Modernarium # 4 – Winter 2021/2022, Spring 2022

Between winter and spring, straddling two years, the Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters project has continued to forge ahead, following the flow of time and the flow of contributions from the artists, curators and all those who wished to share with us the task we had set ourselves in the winter of 2020: to maintain – “manutenere” – the contemporary episteme of the site of Pompeii and recount its capacity to evoke forms of knowledge and expressiveness both radical and rooted in the hic et nunc of our contemporaneity. 

Prompted by the very materials and proposals published with this community in the making, and now that a year and a half has passed since research into them began, this portal is preparing for a series of updates that will be presented starting from the summer of 2022. So this Modernarium is both a greeting that considers the work that has been done but also a statement of further commitment to the work still to do. 

We would like to thank Lara Favaretto – whose publication was divided into four issues dedicated to the versions of the project in Campania and Palermo, and which will continue in the coming years to recount the versions in Afghanistan and Cappadocia – together with the artists Invernomuto and the architect and designer Andrea Branzi, whose contributions were published to complement their two solo exhibitions inaugurated in Autumn 2021 at the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. We would like to extend our deepest thanks to Simone Forti, around whose contribution a veritable research group was formed, which included, along with the artist, also Luca Lo Pinto and Elena Magini, curators of her solo exhibition Senza Fretta at the Centre for Contemporary Art Luigi Pecci in Prato, and the artist’s collaborator Sarah Swenson, who not only took Forti’s place for the first time at the closing of the exhibition in Prato – dancing to a musical composition played live by Charlemagne Palestine, author in his own right, of another contribution for this portal – but also enabled us to understand how the daily work in an artist’s studio or archive, and thus the transmission of her work, is an act not unlike the work of excavation and restitution carried out daily also in Pompeii. We would also like to thank Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Hans Ulrich Obrist for their conversation, which commencing with a reflection on the poet Audre Lorde and her love of geology and stories of the Earth told us of volcanoes and volcanic personalities. With them, we would like to thank all the authors and curators who decided to envision new projects together or share archive materials and unpublished insights into projects they had developed in the past: Michael Rakowitz, with Marianna Vecellio (with whom we cooked the Seder, even although we were thousands of kilometres apart), Agnes Denes with Emma Enderby, Paul Sietsema with Eva Fabbris, Marzia Migliora and Otobong Nkanga, both with Matteo Lucchetti, Abbas Akhavan with Ellen Greigg and Canis_in_Somno with Milovan Farronato. We would also like to thank artists Lina Lapelyte, Amie Siegel, Boris Mikhailov and Adrián Villar Rojas for the generosity with which they reinterpreted, or allowed us to reinterpret, their practices, connecting them to the Pompeian episteme and generating revelatory short-circuits between epochs, places, processes and species which turn out to be not so different and distant after all. Special thanks are due also to Cassandra Press, with Kandis Williams and Brandon English, not only for their contribution published on this portal – for the production of which we thank artist Arthur Jafa along with them – but also for developing and organising, with CIRCA, a simultaneous presentation of the project A Monument A Ruin on dozens of public screens in various cities – London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Seoul and Tokyo.

In addition to those already mentioned, we would like to thank all the other institutions with which some contributions have been published: Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea (for Michael Rakowitz), The Shed, New York (for Agnes Denes), the University of Naples Federico II and the Royal Mineralogical Museum of Naples (for Paul Sietsema), and Chisenhale Gallery, London (for Abbas Akhavan). 

And we would like to thank all the artists’ studios and archives, with their galleries, for constantly being on hand and for their indispensable support in the editing of the contributions, together with Silvana Editoriale for the editorial coordination and for the visual identity and web design activities.

Last but not least, in fact perhaps first and foremost, our thanks go to all the employees and collaborators of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii – Silvia Martina Bertesago, Davide Russo, Marella Brunetto and Antonio Benforte, Maria Rispoli, Giuseppe Scarpati, Stefania Giudice, Valeria Amoretti, with Domenico Costabile and, for their meticulous and passionate organisational work, Anna Civale and Tiziana Rocco – and to those of the Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters project – Stella Bottai, co-curator of the project with the curatorial assistance of Caterina Avataneo, Laura Mariano, project manager, and photographer Amedeo Benestante – for their daily work, the care and zeal with which they followed the many and varied needs of the research, the drafting of administrative and legal documents and the granting of permissions, the retrieval and verification of textual and iconographic sources, the production of the critical reviews and documentary images, the communication of the contributions and the cataloguing thanks to which, alongside the Commitments, the Fabulae / Historiae and Inventory sections were progressively arranged.

And it is precisely thanks to the “commitment” of this same working group that there are going to be further developments of the Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters project that, in a few weeks’ time and for the next few years, will continue to explore the potential of Pompeii’s archaeological matters, perhaps even more deeply, but with the same commitment to bring together disciplines as diverse as analogue and digital reality, bodies and data, atoms and beeps. 

Our endeavour – also in the new format of this portal that is about to be published – will continue to focus on the study and narration, both online and offline, of a whole spectrum of possible contemporary experiences of what we are mistakenly accustomed to separating, defining as “cultural asset” on the one hand and “natural resource” on the other, but which, in Pompeii and elsewhere, has always been, and still is, one matter and one story, full of life and always within reach for transformation, interpretation and sharing.

So the story of this matter continues. Till we meet again, then on and in the archaeological ecosystem of Pompeii.