Observer - Fabulae Romanae

Date: 2012
Ref: 7000.03
Materials: Felt, canvas, cotton, resin
Dimensions: 170 x 100 x 60cm
Exhibition history: 2012 MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts Rome
Courtesy: Lucy + Jorge Orta and ZegnArt. Photography Paul Bevan

Fabulae Romanae is the title of a filmed-performance and a major exhibition of Lucy and Jorge Orta's site-specific performances in the city of Rome. In the film, the artists depict a symbolic excursus across Rome through the eyes of a series of ethereal characters –genius loci–. These spirits draw from archaeological and historical research, and observations on the cultural and social map of the city and interrogate social, anthropological and philosophical themes.

The spirits perform intimate rituals in the streets and monuments of Rome, they become contemporary sentinels, who silently interact with the city’s landscape. Here we see the Observer in the grounds of the Roman villa Gregoriana; echoing the architecture of MAXXI and on the heights of the Aventine where the hill slopes steeply down to the Tiber. The Observer is an oracle figure, watching the world. His head has turned into a helmet with two red proboscises. Form follows function. The spirit is a spyglass and like the ancient Roman oracles before him, he has scaled the highest hill of Rome to observe the flight of starlings and announce his predications.

Throughout their meanderings, the spirits are guided by a poem written by eco-poet Mario Petrucci specifically to accompany their journey. The verses narrated in Italian and English weave story-telling layers into each scenario. “Watch how I watch – before me and behind each Roman flutter memories: white memory risen suddenly on wings at my thunderclap observation. Such spires: high places from which to peer or speak – steer each workbound mind, to hear in the stillest hour how the city awakes…”

Fabulae Romanae was commissioned by ZegnArt, for the artists solo exhibition at the MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts Rome (22 March – 23 September 2012). It was supported by the University of the Arts London Centre for Sustainable Fashion, with the assistance of designers Mio Jin, Lara Torres, Oliver Ruuger, Sum Yu Li.

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