Shelters for Silence: Act I

Monteviasco, Italy
Winter 2013

The valleys of silence are still a shelter.
The same shelter found by the partisans of the Resistenza during the second world war, the same shelter for the smugglers working on after crossing the border between Italy and Switzerland.
Today these valleys are shelters for traditions, rhythms, tastes and above all, Silence.
As described by the anthropologist Z. Bauman, there is a hidden need for community which blows on the sails of the social networks. They call them “social” but the alienating fear of the others seems still undamaged, sometimes increased.
The community in these Valleys is far from the liquidity of the web, it is concrete as the mountain’s stones.
When the community is so strong, on one hand it makes you feel part of a familiar warmth, and on the other hand it makes you feel like being in a claustrophobic, chocking too small room.
Monteviasco does not need a 360-degree-eye’s security-camera that sees everything. Here everybody knows who is at home and who is not. Everyone knows times and habits of the others.
Thanks to some discreet signals as the smoke coming out of the chimneys, the opened or closed shutters, the tablecloths hanging out of the windows and so on, the community is constantly monitoring itself.

Monteviasco is a gloomy, dusty garret, located under the roof of Italy which are the Alps.
Connected to the rest of the world just by a cable-car and by the 1446 steps of the stair-path. It is a garret embedded between political borders whose the mountains do not care about.
Here you can find abandoned houses, half-destroyed stonewalls and stone-roofs, old tools, traditions and thoughts who have been violated, manipulated or forgotten elsewhere.
In my opinion the progress which has taking over so many of these places and of these people as well, is still going on.
We need to document these places, their people and their daily life.
It is essential to realize that Monteviasco, like London, New York and Tokyo, is a real contemporary place of this world. But of course, it is present in this world in a transversal way, obliged to fight to survive.
In spite of in Monteviasco a different daily life survives, it has changed a lot in the last decades. Until the Fifties there were no less than 450 residents, today they remain only eleven.
Of course new entries like television, telephone and cable-car have greatly influenced the local customs. But they did it in a completely different way in comparison with the main part of the rest of the world.
In Monteviasco there are neither newsstands nor supermarkets, shops nor tobacconists. Without any advertising in its little streets, this village is a shelter where be repaired from marketing and from the today’s overdose of visual and acoustic stimulations.
The progress got us used to comforts and consumerism. Of course they are sweet but we pay for them.
We pay them by buying imported food and by getting everyday more hypochondriac. We pay them with breathing polluted air, with living fast and anxiously.
Two different styles of photography are trying to describe two different sides of a reality.
In my pictures you can find the colours and the black&white, the horizontal and the vertical formats, the underexposure and the flash. Everything wants to be different showing both the sides of the mountain, both the sides of spending a winter in this community.
The villagers bear the strength of traditions and the narrow-mindedness, the stillness and the boredom, the outdoor life and the labour, the strong community and the wariness.
During the winter Monteviasco shows its other reality, its other side. The gloomy and underexposed one. Where dinners look like “The potato eaters” by Van Gogh and photographs are blurred and vague. Where you need a flash to shoot and where you wait ten days to have an answer to your “How are you doing?”.
Finally Monteviasco adopted me for a winter. Its people shared with me their daily life, their food, their wine. They talked to me about their pains, their stories and their wishes.

Thanks
to every cold smile glimpsed between the slint stonewalls.

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Text translated by Giulia Bosatra.