manifestation of an extralinguistic aspect, of the pure power of Reality: that “thing” that manifests itself and that cannot be contained in the linguistic patterns of individuals and that lives beyond the existence of the individuals. That’s what we can define as horrible. But it is only this “horrible” (the Simulacrum) that is capable of generating new possible developments. A Reality which, from the moment it manifests itself, must necessarily take a new form.
Is the Covid-19 pandemic crisis like the plague in Thebes, a “state of exception”, a possible generator of new cultural developments, or does it mark “The end of the world”, as Ernesto De Martino said?


A point of no return

The symbolic manifestation of the horrible is represented by the temporary takeover of Capitol Hill by the supporters of Donald Trump. Other episodes are also significant manifestations of the superhuman: for example the collapse of the Morandi Bridge, the symbolic cargo ship that obstructs the Suez Canal, the mass graves where the corpses of Covid victims are piled without funerals. Nevertheless, the symbolism of the taking of Capitol Hill marks a point of no return.
We did not witness a normal protest march, like those organized in the same period by Black Lives Matters movement activists with a solely political purpose: the Trumpian troops staged a takeover of the institutions of power. But it was not their intention to storm the Bastille or execute the Tsar’s family: they did not want to start a revolution, they staged a revolution. There were many weapons and participants and blood was also shed. But the real goal was to take a selfie in the halls of Capitol Hill, without any Constituent Assembly.
What’s the point of all of this?

Real and virtual

It is precisely at the Capitol Hill event that the term “reality” was illuminated by a new light. During the march of the Qanonists, characters that usually inhabit the web appeared: memes of the American right, flags of Kekistan, masks of Pepe The Frog as well as unlikely shamans …
But those masks and characters “that exist in front of our eyes” at Capitol Hill, in “reality” are real in the web and not in the world of the perceived things that we call reality, and that is different from the digital virtual. Those images, those threads, subthreads, links and memes “visualize” experiences and are elements of an actual culture that provides a shared point of view.
The real event, the public one that happened before our eyes, acquires value through the images, comments, posts, videos that been taken from it and that animate the web. The concept of Reality is overthrown by its iconographic representation: things happen in the net. Reality is, only a temporary stage that is ultimately superfluous.

“Pictorial turn”

This project intends on the one hand to analyze the contemporary visual culture in relation to the “pictorial turn”, on the other hand to test the symbolic and mythical heritage of European culture in response to such changes. In this sense, Ernesto De Martino’s studies on “The end of the world” and the “crisis of presence” can guide research and lead it towards that ethnographic humanism proposed by the author as a solution to the “end of the world”.
Testing the European cultural heritage means first of all recognizing a uniqueness that separates us from other civilizations, and above identifying its specific distinctive features to verify if they are still have meaning.

The partners

The “Simulacrums” project will involve a series of European Fine Arts and Design Academies and will make students work on the concept of Simulacrum.
In Italy, Marcello Massenzio, President of the Ernesto De Martino International Association, Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia (one of the oldest music institutions in the world,) and the National Dance Academy collaborate on the project.
As Ernesto De Martino said music, dance and images were the tools that world had at its disposal to overcome cultural crises and glorify mankind.
Will they still be effective?