Sunday, 5 January 2014

a piece of sky

After returning from Australia, I didn't really have a lot of time to mull about it: the photos are still in a pure state of chaos. Once in a while I make a feeble attempt at bringing order to them and fail at it.

That's possible one of the reason why every time somebody asks me how Australia was, I don't know what to say.

"It was cool/nice/ok."
"I had a nice time"

Any sentence that comes out of my mouth sounds either plain miserable or lame; or both, now that I'm writing about it.

Well, I've never been a great travel reporter. When people asked me the same question about China, I had more or less the same kind of problem:

"So, how was China?"
"Mmmh, outstandingly Chinese?", 
was the best I could come out with.

I can sum it up as follows: going to Australia made me realize it is possibly the most Australian place on earth. Even more Australian than any Walkabout pub I ever walked in.

There's a small part of this travel that is with me every day. I'm not talking about emotions or memories of what happened there. I'm not even talking about the photo of the koala that greets me each time I unlock my phone. Photo that never fails bringing a "awww cute" to my lips every time I unlock the phone, anyway.

I'm talking about an object, a material proof I was there, tucked away in my wallet.
Everywhere I go it's with me, every day I'm carrying around a small bit of sky.

Back in Sydney, on one of the last day of holiday, a Yoko Ono exhibition opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Given my overwhelming ignorance when it comes to contemporary art, I can state I know more about Yoko Ono than the sum of all the artists walking the Earth right now. 
I know she can crochet blindfolded, for example. 
I know she's got an app of her own. 
And I know about John Lennon and the Beatles of course. Oh, and I also know I never really cared about the personal story behind it, as the blame game never really added anything to my liking the songs.

Everything I know and I don't know about Yoko was still not enough to make me curious about the exhibition probably. It was the poster that eventually did the trick.

"WAR IS OVER", it states, in bold yet simple, minimal, black & white huge fonts.

Then your eyes fall one line down.

"If you want it" is still written in capital letters, but in a much smaller size. The weight of the first statement looks so heavy it might squash those smaller letters, yet it doesn't happen. On the contrary, it's only because of those smaller letters that the whole poster can stand on its own.

It's mesmerizing. It has more appeals than the song with the same title and the posters written in several languages were an invite for a visit: "Just come over, you'll like it".

Could I trust a poster? I threw caution to the wind and one afternoon I braced myself and venture into the Contemporary Art Museum. It was quite busy, packed with visitors and volunteers all over the place. You need guides in a contemporary exhibition, to give some information about the different installations. Or to avoid sitting on them, as it happened to me once at Tate Modern.

I'm not sure I understood everything, which equals to say it's obvious I didn't understand it all. Yet I enjoyed it quite a lot.

I liked the idea of an artist leaving instructions to the visitors on how to deal with what she put on display.

So, I stamped "War is over" on the map, looked at people playing chess, wrote the reasons why my mom is beautiful. I touched what I was asked to touch, look at what I was not supposed to touch, listened to songs, watched videos and life feed from a webcam.

And I also took what I was ask to take away from the museum.

a piece of sky

"Helmets - pieces of sky" is a room of WWII helmets filled with jigsaw puzzle sections: if we were to put together the puzzle it'd be a giant sky. I took one piece of the puzzle and put it in the wallet, thinking of it as a reminder of the day, a promise to myself to go back to Sydney in some years time and see if somebody visiting the exhibition did the same so we could try to put the puzzle back together.

Some weeks ago I was listening to Fabrizio De André live album with PFM. I was singing along while washing the dishes and I thought about Yoko's sky.
One of the song, "La guerra di Piero", tells the story of Piero that goes to war and ends up being killed. While he lies dying in a field, he laments the unfairness of dying in May, when it'd be much better to do so in winter, and his words are so cold the spring sun can not melt them.

Since then I associate that small bit of sky in my pocket, not only with Sydney, Yoko Ono and her art, but with the song as well: I fished the jigsaw piece off a helmet, Piero was a soldier and probably wore a helmet. And he probably stared at the blue sky, spotted with puffy white clouds, as he laid dying in the field.

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