This work is divided into seven chapters. Each one is the story of a house. I’ve known these houses for various reasons. Houses I lived in or abandoned, houses I visited, my houses, other people’s houses. They all say something about what I was seeking in years of moving. Each house represents a complex inner world that is certainly tied to my personal experience, but also, hopefully to a collective one. They speak of passage and intimacy. Houses formed by objects, rooms that bore witness to fragments of lives. These places are the testimonies of individuals and families from different regions and backgrounds who shared cultural experiences and crossed the course of history. Each bedroom, kitchen, and living room reveals the development of diverse, and only apparently mundane, private stories that speak of a mutual territory. The way this book is structured is extremely personal: it arises from coincidence and imagination and creates links that are arbitrary and structured at the same time. The presentation and chronology of the houses has its own narrative also. We begin with History, an ancient noble palace in Finale Ligure, and continue inside the walls of a common home in Florence, presenting a contrast between the extraordinary and ordinary nature of these places. We move to Sarajevo and Mostar inside homes that witnessed a war. In this section even the texture and grain of the photos carry the marks of conflict and battle. How do we save ourselves from the ruptures of war, from the marks and scares it leaves on our bodies? How do we recover from small, daily wars too–– the ruptures in our personal lives, the fights that push us to leave, migrate, seek change? One answer to that question comes with the house of Casarola, a home that belonged to a family of poets, artists, and filmmakers. A house of poetry is a house of beauty and in some sense, a place of redemption. Then comes New York, the city that notoriously cleans the slate, frees us from the past, and promises a world of new beginnings. But every new beginning requires solid roots and a sense of self, a maternal figure to oversee the change. Fontenay Mauvosin represents this exactly. It is the protective home of a mother, a womb filled with an artist’s inner world and paintings. And finally Krakow, the place that takes it all in: the weight of ancestry, the commonness of every day life, the disruption of war, the redeeming beauty of poetry, the roaming rebelliousness of the child, and the self-containing womb od the mother. Krakow is the story of my life in a nutshell. An empty apartment with an open suitcase that is about to get carried away.
6, Via Lorenzo de Raymondi. Finale Ligure, Italy (2010). The house of History. Part of this XVI century palazzo in the north-western part of Italy is still completely unaltered by the passage of time. It belongs to the de Raymondis – a family that stems from Italy’s military aristocracy. The building has remained immobile and untouched for centuries, even if it is empty for great part of the year. In 1836 the king of Sardinia Carlo Alberto was hosted here by his friend and mythical war hero, Lorenzo de Raymondi: l’uomo dal cranio d’argento – the man with the silver skull who lost part of his cranium in a battle and had it replaced with a silver sheet. After his studies and a brilliant military career that had its peak during the Beograd battle, Lorenzo de Raymondi moved to Wien. His heroic achievements brought Emperor Francesco II to appoint him as his nephews’ tutor. The palazzo has absorbed layers of generations. The passing of time is tangible. It permeates objects, paintings, documents, and notes of every sort that tell the private story of a family that grew and developed alongside the Italian nation.
58, Via Masaccio. Firenze, Italy (2015). The house of a private story. This was the house of my grandparents, and then my grandmother. It’s the only house in my life that didn’t change from my birth up until the death of my grandmother who passed away at the age of 103, in May 2015. In June 2015 the place was sold. From one day to the next it vanished. I spent the last hours of the home with my father, waiting for the movers in silence. When they came, they emptied it quickly and it was gone. My grandmother Maria and my grandfather Giacomo moved in Florence in the late Thirties. They bought this house in the mid Fifties, during Italy’s post-war financial boom. She was from Carnia, an harsh region set between Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, close to the Austrian border. He was from Bitetto, a town near Bari in the region of Puglia, south-eastern Italy. They moved to Florence in search of a better future, determined to have it. She took care of the house and her two sons Walter and Italo. He was employed by the fiscal police. She was a very strong, charismatic, and tough woman. He was generous, moody, pleasure-seeking, a bit overshadowed at home by her intense and dynamic personality. They tried hard to improve their situation and through sacrifices, diligence, and rigor they made it. Their boys had good careers and once everything was more or less taken care of, they were left to enjoy life. Obviously it wasn’t all shiny and happy, but it was solid. A normal Italian story – half of where I come from.
52, Sumbul Česma. Sarajevo, Bosnia Erzegovina / Kneza Branimira. Mostar, Bosnia Erzegovina (2008). The houses of war. Sixteen years after the end of the Sarajevo siege I wanted to go and see what was left. I was looking for houses that had been abandoned during the war, houses that had been left the way they were, and never inhabited again. It was not easy to find them. Most homes were totally ruined or completely renewed and unrecognizable. It was not the same place anymore. I had the strong feeling that a war – whether literal or symbolic, occurring behind the walls of a private apartment – always left scars and changed the courses of lives, no matter the bloodshed. The Sarajevo house was abandoned because it was located on a hill surrounding the center. It was an easy target for snipers. The owner, Muratcaus Rasim, was already ill before the siege and was living there alone. He lost his wife and son during the war. His daughter-in-law and grandson took him to a safer apartment down into the valley. The house he abandoned was left intact, just like it was: a portrait of his teenage son still hanging on the wall, a mirror, a chair, and traces of removed frames over the wall-paper. A French musician has now purchased the place. After resisting quietly for sixteen years, it doesn’t exist anymore. The Mostar place was a villa on sale that belonged to a well-off family that left at the beginning of the war and moved to Zagreb. It was right on the front line, a far too dangerous location, especially if you have the luxury of moving somewhere else. The house remained unguarded for a long time. After the war up until 2008, rock and punk bands recorded and played music on the ground-floor. It was a free and unique space: nobody paid the bills. The electricity was never shut down so bands had access to amplifiers. They could play as loud as they wanted and nobody complained. Then the villa was set afire. Today there are no traces of it, anymore.
