On this keynote lecture with Dr. Mahnaz Shah, we looked at Italian journalist and writer Italo Calvino and focused on his book ‘Invisible Cities'(1972), in which we explored the different interpretations that we as artists and practitioners experiment with.
Calvino’s book, ‘Invisible Cities'(1972), is about places he describes, they actually don’t exist on any map. Technically, it’s a novel, a work of fiction, but one without a storyline and its something that we as artists should consider in our own conceptual practice.
Each short chapter describes a different city, 55 in total. These are fantastical places, where things are never as they seem. Each city represents a thought experiment.
“Octavia, the spider-web city, whose residents live suspended over an abyss, supported by a net they know won’t last long”
“and Argia, a city with earth instead of air.”
Nothing of fiction comes from nowhere. It’s an abstraction from reality, in which its Calvino’s method of using fantasy to address reality. In structural terms these books also codify his passion for beginning and mistrust of endings, positions that perhaps explain why he habitually moved from one obsession to another, looking for the next impossible thing to write. Is the blurring of the boundaries between fiction and reality descriptive of the world we live in? Does it indicate a sense of uncertainty and uneasiness in the world?
We need to look at things not for the sake of reality of dreams but for the sake of what is the narrative behind it and how can we use these narratives within our own practice and understanding within our own subject.