THE DENSITY OF THE TRANSPARENT WIND
Michele Ciacciofera – acoustic installation (2016/2017)
In Munich In September 1929 Hermann Sorgel, a German architect in his early forties, published a revolutionary project called “Atlantropa” in four languages. The project consisted in returning the Mediterranean to its former state 50,000 years previously, when it was a mere lake, whose sea level was100 meters lower than that of today. The result would be to virtually recreate one land mass between Europe and Africa with Sicily acting as the bridge between. The reason for the rise in the level of the Mediterranean were the strong sea currents originating from the Atlantic Ocean which poured across the Strait of Gibraltar, especially due to the melting of the glaciers.
Sorgel’s proposal was to reverse this process with the technology available. His idea was to manage the influx to Gibraltar and the Dardanelles through a colossal dam which would make the sea level gradually subside through evaporation. He calculated that it would take 150 years to lower the level of the Mediterranean by 200 meters and make possible the connection and fusion of the European and African continents, By erecting dams of the rivers and tributaries into the Mediterranean, hydropower stations could be constructed and these would satisfy the energy requirements of the great new continent. What is more, using a large water redistribution system and a capillary irrigation process, desert areas could be recovered and the emerged land be desalinated. This would permit the development of large scale agriculture. Via a bridge, Sicily would become the point of connection between Europe and North Africa and the whole area would become the largest fertile area on the planet. Almost all the coastal cities would become inland centres and sensational new archaeological discoveries would be made in areas that had been inhabited by the people who gave birth to Western civilization.
Sorgel’s utopian project was conceived during the great economic depression following the First World War when there was not only massive unemployment and social unrest, but also an unprecedented technological evolution based on automatization and a proliferation of new ideas in the arts. His project attracted famous architects and urban designers such as Mendelsohn, Le Corbusier and Hoger whose ideas gave impetus to new ideas in urban design, the economy and technology.
At the basis of the proposal was the idea that hunger and employment lead to conflict and that development must respond to the history of the local communities and must start from agriculture and fishing which connect to mythology and social organization and to the rituals from birth to burial in the Mediterranean basin.
“Atlantropa” is probably the first major pacifist global project in human history. It addresses key issues: the elimination of the conditions which lead to war: the need for energy and food; the use and adaptation of public space, urbanization, and respect for the ecological system. Obviously these ideas clashed with those of Nazi Germany in 1933 and three years after his rise to power Hitler commissioned the film “Ein Meer versinkt” to present Atlantropa as a future disaster. The film had great appeal and won the Venice Film Festival. This mortified Sorgel and his attempt to present the project to the Italian fascist regime predictably failed in the futuristic cultural climate of that regime. Imagine the idea of a single continent embracing Europe and Africa with Sicily as the bridge! Shortly afterwards the Gestapo forced Sorgel into a sort of exile, closed his institute and forbad the publication of new books after “the Big Three A: America, Asia, Atlantropa» 1938.
After the fall of the Nazi regime, Sorgel resumed his moral suasion of the victorious countries, especially the United States, and urged their support in financing Atlantropa, but in the early fifties with the creation of the first atomic reactors, Atlantropa was effectively binned and Sorgel was eliminated in mysterious circumstances hit by a car into the darkness of a Bavarian night.
The Institute for Atlantropa continued research for 5 more years until 1957 even without Sorgel who had funded its work and publications for over 30 years, using proceeds from his wife’s art gallery. All that remains on file are the questions posed by journalists amazed by the future geography of the planet intrinsic to Atlantropa.
The acoustic-scape The density of the transparent wind aims to recreate the political-social-spiritual dimension at the basis of Atlantropa starting from the mythical-symbolic value of agriculture, fishing and the relationship to the sea that have defined the geographical boundaries, lifestyles, religious beliefs and forms of socialization in the Mediterranean. It presents a wandering boat whose journey is one of refound wholeness between men and nature where work is integrated with the sea. The boat floats endlessly from generation to generation communicating knowledge and respect based on the unwritten laws between men and Nature. People whose livelihood depends on the sea refuse to recognize the logic of the contemporary world – the pseudo political dynamic of economic and financial budget constraints. They believe that barriers cannot confine and undermine what the Mediterranean has always been – a crossroads of integration where the physical dimension of the sea has not been, and never will be, a reason for separation.
In this context the boat becomes an emblem – a physical space for integration and sharing where work and sentiments (both individual and collective) become a positive universe. Here life evolves according to the rhythms of Nature and men respond sublimely.
The boat and the sea are a political space for integration where a multi-ethnic crew work and socialize together and recognize their place in nature. Through their very existence they call into question the choices of political decision-makers and urge coherent responses to the critical issue of contemporary life -mass migrations – a problem which finds politicians completely unprepared in spite of over a thousand years of positive examples in the Mediterranean Sea.
Mediterranean boats are truly heroic places. They are a contemporary example of peaceful coexistence and mutual help, of collaboration and solidarity. A fisherman would never refuse help to a shipwrecked man. His outstretched arm corresponds to the unwritten code of the sea. It is a response which is deeply human even before it is humanitarian or religious.
A recording has been made of the mechanical sounds on the boat (the engine, the radio, the hauling of the nets) mixed with the voices of the crew, the phone calls and the sounds and silences of sea and wind. These sounds have then been filtered and reprocessed in a digital rendering which provides a physical space where the voices of nature and human activity conceptually converge. The rhythms, momento and complexity of working at sea are conveyed and a multi-level, multi-layered sensorial experience is created which envelops the audience creating an immersive sensorial environment.
Andrea Blanco – sound engineering and production
Francesco Teodoro – production assistant
Claudia Ciacciofera – production assistant
Vincenzo Moscuzza – Boat owner
Crew of Carmelo Moscuzza (name of the boat)
Courtesy Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou/Beijing