New tour-video filmed in Marche Abruzzo Puglia e Basilicata.
New tour-video filmed in Marche Abruzzo Puglia e Basilicata.
My cover for Particles, a Simone Sims Longo production (Pic from Analog memories of an underground surface).
Simone Sims Longo is an electronic music artist. His work includes music for loudspeakers, sound installations and multimedia projects. . Simone’s music is constantly influenced by electroacoustic compositions and electronic club culture. Timbre, rhythm, space and interaction with machines are the focus of his sonic research. He is part of EASTN / European Art Science Technology Network.
(Aka, what brought me to be what I am today)
In 2009, I spent more time in factories than in class, and I took pictures with old analog cameras, using b&w rolls – which actually is a thing that I currently do, even though I use digital cameras now. During that period, I was interested in exposing my abstract visions, flickers of light discovered somewhere in a dark, narrow underground club, or in surface-illuminated huge areas.
I was enraptured by the photosensitive tools such as rolls and printing papers; it was obviously more romantic thinking that a picture could remain intact for hundreds of years thanks to the emulsions of silver halide, than knowing that a digital file was just a set of binary numbers, put God knows where, onto an anonymous hard disk. Furthermore, analog photography forces you to wait the development to see your snapshot result; I can compare the surprise I felt to that of a child unwrapping their Christmas presents. Being forced to sharp hit shoot helped to train your eye, avoiding the creation of too many uselessly redundant pictures, as it happens to many people slipped into the flood of digital reflex of the last decade.
Our teacher used to say that cameras are the tools between our eye and the images: first you have to look, and then possibly take a picture. How many times have you seen first a lens and then the turist’s glance on a panoramic viewpoint? But I’ll get depth this huge matter another time. Going back to my explorations: what was so interesting in those factories? Usually if you wanted to get in, you had to crawl in an ashy tunnel, or climb up until you reached a broken window, and after that, you could explore far and wide the surrounding area. Spaces forgotten by everyone, rarely popular with junkies, bums and illegal immigrants. Spaces filled by silence and by smells of oil, grease, rust and exhausted chemical products. Pitch black. Also wonderful light.
The few sounds were made by the echo of my steps in the dust, which moving through a beam of light became bright as snow under a beacon near a window, outside, in the cold of January. The echo of my steps on the iridescent puddles and cigarette stubs. Liquid and chemical rainbows, floating as at a gas station’s in a noir movie. The echo of stepped-on glasses, of broken bottles – the only memory of ancestral booze-ups. My readings about contemporary art, especially the informal one, my first attempts of printing in the darkroom and psychology influenced me a lot. Decay and abandon made scabs on the walls, transforming into paintings and symbols picked here and there in our subconscious, and as I fixed them with a snapshot, I was able to make it visible to everyone and, most of all, to preserve forever that thrill of enchantment, which I felt when I arrived on the scene of my misdeed. Anyone could se what they wanted to see, it wasn’t a documentary, if anything windows or mirrors on our unconscious.Those were my first years in Turin. This brought me to what I am now. The remarkable difference is that my initial introspection and interest for the abstract spaces have become the attention for the people that live those same spaces, and their stories: their alienation, their suffering, but also their happiness, their integration. Their beauty. Everything has a meaning, but it takes time to reach it. Some feelings won’t come back, brand new travels will begin, brand new colors will paint these walls, since we are sick and tired of the color black and of being alone in an abandoned factory.
Near the city where I was born there is an old salesian school abandoned since the 90’s. The school is named Collegio Salesiano, it was originally set up as a building erected to accommodate poor students. Later on it evolved into an educational institution that kept the students separate from the adult world, educating them to the Christian doctrine and discipline. It is located not far from Cuneo, a town in the north of Italy.
Mata Amritanandamayi, better known as Amma, is an Indian spiritual guide and benefactor. Mostly known for her talent for embracing people to instil compassion and spiritual energy, up to now she has hugged a cool 32 million people.
Amma’s main aim is to soothe suffering people by trying to heal their karma; she thinks that it is our duty to help other people in order to weaken their pain. Amateurs may suspect that she is the classic guru who nestles naive people, and that during her meetings fainting and screams would be commonplace. In order to erase this idea, which is brought to you mostly by media, here are some noteworthy data about Embracing the world, Amma’s relief organization:
45.000 houses built for the homeless, in 75 places in India
40.000 scholarships for youngsters in need
1.600 families relocated from the slums into new flats
1 million trees planted since 2001
2,6 millions people freely nursed since 1998
10.000 million poor people fed every year in India and 100.000 abroad (75.000 in the USA)
59.000 widows and disabled people receive a monthly economic support thanks to ETW
100.000 poor women have been helped to start their own entrepreneurial activity from their home
500 orphans housed in India and 50 in Kenya
And even more tens of ecological, educational, research and help projects.
