The memory of  the fact happened  can’t follow a prearranged way at will, it remembers thanks to situations that remind events, dates, emotions.
It’s difficult to give a logical order  and in the same time truthful to our own past out of this general rule, unless you lie.
There are passages in my life that I don’t feel like to face yet, so shrouded as they are in a mist fit to make them elusive, not much definite. Maybe just because they have been serious and decisive, as my sister’s death or my husband’s separation, they need a  deepest research.
I go back in time reminding the houses I lived in and linked up, certainly, to some episodes of my life. I skip, for now, a whole year of memories still vague: from the first separations inside my marriage with Carlo Vanzina, to the first treasons, the first escapes.
I skip it because the chronology isn’t clear in my mind, I wait for some eye-opening comparison on the matter from somebody of the protagonists of my life.
I wait to compare myself with them, to hear of sure episodes and, before revealing, I need that somebody put to me the right  questions stimulating  in this way my memory, just as happens in the interrogation  at the police station in the movie “A Pure Formality” by Tornatore. The memory goes also on a single image, a word, a name, a place able to urge  the return!

                                        The Orsini’s Palace is build on Marcello’s Theatre

The houses,  more times changed during the Seventies, keep everyone  a sure tie with the event.
Palazzo Orsini in Rome, behind  Teatro Marcello was my first house as a separate woman and as a single after a short live in common  at Gianni Rossi’s house with Carlo Torlonia, in Trastevere alleys.
There where, before  Tiberina isle,  just at the side of the former modern Registry Office Palace and at the boundaries of the hebrew ghetto, Stefano Almagià, in the difficult moments before the separation,  had offered me his ospitality in his small dependance under his parents flat.
A tiny studio with grey walls where he used to receive friends in freedom showing off at the foot  a pair of  leather babouches, at the time very envied. It was the period of the Genesis, of Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield listened  hundred times to relish all its shades expanded by the joints that we’d begun to smoke all together.

                                                                Magic Tubular Bells

“Roll another one.” to loose the knowledge of a life in which we kept on to not understand the edges and the importance. Then the music seemed to return us the meanings: we closed our eyes and let us be transported forgetting,  very serious fact, the present. Why so serious? Because separating ourselves  and going far away from reality we forgot to live! We didn’t face the problematic of life, preferring to dream, thinking that was the way.

How big was the danger in all that our escape we’d have discovered  only in the years to come: how many people, brotherly friends  have irreparably  gone lost  owing to  our common superficiality is unfortunately a matter of fact impossible to refute.
Rana, Ranieri Ferrara Santa Maria and Stefanino, Stefano Almagià  were the first victims.
In those evenings we found in music the answers to our questions about life but not the indications on how to face and live it, the joint drowsed furtherly our  possibilities of reactions and hence of survival.
My house inside Palazzo Orsini, whose entrance was defined by a guardhouse and a gate surmounted by two small statues of bears, was situated in a oasis of green culminating with a fountain of papyrus surmounted by a  small obelisk. The stables of the Palazzo, with immense flowered drawn iron railings, big enough to permit to shelter a cab, opened over that garden.
One of those stables had been restored and had been turned in a very particular mini flat on three levels: in the subsoil  the kitchenette, the little living room at the ground floor, the bedroom and the bathroom on the intermediate floor.

                                                                               Pillows, batik and particular windows

The three levels were linked by a spiral staircase, a whole glass wall was leaning against  the iron railing in which both the door and innumerable semi-lunar windows were opening.
On the opposite wall in the living room there was a big white library and in the corresponding  wall of the intermediate floor a  trômpe l’ôeil was depicting  a tropical forest with its colourful exotic animals. Giovanni Saint Just, Stefano’s friend, had conceived  it for me.

