WORK 12 / SOCIETY / NEWS

NEWS 01/12 Every morning I read through the headlines of one or several world news website. Among the many gossips I find I try to search for news of casualties. As I find one I type it in a text document using the following grammatical structure: “(SOMETHINGS) KILL/S (A NUMBER) IN (A COUNTRY)”. The selected headlines are later transcribed in braille characters seize 22 with a 1.5 line spacing. Such transcriptions are made on a word document which is meant to be reproduced on a 120 by 22.5 centimeters embossed panel corresponding to approximately a month of casualties. On average then approximately 12 news of casualties are recorded every month. In this respect it could be that at least half of the times I search for news of casualties I am unable to find any. Several days could even pass before some news of casualties pop up. At times however there could be a lot of news of various casualties around the world. Often these news do not report a final number and I have to follow up the news for several days at least to get a better figure. This could be the case of an earthquake; after it strikes the debris can take time to clear and so the counting of the actual deaths. I am also aware that the actual figures could be lowered or highered according to political interests (Fig. Screenshot showing one month of recorded casualties scavenged daily on mostly internet based newspapers).

NEWS 02/12 Following is an example of the casualties collected in month number 135 prior being converted to Braille: "SINKING KILLS THIRTY IN LIBYA EARTHQUAKE KILLS HUNDREDS IN IRAN SUICIDE ATTACK KILLS TEN IN YEMEN FLOOD KILLS FIFTEEN IN GREECE STAMPEDE KILLS FIFTEEN IN MOROCCO SUBMARINE ACCIDENT KILLS FORTY IN ARGENTINA ATTACK KILLS HUNDREDS IN EGYPT SINKING KILLS THIRTY IN LIBYA AIR STRIKE KILLS TWENTY IN SYRIA CLASHES KILL FOURTEEN IN HONDURAS ATTACK KILLS FIFTEEN IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO SUICIDE BOMB KILLS SEVENTEEN IN SOMALIA TRAIN CRASH KILLS SIX IN FRANCE". Over twenty casualties the number is approximated. In this respect forty two becomes forty and one hundred and eleven becomes e hundred while six hundred and seventy four becomes hundreds. Usually higher numbers are anyway never reliable and estimates keep on changing even in the course of several years so the approximation is actually appropriate (Fig. Screenshot of the Reuters website I use to check the news. Overwhelmed by the amount of fake-news or anyway gossips I often searches for the “kill” keyword as in the screenshot where dug in irrelevant but popular news a news of casualties especially in third world countries can be found).

NEWS 03/12 In an exhibition context the resulting panels where the news of casualties are embossed are completely in the dark. They are only readable through touch and as a performance, I have envisioned a blind person to read out loud the otherwise indecipherable casualties. The only light comes from the screens of drawings of ideas standing on the opposite side of the news panels. Thus, while these panels contain tragic content, the drawings display ironic content, creating a remarkable contrast. This contrast is however the same I find checking the world news websites. There news of casualties emerge from a gossip-saturated and fake-news oriented media. The search for casualties, particularly from third world countries, is a difficult task. Often these news are dug below dozen of other news speculating on sex scandals or the like involving the main protagonists of first world countries such as the United States. Nonetheless typhoons, wars, suicide bombs, hurricanes and other forms of more or less natural calamities, strike the earth more or less regularly and unexpectedly (Fig. Picture of a small exhibition I made to experiment with the physical realization of the various parts of the project. Interviews revealed that the audience was rather neutral about the panels of casualties as none of them could actually read braille).

NEWS 04/12 Over the years I came to realize that there are periods of time where one can find a lot of casualties occurring worldwide and usually longer periods of time reigned by a complete calm. These cyclical recurrences have often made me think that indeed there is a beast eating humans and when its belly is filled it takes a break. This idea of the beast came from the movie “The Scavangers” shot by Ermanno Olmi in the 1970s in my native highland. In the movie an old shepherd teaches a young soldier the art of scavenging unexploded bombs to later resell the metal. In one occasion the old man tells the young man that war is like a beast walking around the planet; sooner or later it will come back. Throughout the course of my life project I did in fact notice how conflicts slightly shift place. Countries that recently had a lot of conflict might settle for a long period of peace and countries that have experienced a lot of homeland peace suddenly starts to build up a lot of inner conflict culminating at times into a war. I have also noticed how these conflicts can in fact infect neighbour countries as if war in itself is more of a organic virus acting beyond human intentions. While I despise war with all my heart, I am convince it will never stop roaming around the earth (Fig. Screenshot showing me making my first prototype of the a panel of month casualties using actual nails to simulate the brailles).