I found out about this event in October, a month before Amma arrived in Italy, thanks to a friend who told me about it. I became immediately interested in the intriguing situation and I promised to myself that I would participate, in order to tell the story myself.
The day of the departure I realized I hadn’t been sleeping for days but, more convinced than before, I set off. The event was in Malpensa Fiere, near Milan. I was inside only a few minutes when I decided to go straight to Amma’s place, on a small stage in the middle of a hall; after having received a first warning about the use of cameras I went to the press agency, where I received my authorization to shoot, my badge and the excellent advice of Francesca, the media-relator, who guided me around the exhibition hall, showing me every detail. On the way back to the stage, I took a couple of pictures of Amma, surrounded by tens of people waiting for her hug, and several assistants.
On stage, people were waiting, curious, some of them meditating, and it was quite hot. Ah…I forgot, in order to get on stage, everybody had to take off their shoes. Unlike the waiting crowd, thanks to my press badge I could skip the queue, which would have lasted hours, and go straight to have my hug. I slipped into queue among the first ten people and walked on easily. As I reached the first rows, I knelt down, to be on the same level as Amma, since she was sitting. As I got close I could feel an increasing smell of roses, which grew until I realized I was in her arms.
A sweet hug, I didn’t think about anything, peace…I moved away, thinking it was over, but she embraced me again, whispering and repeating a short mantra. I thanked her while she gave me some rose petals, a lemon candy, a tiny red apple and a wood bracelet decorated with beads, amber and steel. As I came back into the crowd I perceived dazzled looks around me: Lucia and Francesca told me that Amma usually doesn’t give bracelets away, and other people confirmed the same thing. I began to feel something similar to an amused thankfulness. I bit the apple, which replenished my sugar levels, and apparently also my spiritual energy, as suggested by a kind lady who practises Reiki, while my friend Marco added that perhaps Amma cleaned my karma. I was floating in a conscious state of tranquillity, and as I entered the communications corner, the catering and the merchandising areas, essential parts for supporting the event; I realized that a breeze of hilarity and magnetic unselfishness was gradually saturating the air. All the operators, from the “cutting-vegetables” to the security staff, were voluntaries and I spotted many nice kids wandering about with boards which read “volunteers wanted for…”. I began to see everything with brand new eyes.
I met several other people while I was sitting in front of the stage to write this article. Some of them were foreigners. They told me of their personal history with Amma, having been her followers for more than ten years, sometimes even twenty. A huge group of musicians with Caucasian and Asian features sang wonderful mantras in front of us and, while tablas and sitars were playing, wonderfully and repetitively, I began to count Amma’s hugs: Amma embraces people for about ten seconds, while it takes about fifteen seconds for every person to reach her, embrace her and go back, which means that she embraces about four people per minute, two hundred and forty per hour…which means almost a thousand hugs every four hours! Amma usually does two “embracing shifts”, one from the morning to the afternoon, the other in the evening until the night.
Even if I was far from the stage, thanks to a big screen I was able to see Amma’s movement thanks to a big screen. It is interesting to see how she behaves differently with each and every person, going beyond the physical appearance: the child, the ill, the curious, the pious, the couple, the crying woman, the sneaked-in photographer…Amma is happy, she is strong, she is cheerful. She suffers, she rejoices, she laughs, she cries.
Split spirituality from the benefactor reality and religions, beat your own prejudices…and find out that, if a single woman has been able to instil well-being in 30.000 people in three days with a simple hug or with her mere presence – and throughout the world she helped, is helping and will help many more – there is still hope.
Mata Amritanandamayi, meglio nota come Amma, è una guida spirituale e benefattrice Indiana. Conosciuta principalmente per la sua vocazione di abbracciar la gente per infondere compassione ed energia spirituale, fino ad ora ha abbracciato la bellezza di 32 milioni di persone.
L’obiettivo principe di Amma è alleviare le pene delle persone sofferenti cercando di guarire il loro karma; pensa che per noi sia un dovere aiutare gli altri ad attenuare i loro mali. I profani potrebbero ora immaginare la classica santona che attira a sè gente particolarmente ingenua, dove gli svenimenti e le urla sono una consuetudine. Per distogliervi da questa visione, indotta sicuramente dai media, vi fornisco alcuni dati salienti su Embracing the world, l’associazione umanitaria fondata da Amma:
45.000 case costruite per i senzatetto in 75 località dell’India
40.000 borse di studio fornite a ragazzi bisognosi
1.600 famiglie rilocate dagli slum in nuovi appartamenti
1 milione di alberi piantati dal 2001
2,6 milioni di persone riceventi cure gratuite dal 1998
10.000 milioni di poveri nutriti ogni anno in India e 100.000 all’estero (75.000 negli Usa)
59.000 vedove e disabili ricevono un aiuto economico mensile grazie a Etw
100.000 donne povere vengono aiutate ad avviare attività imprenditoriali da casa
500 orfani accolti in India e 50 in Kenia
e altre decine di progetti ecologici, educativi, di ricerca e di aiuto.