                                                         The jungla was inside the bedroom

On the ground wicker mats, mattresses and poufs covered with indian clothes set up  the totality of the  furniture, because of the little, or best nonexistent  liquidity.
During the only sailing with my father on the  “Madda”, at the Isles du Vent in France,  I succeeded in having as present a very beautiful piece of seed wool…
Getting round all the obstructions  that his woman, Vittoria, had attempted to oppose that  purchase, my father had bought it for me, guessing  how I wished to receive a present from him to decorate my  home and so having him always present. That seed wool went on a wall to cover the whole of it, framed  with half bamboo canes and cuttings of batik fabric. A lot of manual labour  had granted a very good result, in the years of minimalism that furniture was totally reflecting  the canons.

                                                           Down on the carpet 

A design by Mario Schifano leant inside the library represented his hand, painted by the artist following the edges of his fingers, during a night spent together in his round house on the Lungotevere over the Napoleonic Museum. The edges emphasized by him  seemed  dolmen, menhir, strange obelisks that stand out themselves in the infinity: “Art is what you see” he used to repeat to me “what your spirit senses of my message, that can be every time different!”

                                                      Mario Schifano’s sex appeal

“Hearing among the words” reaffirmed AlighieroeBoetti, his best friend in those years of artistic fervour. At the entrance in my home I had hung an affiche of the conceptual painter from Turin: it represented “in the beginning” the design of his studio’s tiling,  under his flat, in Santa Maria in Trastevere . He had given a lot of copies to his friends asking to hang them in a way that everybody could insert, in those  floor tiles with rhomboidal edges, what he was able to see. Some, already drawn by the artist, served as an example for sharing in creativity of that work, another  leading motive of those years.

                Poster with small faces  painted by different  friends 

I still keep the photos realized in Palazzo Orsini by  Bea, Beatrice Caracciolo, when she aimed to become a emulator of  Elisabetta Catalano and to make so she delighted in portraying her friends in photo books.
She was still back from her first experience as stage-photographer  on the set of  “Honeymoon for Three”  the first movie shot by Carlo Vanzina, my husband, at the Caraibi with Cochi and Renato, even them at their first clapperboard in the life.

                                                                Portrait made by Bea

Worlds perfectly different were cohabiting: the cinema, characterized by its total superficiality and   snobbery with the art,  tending on the contrary to find a contact with a deeper and common reality.
In the middle our young lifes,  attracted now by this now by that.
Overwhelmed, I’d rather tell,  by all those differences that didn’t comunicate among them, by those artistic worlds totally opposite: movie world with Carlo Vanzina, the group  Lucherini-Spinola, Scarfiotti, Risi and Monicelli, followers of Jodorowski and the world of art with Mario Schifano and Alighiero with their studios attended  by    intellectuals, by the noble roman  élite  with Dado and Nancy Ruspoli, Marina Spinola, Ettore Rosboch and the amusing left wing by Roberto Benigni, Ugo Porcelli and Alberto Moravia.

                                                        Friends at home, Stefanino Almagià is the second down on the left

Beatrice and me cohabited with those two worlds,  mixing with  both and then meeting us  again in the private with our “normal” friends, with Stefanino, Ranieri, Francesco Catalano, Maurizio Barendson, Bubi Leonardi, Boni Spinola, Edoardo e Margherita Agnelli, Carlo Levi, Mario Fighera, Robertino Haggiagh. We tried to  set the point on the realities, outwards of our group, so different to be as a matter of fact not frequentable in the meanwhile.

