Gabriele D'Annunzio
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D’Annunzio’s CAVE
shows fifteen rooms of the Villa Cargnacco in Gardone on Lake Garda, where Gabriele d’Annunzio moved in 1921 and lived until his death. The villa is part of the “Vittoriale”, a museum-like theme park honoring d’Annunzio that d’Annunzio himself and his personal architect Giancarlo Maroni spent almost two decades designing and furnishing. In 1997, Heinz Emigholz began documenting various rooms of the villa on 35mm film (some of this footage can now be seen in the film The Basis of Make-Up (III)), but he interrupted this project. In 2002, he took it up again in connection with the production of the film Goff in the Desert.

On June 24, 2002 a cinematographic jam session ensued in the Villa Cargnacco; four friends — camerapeople and filmmakers (Irene von Alberti, Elfi Mikesch, Klaus Wyborny, and Heinz Emigholz) — documented the villa’s rooms and inventory at the same time, but temporally staggered and in their respective very specific styles. The film D’Annunzio’s CAVE resulted from the wealth of material thus produced. A DVD edition of the film will show, along with the completed film, the footage of each cameraperson individually, to enable the viewer to study their quite disparate camerawork.

Heinz Emigholz sees his two films on Gabriele d'Annunzio and Bruce Goff in close relation to each other. To quote the project description: “Unlike GOFF IN THE DESERT, D'ANNUNZIO'S CAVE not only depicts its object, but also places it in the context of political monologues about lifestyle as an effort to police taste. The reason why the two films have such different forms is the difference between the phenomena shown.

Bruce Goff's architecture is clearly related to a recognizable use and a graspable logic of the material, which can be 'read' in the executed work without translation. His designing relates to the individual and promotes a free, human spirit. His buildings do not live from being impressing; they impress precisely with freedom. To allow them to be experienced, one merely has to present them as precisely as possible in their compositions and their relationships to their surroundings.

The world erected by Gabriele d'Annunzio, in contrast, consists primarily of nothing but projections and backdrops that, if no interpretations are provided, reveal their existence as hodgepodge. He designed a sequence of rooms to which he allotted feelings and activities by fiat. Interior architecture measures attempt to create the ideal surroundings for a writer. The concentration of ‘writing’ is thereby supposed to be objectified in a collection of books, objects, cult objects, and fetishes. Like little shocks, these objects are supposed to keep awake the constant flow of memories and the timeliness of culture. They become the plenipotentiaries of authorship. This representation of the human spirit is not conceived as 'private', but stands for a political offensive into the world of those who are to be enlightened. D'Annunzio's 'private sphere' becomes a political space and a vehicle of propaganda for a particular way of being. This way of being is derived from a sphere of political power — an unambiguous interpretation of reality born of and becoming violence.”

D'ANNUNZIO'S CAVE is structured according to the sequence of rooms in the Villa Cargnacco: vestibule, mask merchant's room, music room, globe room, Zambracca, Apollinian veranda, Leda's room, blue bath, leper’s room, reliquary room, Dalmata Oratorium, the maimed one’s writing room, workshop, room of the Cheli, kitchen.

“Gardone, June 24, 2002. An abyss of the state of the art. Considering this spectacle, my hate began to recede, covered by my satisfaction at the dust that had settled like acid on everything and the chatter of the guide who had taken over D'Annunzio's empire and had to present culture to astonished tourists. I felt as if I were on the inside of an embalmed corpse whose intestines and brain had been shunted away because they had begun to stink. Now the state has to take care of this empty husk, because the poet wants to communicate with us through it. What the collection shouts out is the recognition that museums are useless and only a method of doubly losing life. The fate of modern art, which begs for patronage, is inscribed in it. Every kind of aimless filth would be prettier than this treasurehold of loot owned by one who, in the name of art, robbed people of language and flushed it as lotion into his own mummy. The thousand-year empire of house dust; house dust mites and those in flakes of skin take command.”
From: Heinz Emigholz: Das weiße Schamquadrat (White Square of Shame — unpublished)

“Valletta, February 25, 2003, a Tuesday. I'm sitting on the stone tiles of my room, looking out over the cities of Senglea and Vittoriosa on the other side of Grand Harbour. Eleven days ago, the film Goff in the Desert had its world premiere in Berlin. A film about American design; I love every bit of it. D'ANNUNZIO'S CAVE will show one consequence of European design, a culture that isn’t one and only pretended to be one, the rummage of a storehouse of booty. The name of the collector and decorator of the displayed rooms is Rapagnetta, the turnip, also known as d'Annunzio, the announcer: “My name alone is an honorific for contemporaries and successors. For my whole life has proven the Providence that my Christian name announces. I can and must not wish anything. The government and the nation have the compelling duty to finally recognize me, independent of my own wishes or my wrath.” The Italian state confiscated the house, including an extensive library, from the art historian Heinrich Thode after the First World War and gave it to d'Annunzio. D'Annunzio designated his activity there as an act of “de-Teutonification. Having arrived at the zenith of his career as state artist, he makes constant designing efforts to remodel the immediate surroundings of his dwelling into a cult site. Interior decoration becomes an act of asserting Being. The stolen collection of every kind of art object, rearranged in layers, becomes an externalized “brain” revealing his thoughts and associations in the form of fetishes. Things are granted meanings like medals, sense becomes power, meaning becomes kitsch, dialogue a decree. D’Annunzio stages an intricately interlocking drug den whose branchings postulate virtual cultural achievements. With his furnishing aria and insistence on pomp, he becomes the precursor of a “lifestyle” movement in which fetishes, cultural theft, and staged squirreling-away function as a substitute for thought: The Fabulous World of d’Annunzio. Every generation has representatives of this species. Society recurrently banalizes itself into a playing field for the strategic goals of individuals. Its Olympus regenerates via self-appointment. One would like to be Lenin, of course not seriously, but a little bit of arbitrary rule ought to be allowed, at least on the playground of “art” and its markets. This then calls itself “political art”, but is really only the aestheticization of the political. Roles for various art stars as would-be dictators, a reasonable, post-facto “only joking” included. D’Annunzio is the archetype of this species, and our celebrities ought to blush in shame at the level on which he plotted out and executed his crimes, which are theirs as well."
From: Heinz Emigholz: Das weiße Schamquadrat (The White Square of Shame – unpublished)