Sono venuto a conoscenza di questo avvenimento circa un mese prima che accadesse, grazie al racconto di un amico. Subito interessato alla singolarità della situazione ho promesso a me stesso che avrei partecipato con l’intento di raccontare questa storia.
Il giorno della partenza mi sono accorto di essere in afterhour da un bel pezzo ma, sempre più convinto, sono partito. L’evento era localizzato a Malpensa fiere vicino a Milano, ero entrato da pochi minuti quando ho deciso di spingermi direttamente verso la postazione di Amma, su un palco di medie dimensioni in mezzo a un salone; un primo ammonimento sull’utilizzo della fotocamera mi ha fatto dirigere verso l’ufficio stampa dove ho ricevuto l’autorizzazione a riprendere, il badge e l’ ottima consulenza di Francesca, la media-relator, che mi ha accompagnato in lungo e in largo per lo spazio fieristico illustrandomi tutti i particolari salienti della situazione. Tornando con lei sul palco posso finalmente fare due scatti ad Amma, che è attorniata da alcune decine di persone in attesa dell’abbraccio e numerosi assistenti.
Sul palco regna l’ attesa, la curiosità, la meditazione e fa parecchio caldo. Ah … dimenticavo, per salire ognuno si è dovuto togliere le scarpe. Al contrario della folla, ho il privilegio di saltare le svariate ore di coda necessarie per ottenere l’ abbraccio grazie al mio accredito stampa, mi infilo quindi tra le prime dieci persone in colonna ed avanzo con leggerezza, raggiunte le prime file mi preparo per la pole position inginocchiandomi per mettermi sullo stesso piano di Amma che è seduta. Avvicinandomi a lei percepisco subito un crescente profumo di rose, che aumenta fino a quando mi accorgo di essere tra le sue braccia.
Un abbraccio delicato, non penso a nulla, pace . . . mi stacco convinto che sia finito ma lei mi riprende sussurrandomi e ripetendomi un breve mantra, ringrazio e ricevo dei petali di rosa, una caramella al limone, una piccola mela rossa e un braccialetto di legno decorato al centro con simil-perle, ambra e metallo. Al mio ritorno tra la gente incontro subito sguardi stupefatti, Lucia e Francesca mi spiegano che non è abitudine per Amma regalare braccialetti; altre persone confermano ed io inizio a provare qualcosa come una divertita gratitudine. Addento la mela che mi ricarica di zuccheri e a quanto pare anche di energia spirituale come suggerisce una gentile signora dedita al Reiki, mentre il mio amico Marco aggiunge che Amma potrebbe avermi ripulito il karma. Galleggio in un cosciente stato di tranquillità addentrandomi nelle altre zone, quelle dedicate all’informazione, alla ristorazione e al merchandising, necessarie per il mantenimento dell’evento stesso; mi accorgo che una brezza di ilarità e altruismo magnetico sta gradualmente saturando l’ambiente. Tutti gli operatori, dai ‘taglia-verdure’ agli addetti alla sicurezza sono volontari e molto spesso noto simpatici bambini che vanno a zonzo con cartelli che riportano ”cerchiamo volontari per …. ” , inizio a vedere il tutto con occhi nuovi.
Sedendomi davanti al palco per stendere questo articolo ho l’occasione di conoscere altre persone, anche straniere, che mi raccontano la loro storia con Amma, persone che la seguono da più di dieci anni se non venti. Un nutrito gruppo di musicisti dai connotati caucasici ed asiatici intona bellissimi mantra davanti a noi e, mentre la tabla e il sitar regnano meravigliosi e ripetitivi, inizio a quantificare l’ipotetico numero di abbracci di Amma: Amma abbraccia le persone per circa dieci secondi, includendo gli spostamenti il soggetto ne occupa totalmente quindici, quindi abbraccia circa quattro persone al minuto, duecentoquaranta l’ora …. quasi mille ogni quattro ore! Amma di solito esegue due turni di abbraccio, uno dal mattino al pomeriggio, l’altro in serata fino a raggiungere ore notturne.
Pur essendo a venti metri dal palco riesco a notare i movimenti di Amma grazie ad un grande schermo; è interessante scoprire come lei si comporti in modo differente con ogni individuo, tralasciando la moltitudine di tipologie fisiche delle persone: il bambino, il malato, il curioso, il devoto, la coppia, la donna che piange, il fotografo imbucato . . . . Amma è felice, è robusta, è allegra, soffre, gioisce, ride, piange.
Scindere la spiritualità dalla realtà benefattrice e dalle religioni, battere i propri pregiudizi . . . e scoprire che se una persona è riuscita a infondere benessere a 30.000 individui in tre giorni con un semplice abbraccio o con la sua sola presenza e nel mondo ne ha aiutate, ne aiuta e ne aiuterà quantità enormi . . . c’è ancora speranza.
Fotografie e testo: Fred Cigno 2013