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Invention by Carla Zaccagnini

Artist Carla Zaccagnini, from the Nordic Delights exhibition currently at show in Oslo Kunstforening, has written a short text explaining her thoughts about her piece in the exhibition. 

When walking through the ruins of Herculano, the surprise is not so much that of being able to stroll on the roads of a different time. Quite the opposite in fact, it is more the revelation of that past time being so similar to the present. How most of the things that we do and we have were already put into practice there and then: from the wheel and the street to piped-water and the bath tube, and also taverns and glass glasses. It seems our society has already been invented.

As we study it in school, Greek and Roman times, their wars, their philosophy and their ways of representation, mark the beginning of so-called “Western civilization”. But maybe the invention of Europe didn’t take place at the apogee of the Roman Empire. Maybe it was at its greatest tragedy, not when wheels were turning and baths were taken, but when an accident made wheels stop and water evaporate; when everything was made static and sculptural; when the Roman Empire could be thus seen and chosen as our past. Maybe our glasses would be made of metal if it weren’t for this image of the delicate glass standing in that landscape of ashes.

“The invention of Europe” is a collection of postcards portraying the Vesuvius in eruption. It is a collection of pictures in which this symbol of historic catastrophe is made into an image to be sent as a souvenir. The selected postcards depict the volcano either as a backdrop for a main scene, or a desirable spectacle, one that was worth the search for a perfect viewpoint to appreciate it from. Maybe it was then that Europe was invented; not when the catastrophe took place, but when this kind of tragedy (and not only those created by the Greeks) could be seen as an enacted drama, when tragedy became a backdrop in the distance, at another land, and Europe was defined as the privileged viewpoint.

by Carla Zaccagnini

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