From the peak of Stromboli, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, you can see two villages crawling on its slopes, caught between the craters and the Tyrrhenian sea. The mountain and its rumbles set the rhythm of life for the residents of the little island, they represent the identity, the economy of Stromboli’s microcosm, they pervade the territory with an energy that makes the fragility of human life almost tangible.
Working on the ancestral relationship between mankind and volcanoes I realized how this bond is universal and very specific at once, related to the culture of each place and the particular activity of each volcano. Their craters function to me like a broken time-machine that connects our imagination, intermittently, to the past of planet Earth, its future, and to other planets. There are about 1,500 potentially active volcanoes worldwide, above and below sea level. Aware of the danger they could pose, undeterred by the monstrous mythology they generated, an estimated 500 million people live close to them.
On Stromboli an ancient society of sailors and fishermen, with few last names and rivalries whose reasons no one remembers anymore, coexists with foreigners, artists, renegades from all over, who settled on the island attracted by the volcano, to turn a page in their lives.
The spitfire mountain wrote chapters in the island’s history. It forced most people to emigrate after the eruptions of 1919 and 1930. It gave some the possibility to come back, attracting tourism and new jobs in the 50’s. In the place that inspired Verne and Rossellini you can meet fishermen who laugh about that time when they acted in a Dolce & Gabbana spot, but every morning at 5.30 am you still see them rolling the boat on heavy wooden sticks to get it to the water. It feels as if the fuss of the fame-driven world had occasionally passed over their heads, amusing them with its endearing banality, only to flow away with the tide shortly after.
I see the island as a nest, a place one has to leave but cyclically wants to go back to, hoping to find it unchanged. And of course, each time it does change. I’m working to portray the atmosphere I perceive when I’m on Stromboli, created by the adrenaline the volcano spreads, the marvel of walking on lightless streets at night and the nostalgia for what in the present still resembles the past, and is fighting not to disappear.
The volcano looms over, unaffected by human troubles. Every day though, residents look up at it to read the wind and choose how to go about their day. “You always see this smoke, this plume of feathers on the mountain, and you have to understand where it’s going. Based on the direction of the smoke you decide. You decide what to do tomorrow”. They call the volcano “Iddu”, Sicilian for “He”, like a god who can’t be named and a friend you live with every day.