Reunion; Salò (1998)
Video with sound; 8 mins 10 secs
12 framed c-type photographs,
“Only finding one of the originals – whose name was Antinisca Nemour – meant that most of the missing boys and girls were replaced with doubles.
After the reunion she told us that she’d avoided being killed in the film by asking to be excluded from taking part in the final scene.”
Following a process used by Adam Chodzko in a number of previous artworks, an advertisement was disseminated in a public space in order to catalyse an event that follows which becomes the second stage of the work; both sign and event evolving into the final work. In Rome in 1998 he searched for the 16 adolescents seen executed in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1975 film ‘Salo or 120 days of Sodom‘.
“… I was going to stage a reunion party for them, as if still needing to verify for myself (to challenge the part of me that insists in an absolute belief in what I see and somehow retains forever, an uneasy trace of that belief) that everything was actually fine and it was all ‘just a film’.
I expected to find maybe a third of the original actors from the film. I had a structure planned; I think that I hoped that it was all going to be quite elegant, composed and knowing. (In retrospect, what I had imagined and filmed, would have been pretty vacuous if exhibited in that form). After three months research, foraging through the Pasolini foundation archives, speaking with some of the people involved in the production of the film (including Laura Betti) and I had only found one of the original sixteen adolescents from the film! Her name was Antinisca Nemour, now living in the north of Italy and working as a dental assistant. I was becoming worried that my planned event was not going to work.
To cut a very long story short I decided to stage the reunion with Antinisca as ‘guest of honour’ and all the missing adolescents replaced with doubles. Coincidentally, at that time, in the late 90’s, a lot of the Roman teenagers I passed in the street had very similar hairstyles to the young people in the film from 1975 and many had a striking facial resemblance to the cast, faces that I had imprinted on my memory from watching the original film so many times and also through my subsequent archive research through Salò’s production stills (mostly taken by Deborah Beer).
So, there was Antinisca, from the original film, who had of course, by 1998, grown 23 years older. Then there were the doubles who looked like the original cast – too like them! – because they were entirely ‘wrong’ for the present; apparently not having aged they seemed to be somehow still trapped in 1975. They were photographed, individually, holding the posters I used to search for them and pointing to their corresponding image within that advertisement. Afterwards, when Antinisca was leaving to get the train back to where she lived in Ferrara I was thanking her for her participation in my project and was trying to think of questions to ask her about her involvement in the original film. I finally asked her – pretty much as she stepped on the train – how she was ‘murdered’ (realising that she was the only one I hadn’t noticed being executed in the original film). She replied that, at the last minute, she had asked Pasolini if she could avoid this act, for some reason not feeling comfortable about performing the act of being killed. And Pasolini had sensitively respected her wishes.
This seemed amazing! The one person who had reappeared in the present was the only one of the 16 adolescents who had eluded their fictional death. I had to change the focus of my piece completely. Her avoidance of a ‘death’ on celluloid in 1975 seemed to be both the worst and best possible answer to my search. The worst? Because it suggested that the ‘deaths’ were actually deaths. The best? Because it suggested that perhaps through going through the symbolic performance of being killed within that fiction, a form of play, was completed. Their roles could be forgotten. These participants had therefore moved on. But it remained unresolved for one of the performers who had not completed this form of ritual. She was therefore still able to haunt the present suspended through the traces of her character from 1975.
Of course, Reunion; Salò also emerges from Pasolini’s own tragic murder shortly after the filming of ‘Salo or 120 days of Sodom’ was completed.”
Catalogue notes for Le Voyage Interieur, Espace EDF-Electra, Paris, 2005, curated by Alex Farquharson and Alexis Vaillant.
Reunion; Salò (1998) has been exhibited since 1998, including at the British School at Rome (1998), Sleuth at Barbican Centre, London (1999), Franco Noero Galleria, Torino, 1999,
5 Uneasy Pieces + An Open Investigation , curated by Anja Kirschner, UM Gallery, UMPRUM, Prague, 2o16.
A low resolution version of the video can be seen here; https://vimeo.com/129491062
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