This work explores my experience and understanding of Italian culture shaped by family dynamics and narratives that operate in isolation from the homeland. Family gatherings form the classroom and the most memorable lessons are over a game of Scopa or Briscola (Italian card games). Play, full bellies and family banter laid the foundation for instructions in Italian language, geography (regional rivalry) and religion. ‘L’Etna Scoppiau’ (Etna has erupted) is a phrase used in my family as slang to describe anger in action and its aftermath. Etna is one of the most active volcanos in the world and is located in the province of Catania, the region my father is from.
A facsimile of a volcano is created from paper mache and constructed from the back pattern of traditional Sicilian playing cards. The volcano is suspended in a dormant slumber, awaiting a poke, a breeze or a bump to trigger the chimes. Black glass beads evoke a meditation on molten lava that scorches and shapes the environment with each eruption.
L’Etna Scoppiau e Messina Rifriscau – When Etna erupts Messina is relieved was commissioned for Che Cosa!, an exhibition curated by David Capra for Wollongong City Art Gallery.
‘Che Cosa! is a collection of artists considering ideas around Italian culture. Exploring the allure of national and cultural identification, the exhibition examines ways in which traditions are maintained and communicated. Artists respond to Italian aesthetics, language and historical art and design movements in the form of dance, video, costume, sculpture, photography and painting.’
‘Chè cosa is an Italian interrogative pronoun which roughly translates as what? or more casually and conversationally as what the…? or what’s up? A linguistic shrug, it is ubiquitous within contemporary Italian language and perhaps a fitting, albeit informal, signifier of Italian attitudes and culture.’ – John Monteleone, Program Director, Wollongong City Gallery, 2014