The installation Mortis Humana Via by Enrico Pulsoni, curated by Maila Buglioni, is on show during the Easter period at the cultural spaces of TRAleVOLTE. The exhibition was launched the same evening as the performance of homonymous show – a plastic-musical work to be precise, following the definition found in the libretto – at the adjacent TeatroBasilica. The show represents a multidisciplinary and all-embracing evolution of the exhibition.
Mortis Humana Via, the plastic-musical work, as is evident already from the title, is an interpretation of the Christian Via Crucis, a crossroads of different sensitivities that contribute to the staging of one of the most absolute themes in existence, that of death, which in Christ becomes an endless sacrifice. And so, in addition to the terracotta and plaster casts by Enrico Pulsoni, there are the libretto by Carlo Pulsoni, the director’s score by Giulia Randazzo and the music by Alessio Sorbelli, Desirè Bertolini and Carlo Genovesi. The opera, in that perfect secular space, flexed to take on an almost sacred aura, is dynamic and yet motionless; it is paced like a metronome and yet perturbed by that tragic melody that sinks and re-emerges at every station, but also by the lights that evolve as the tragedy unfolds on Pulsoni’s works, beacons of punctum in the multidisciplinary storm, and by the minimal movements of the opposing singers. These are Adreina Ramirez (the Madonna), a lyric soprano dressed in mourning and a reputable, earnest singer, and Alessio Sorbelli (Christ), a tenor in whom a certain indie melody echoes, who is not wearing any costume, young and with a distinct humanity.
In all this, Pulsoni’s installation is situated horizontally at the centre, the fourteen stations of the Passion of Christ, in terracotta, are placed, like a scripture, in an irregular but linear manner at the centre of a perfect circle made up of plaster casts in trendy relief of numerous VOLTItraVOLTI (faces among faces/overwhelmed faces). This is a project that Pulsoni started many years ago and that is potentially infinite, composed of close-ups that are at times surreal and at times characterised by a realism that echoes the art produced between the two world wars. VOLTItraVOLTI becomes a game of mirrors that engages the viewer. After all, one can only recognise oneself – and thus know oneself again – through the eyes of the other, just as the other recognises and understands oneself through our gaze. These grotesque faces become the two-dimensional crowd around the passion of Christ illustrated in a demiurgic way in terracotta, inside the action, each face with its own peculiarities – probably with their own problems, with their own life. These faces, then, exemplify humanity, a crowd of contemporary people and in their own time they encircle a dogma, a meaning, a timeless story, the most cathartic moment of the narrative that has most transformed human existence in the last two millennia.
The spectators simultaneously watch who is watching and who is being watched – both present in Pulsoni’s bas-reliefs – and this is the same dynamic that can be found in Mortis Humana Via, the exhibition, which rotates the entire installation orthogonally, from horizontal to vertical, and transforms the terracotta and plaster casts into graphic works on paper. It is immediately apparent that this work pre-dates the one staged at the theatre, but the design remains unchanged. The expressionist, angular, hollow-eyed figures of the terracotta figures, wandering agitated in the whirlwind of matter, are here cast with fast, precise marks, equally expressionistic but more symbolic. Christ, in the drawings of the opera, which are always the focus of the show, and in the terracotta figures, is the main element but is equally ‘atmospheric’, as all the other figures. This is also echoed to some extent in the libretto and music for the play which focuses, for example, on Christ, simultaneously man and God, to show the entirely human fear of dying.
The differences we find in the two different groups of VOLTItraVOLTI is mostly ‘material’: the three-dimensionality of the theatre’s monochrome plaster bas-relief gives way to the graphic sign. In the place where action is staged, the theatre, the faces are part of the whole, an element of the visible that as a group ‘exist’ and ‘signify’; in the place of contemplation, the exhibition, they can be isolated one by one, so that we can enter into their faces, glimpse a life completely different from ours and that of every other face there in the circle. The relationship is more intimate, one to one, as opposed to theatre where it is many to many, and so it is easy to get carried away by those extravagant elements that make out a metaphor: the tongue as a carpet, the tears that slide down the face outlining a question mark and a strange man who emerges from an opening instead of a mouth. And then the eyes: open, closed, hidden, spirited, seemingly friendly, dramatic, curious, without pupils, transformed into very thin slits, above grins, mouths open and closed, crooked, extravagant or absent. What better than this can remind us of what happens when we wander around the city, and the many faces that we see but do not frame as we pass by, faces that do not so much relate to the person they are part of, but to us, to our transformative thinking of the reality around us, our being simultaneously in space and inside ourselves, given our inability not to think, and this thought reality relates to lived reality. What this creates, in the end, are superficial and profound metaphors, because they speak simultaneously of our own thinking and the world.
A contemporary Via Crucis, then. A little secularised, a little avant-garde, a little in our zeitgeist. An installation that follows a cultural identity, to immerse us, however, in the everyday, to transform us, that is, into overwhelmed faces (travolti) and among faces (tra volti), regardless of whether or not we use the space bar.
Enrico Pusloni. Mortis Humana Via (libretto dello spettacolo andato in scena il 30 marzo di Carlo Pulsoni, a cura di Maila Buglioni, TRAleVOLTE, Roma
images: (cover 1-2-3) Enrico Pulsoni, Mortis Humana Via, March 30, 2023, concert, TRAleVOLTE (4) Enrico Pulsoni, Mortis Humana Via, installation