bibliography / Workshop_34 / Inframondo (Underworld). Laura Viale, Torino, 2013

Orietta Brombin
Workshop_34 / Inframondo (Underworld). Laura Viale.
In Internaturalità / Internaturalism, Prinp Editore, Torino, 2013.

Laura Viale began the project Senza titolo (Inframondo), 'Untitled. (Underworld)' in 2012, as a result of the deep reflection triggered by the invasive medical examinations of her body, subjected to endoscopic exploration. Designed to explore and chart an Etnean volcanic cave, the project proved to be larger-scale and fitting to a range of caves: points of contact between inside and outside, breaches onto the complex orography of the planet.
The action took on an in progress character, a real method turning performance into a hiking exercise into nature and implying a voyage towards places to be explored, to appreciate the perceptive and cognitive experiences they triggered, of a psychological, relational and environmental character, as well as artistic.
In the workshop Inframondo, the artist proposed an introductory section to the concept and to the use of devices to be employed in the depths of the cave. On the second day, departing from the PAV on a bus, the participants reached the Mezzenile community of Lanzo Torinese, where the maze of the Pugnetto caves begins, about 825 metres above sea level. During the field trip – organised thanks to Silvio Macario and the speleological committee of CAI[1] Lanzo, in collaboration with Gian Domenico Cella of the Cave Group CAI Novara – the artist identified a site[2] of particular interest: with a morphology predominantly characterised by collapse, and, with all probability, excavated in Mesozoic calc-schists by the adjacent the Rio Cenere.
The complex formation is accessible from the North-East side of the Lunelle peak, through a narrow tunnel, concealed in a shady forest of chestnut and beech trees, within walking distance of a steep path. The Pugnetto caves, with a humidity of 90%, consist mainly of schist, limestone, claystone and quartz, that appear sprinkled in dark red under the torchlight, due to the oxidation of iron minerals. The conformation where once there were stalactites, later plundered by vandalism, is nowadays home to several bat populations and endangered endemic species: an isopod and a coleopteron.
The tunnel explored in the field trip is the main tunnel that, through rugged passages and a succession of ups and downs, opens to larger halls. At the end of this branch there is a spring of fresh water, producing a pleasant sound, after the silence one grows accustomed to upon entering the cave.
On the way back, with the attentive guide of the speleologists and after a walk of about two hours, the tour stops at one of the cave's large halls for a drawing session. The irregular walls of the cave lend themselves to the frottage of reliefs and hollows, obtained with graphite rubbed on the graph paper placed on the wet surface of the rocks. The time spent drawing, the physical contact with the object of the survey, the contact established with the depths of the mountain trying to chart it, as underlined by Laura Viale "are an attempt – both literal and metaphorical – to bring to light what lies inside. Symbolically, we are at an intersection between outside world and the inner world. And this situation also suggests a re-positioning of man in relation to nature".
The several sheets worked in extreme conditions (due to darkness, postural difficulties, humidity), once viewed in the laboratory and in the sunlight, revealed the hypersensitive way in which they were accomplished, the elements of surprise and dissonance, since "graph paper, as it recalls calculation and the attempt to sort into coordinates, is in contrast with the empirical method with which the drawings were made".
Each time, the drawings made by different people, in deep and secret places, will become part of a collective installation that will be accomplished over time.


[1] Club Alpino Italiano (Italian Alpine Club).
[2] The caves figure in the list of the Sites of Community Importance (SCI), European Community project for environmental protection.