Via Attilio Bertolucci. Casarola, Italy (2013). The house of poetry and youth. Casarola is a remote village lost in the mountains close to Parma. The Bertolucci family moved there some time in the XVIII Century. They arrived from Maremma, southern Tuscany, according to the first poem in the collection La camera da letto (The Bedroom), one of the most important and known works by Attilio Bertolucci. The title refers to the corner bedroom where Attilio slept with his wife Ninetta and where most of his poems were written. Attilio is one of the most unique and influential Italian poets of the Twentieth Century. His work, life, and inner universe are permanently tied to Casarola. His sons Bernardo and Giuseppe grew up there. It’s where they began to experience the world and nature that lived in and outside themselves, the place where their imaginary lives and visions were created. Ninetta blessed them with a sense of nurturing that followed Bernardo and Giuseppe throughout their lives. After leaving Casarola, they all moved to Rome. Through the years, the kids opened their knowledge, consciousness, and influences to a much wider and complex world. Bernardo became a world-acclaimed director. Giuseppe developed a particular talent for screenwriting and directing as well. Casarola is where it all began – the mythological, fantastic, and intimate relationship with the big walls of that house and everything in and around it, were the source of their primordial creativity. The house is the origin, a place where reality and imagination cohabited: the hungry eyes of a man and his sons – protected and blessed by the caring embrace of a woman and mother – daily transformed beauty and mystery into vision. Poetry’s touch created a new world for everyone.
43, Grand Street. Brooklyn, New York, USA (2009). The house of the search for a father figure. It was on Grand Street in Brooklyn, New York and it was Adam Grossman Cohen’s apartment for twenty-five years. Adam is a dear friend and an exceptional artist. A New York born Jewish filmmaker with Belarusian and Austrian origins. He lost his father, the influent American photographer, teacher, and social activist Sid Grossman, at a very early age, and built a lifelong inner dialogue with him through the years. Sid became an abstract guiding figure. He generated pure and metaphysical beauty to inspire Adam, but also inflicted him with a sense of loss and inadequacy. In the Forties and Fifties Sid’s radical work as a photographer and teacher was completely innovative. He was friends with Lisette Model, Louis Faurer, and Woody Guthrie among the others. Full of humanity, he was dedicated to his personal growth and committed to raising consciousness around creating a world without borders. This apartment is the essence of Adam’s complex and rich inner life, a universe determined to create a precise feeling of belonging, the deep sense of what it feels to be part of a family or to be familiar with something and somebody. Memories, objects, photographs, reproductions, images of those close by direct knowledge or election. Many small, apparently insignificant things irradiating beauty. The concentration of traces and symbols of a wide sentimental education in a limited space: a meter of the inevitable lapsing of time. New York has always been the icon of “starting from zero” (new life, new family, new home), but it’s important to have references and direction when your origin is obscure. The Grand Street apartment stopped existing in August 2010, but it will be reborn somewhere else, different but the same. Miriam, Adam’s mother who was visiting the empty apartment just before returning the keys to the landlord, told me on the phone: “It’s completely empty now. It’s beautiful, the little museum of innocence.”
6, Chemin du Cimetière. Fontenay Mauvoisin, France (2011). The maternal house. This place exists just half an hour outside Paris. It was the house of the artist Hélène Bauret, the mother of Gabriel Bauret, a remarkable lady of Russian origins who spent long parts of her eventful and extraordinary life there, away from jet-set circles and the loud confusion of art milieus. Her husband, Jean Bauret was the art director of a textile factory who collaborated with many painters including Wassily Kandinsky. Later in life he slowly moved away from this career and decided to focus on music, writing, and photography. After he passed away in 1990 it was difficult for Hélène to go on living and painting. He was not only a husband, but also a guide for her artistic path. He introduced her to a whole way of living and helped her create the life-style of a true artist, always faithful to one’s work without too many distractions. At times the isolation was a little excessive. Hélène certainly lived a cloistered life, but this is what helped her develop an extraordinary inner world and vision through painting, studying, and music. Since the day of her passing in 2005, her son has kept the house like it was, almost untouched.
27, Ulica Zamoyskiego. Krakow, Poland (2010). This was my house. For six years it was the center of my life, a special and beautiful place to come back to and hide. Up to this day it’s the only place I’ve felt my own. A neutral space for growing and sharing. I kept it quite empty for some time, then slowly began to fill it with new old things that soon become familiar. It was the house that hosted my desire to build something new, uncorrupted by the past, by the history I carried on my shoulders. It was a place where I embarked upon the difficult and ongoing ambitious journey to regain a lost innocence. It was a space, not only physical, that projected into the future: a new true beginning.
This book is contained by some of Giorgio’s vinyl records, our music.