I visited the town of L’Aquila during the summer of 2013, four years after the earthquake. The town’s historic center was no longer a place. It had transformed into a feeling, and no photography, news reportage, documentary nor artistic representation whatsoever can render the range of feelings I was overwhelmed by while I immersed myself in such rare universe. No one can explain it. L’Aquila must be seen. I most definitely wasn’t ready, despite the readings, the films and the documents I had laid my hands on.
My first thought was: Nobody will ever come back here. Today, the town’s historic center is an active construction site and I realize that, luckily, I could have been wrong, but as a first reaction I wasn’t able to think otherwise. If there is anyone willing to come back and live here, they’ll have to take everything down and rebuild it from scratch. Eventually the town’s frightening charm led me to believe that the only reasonable thing would be to leave everything as it was and turn it into a pilgrimage destination, a sanctuary. This is how I felt as I wandered around those narrow streets, faced with something so scary, unavoidable, terrifying and, maybe for these very reasons, laden with sacredness.
Even more astounding than the devastation undergone by the buildings were the silence, desolation and abandonment caused by the disappereance of an entire community. Barred doors, framed in wood and steel, became the symbols of such absence, breaking the life of the people who lived there in two, separating and fossilizing all that used to be “before the earthquake” and guarding it, in their stillness, as relics are guarded in a sanctuary.
The photo exhibit “Sanctuary. L’Aquila’s historic center in the pictures of Cisi Paolo Sante” was set up on the 11th and 12th of April 2015 by Cremonapalloza, in the cloister of its office in via Gioconda 3 (where other associations of Cremona have their headquarters). The show benefited from the patronage and the collaboration of Cremona’s Municipality.
The original project consisted of a series of doors, printed in a large format, and of a second, more substantial series of snapshots, printed in a smaller format and with a more reportage-like angle, to better witness the whereabouts I roamed in. Thanks to the possibility of showing the pictures within a decadent architectural setting and by chosing not to frame them but to spread them out on wooden panels (recycled from waste materials of a construction site), their peculiarly materic quality was emphasised, in an attempt to create an expansion and a connection among rock, wood, concrete and steel comprised between and beyond the snapshot’s borders.
From June 29th to July 31st 2016 the exhibit was set up on the Libreria del Convegno’s premises, in Cremona, among the first edition of Porte Aperte Festival’s side events.