It was as to be in touch with the Guelphs and the Ghibellines in a moment of particular breaking-up of ideas, of division. Far from sharing, the ones  didn’t considered the others, laughed at them nearly as they had been the only depositaries of truth and of a suitable modus vivendi.
Confusion was at home for us. In fact we didn’t feel part of any one of those  groups: too self-important those of the movie of “best quality”, too fool and desecrating  those of  “damned” art, even if  infinitely more witty and penetrating.
Benigni knew how to enlighten any convivial moment and the seriousness of the artistic avant-garde, with the director Marco Ferreri at the top, whose movies were produced by Ettore Rosboch and Ugo Porcelli,  inspired awe. They, leant on comfortable sofas, spoke about concepts greater then us, they did it self destroying them with drugs, what could they teach us? I’d have seen at their side a workman to refute their reasons, even only once,  taken them back on the ground of real life where you must fight to live.
Jolted about between these two worlds, both unreal,  we sheltered in Stefanino’s home  before and in mine then, where everything seemed to come back to normality. We had a lot of ideas, little money in the pockets, no arrogance  and we calmed ourselves passing by a “cane”, sure that nothing bad could happen to us. Happy children without a master, too free to keep on last. We didn’t belong to any group and nobody would have taken care of us.
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Bea would have be safe thanks to her family, mine, for my will, was latent!
Someone among the boys, pushed by the parents, had taken a political  “consciousness”  enrolling himself in parties with ideals totally different among them, without that  this fact determinate any division between us. I remember to be passed to the Communist Party, in the section at Campo dei Fiori, to enrol myself and at the question “Who is recommending you?” I had disdainfully turn on my heel to never return anymore!
Disappointed by the power that, however wrapped it was, red as black, it was always the same, I enrolled myself for a course to make up behind the Pantheon, five years in one, to catch the certificate of artistic lyceum, then obtained with 48 on 60! I studied Gian Carlo Argan  during the day and  in the night I discussed over Mantegna and Dalì  with Mario Schifano, about Kandinsky and Klee with Alighiero and his alter ego Boetti.

Alighiero and Boetti’s Fashion

Strange but no one of their houses hosted works of other artists, when they had them they soon gave them. Only exclusions: the enormous oriental lions of black ebony at Mario Schifano’s, came from the East full of  opium and the afghan carpets at AlighieroeBoetti’s: I don’t dare to think what they had arrived full of!
Only their works filled the spaces in their respective houses: various videos over the Napoleonic Museum, paintings handmade in thousands colours by the afghan women in Santa Maria in Trastevere.
A racing bicycle parked out of Mario’s bedroom, a ping pong table in Alighiero’s studio, strictly white, two levels under the flat where  his wife AnneMarie and his children were living.

                                    The  A&B’s work of art PING PONG  remember those matches

I remember the ping pong matches played without ball with painter  De Dominicis, Kounellis and Francesco Serao, the poet. Virtual matches where they run in four around the green table, screaming everyone his own hit dealt to the opponent  that had to take position  in time for the response:
“Smash right corner”,  ”  Net down in the middle “. Sometimes the arbiter  Francesco Clemente screamed  “net”, “out” and the friends present, thrilled by that performance, clapped the “hits” of best success!
Giving space to the ideas, permit their execution trough the willness even lacking the necessary middles to actuate them to make them living anyway above the conventions, going over the  opinions of  infeasibility!
It was enough to believe in them.

Conceptual it meant to agree to any idea of the world,condividing them in their execution with friends, mates, with the presents, whoever they were.

                                                                           At the Cafè…

Some years later, after an exhibition in Berna where I had portrayed Alighiero seated, at the Cafè des Artistes, in a moment of relax, with a real Chagall on the back, I was witness of the realization of the work “The ideas of the world” then entitled: “Airplanes” and  “Skies at high altitude”.

                                                                                   All the Airplanes  represent all the Ideas

In the painting was represented a blue sky with painted on it all the models of planes then in work.
All the ideas of  man able to fly! In those years Internet didn’t existed yet and researching every kind of  plane to represent wasn’t easy, having to do with an artist whose fussiness grazed the impossible.
The same Alighiero that committed   his works to the tracing of other hands ( see the letter embroidered by afghan  women or the ballpoint pen lines drawn by the women from Trastevere ) was meticulous in the research until the paroxysm!
Problems  of life in the group and the disperse of friends  due to the arrest of Mario Schifano, with his reclusion in the horrible mental hospital of Santa Maria della Pietà  before the coming of the very good, liberating Law 180 “Basaglia”, the illness of  Tano Festa, took Alighiero to divide that painting in a puzzle!

                                                                   Ideas no more togheter

The ideas of the world were no more united, they lived divided everyone its own lonely  reality, they could be reassembled in a single design, it was enough to wait, how much it was unknown!
 “Signs and Designs”

Copyright © Ely Galleani Blog. All rights reserved.

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