monica dengo classe

It's a cold evening in late November. Venice is clothed in fog. Piazza San Marco pulsates in its blurry, soft beauty




It's a cold evening in late November. Venice is clothed in fog. Piazza San Marco pulsates in its blurry, soft beauty.


On the first floor of the Correr Museum, one of the city's most renowned and prestigious, in the sumptuous 19th-century hall, the Ballroom of the Royal Palace, a rather unusual collective ritual is taking place. An event seemingly distant from the prestigious setting, steeped in "high" culture. Yet, sometimes, even the most daring, strange, and "out of place" ideas can surprisingly materialize and somehow reinterpret the context in which they unfold.

contrafforte pliocenico

The hall is full, the lights slowly dim. A tall and imposing man, behind a lectern, addresses Nature, Mother of us all, with a respectful voice, speaking to her, questioning her, questioning himself. His voice is respectful. It's as if he's gently traveling amidst the words, and the words are journeying through the woods, chasing light spirits, dispersing among streams, hiding in imaginary rocky crevices, suggested, evoked.


It's Davide Sapienza, a writer and geopoet, who, with his text "Quadri dalla natura" (Pictures from Nature), sets the scene, provides coordinates, disrupts our usual train of thought, defines the mood for what is about to happen.


On a screen in the center of the room, the projection begins. Accompanied by natural sounds, black and white images explore a rocky, rugged location. The title appears: "Contrafforte Pliocenico" by Marco Mensa. It's as if the author of these images decided to be led by a mysterious force to embark on a journey to an unknown environment, where a thousand natural presences await him. In the depths of a cave, we seem to glimpse the silhouette of a prehistoric monster. Shadows of bare trees project onto the rocky wall, as if trying to write something. Microscopic beings wander in search of a future. There's something primordial, solemn, as if we were observing the drift of continents, the dawn of life. Or perhaps just the melting of an icicle during the thaw, the busyness of an anthill, the falling rain. Listening to the Contrafforte.

ascolto correr

In the hall, many white sheets are laid out on the floor. A woman crouches on them. Intensely focused, without taking her eyes off the images on the screen, she allows her hand to wander freely over the sheets, leaving behind a trace with charcoal. Slowly a tangle of signs forms, fluid geometries, a "boundless writing." This is how Monica Dengo, artist-calligrapher, defines her research, an experiment probing the writings of the world, both intelligible and unintelligible, known and unknown, alphabets clear to us or characters not yet deciphered. But above all, her research is on free, boundless sign and its expressive power. Research on our natural creation of "signs."


And so it is indeed. In resonance with Monica's performance, following the suggestions of Contrafforte Pliocenico, the approximately one hundred people in the room, given a block of white sheets and a pencil, find themselves tracing spontaneous signs, letting go, instinctively following the message that comes from the depths of the earth, becoming co-protagonists of an experiment happening in the here and now, in search of a dialogue, a confrontation, with Nature and its writing.

contrafforte pliocenico

It's an experiment that brings together words, images, sounds, signs, our being animal painters, drawers, writers. Our desire to leave a signature on the walls of ancient caves, our wanting to say "I was here", this sign is mine, so that those after us could ponder our intentions. Our wanting to read messages in the clouds, in the stars, in the flight of birds, to catch glimpses of hidden faces peering among the trees in the forest, only to discover that it's the entire forest speaking to us.


The film ends, Monica rises. Her hands are completely black from charcoal. A spectator compliments her on those dirty hands, saying that, for him, seeing her rise with dirty hands was almost a moment of enlightenment. It is revealed to the audience that the entire soundtrack of the film was created by sound designer Diego Schiavo recording sounds produced exclusively with his mouth. An experiment in "organic sound design," which, needless to say, leaves everyone speechless.


The blocks are closed, the now-worn pencils are put away. Each person takes home their "boundless writing" and perhaps in the coming days they will try to interpret it, to discern an ancestral message among those disjointed signs. Everyone has the feeling of having been part of a special event, as if something really important happened in that half-hour, even if it's not easy to say what it is. We leave with a sense of fullness, community, and amazement.

About Author / Elisa Mereghetti
Documentary director, she is one of the founders of Ethnos.
Ethnos web-site 

Read the article in Italian on Emiliodoc

contrafforte pliocenico

contrafforte pliocenico