NEWS 05/12 The reading of casualties is my personal way to be able to focus on actual serious matters without loosing much time getting engulfed in political gossips or worldly scandals. The American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau already in the 19th century was most skeptical about the invention of technologies like the telegraph allowing North America to communicate with Europe and vice-versa. He claimed that such technologies would have only shared silly news such as that the Queen of England has the flu. Throughout this work I have completely experienced such an early prediction. Daily I have to scavenge through a lot of gossips talking about the American president or the English royal family. In addition to it media channels feel compelled to present new items to keep up a good branding of themselves and along with gossips there are many news items that are gender or race related. It takes me quite some digging then before I am to able to get to important headlines such as the many casualties due to religious and ethnic violence in the African continent. I am often shocked that such terrible news get completely neglected (Fig. Screenshot showing the usual front headlines I face daily. They are mostly related to politicians and the agitation they create to hold on to their power. Actual news of actual human casualties and genocides ought to be scavenged for).

NEWS 06/12 From the beginning of this work I have experienced different phases. For several years I reported the many casualties in the middle east and particularly during the war on terror in Afghanistan and the civil war in Syria. In the mist of the project the Covid 19 virus began killing hundreds of thousands of people especially in places like Europe and North America. Generally there are hardly any casualties to report for these countries but the virus created a big exception. For the case of the pandemic however, while I daily got to see the number of deaths reported in statistics, I noticed that the headlines themselves did not report on the pandemic as a flood, or an plane crash killing a number of humans. Casualties in fact where not reported in world news headlines such as saying VIRUS KILLS HUNDREDS IN BRAZIL . Rather there were only discussions about responsibilities and political management of the crisis. In this respect I have adhered to my method of searching and reporting the actual casualties communicated by headlines. Hence I omitted in the long run the pandemic deaths as I have also been omiting other statistics of malaria and flu caused deaths (Fig. Screenshot of the interface I often consulted to see the trend in the increase of the pandemic. I soon realized that these numbers are of a different nature than the casualties reported on headlines).

NEWS 07/12 Becoming very much aware of all the rapid transformations occurring globally, I have begun rather early to embrace a rather Tolstoyan view of history. As I have conceived it the latter is made not of heroes and villains as depicted by the main headlines, but rather of forces and counter-forces. For example as the United States became less interventionist during the Barack Obama administration, other states such as Turkey under the Recep Tayyip Erdogan administration became more interventionists. In a Tolstoyan fashion I also perceive philanthropy as just a power shifts that does not resolve the world injustices. In this respect this work not only represents a unique record of hard to find casualties in the mist of much gossips but also it represents a shift of power. While the west has become increasingly hindered by its colonial history, the east is seen a new Renaissance with all the brutalities linked to it (Fig. Screenshot of a page of a Swedish newspaper where I read of casualties in Ukraine. In thinking of power shifts I became much aware of historical events. Leo Tolstoy's “War and Peace” was particularly important for me not only as a way to comprehend Napoleon's invasion of the east and the subsequent invasion of the west; a hundred years later my father's father took part to the Nazi invasion of Russia right through Ukraine where he managed to retreat more dead than alive).

NEWS 08/12 After I withdrew from society, giving up my artistic and academic ambitions, I had no social media accounts. Also due to unforeseen circumstances I ended up living rather poor in a foreign country. The checking of world news then has become my only way to connect to the global world. The reading of the news in a way became my way to settle the thirst for information that social media but also smartphones make so impossible to subdue. To begin with until 2015 I have been daily checking Yahoo World News. Later to avoid the many commercials there I bought a subscription to a mobile application. This application was handy while I commuted around Europe. As I got settled in the Netherlands I finally opted for Reuters world news. Here I generally conduct and in depth search of the world “kill” though hundreds of daily headlines so as to avoid political gossips. Thougout the day I also check other news channels especially when I am bored (Fig. Photo of my setup when checking irrelevant news wasting my time in gossips and opinions. As I mostly check the news in the morning and as in the morning I am most productive, I try to limit the reading news for the sake of reading news. I then search directly for casualties. On the other hand when having to wait for a plane or for my kids to finish school I might in fact read the more opinionated articles to kill time).

NEWS 09/12 In addition to the in depth searches I counduct on the Reuters' webpage, I also check BBC World news and at times also left-leaning newspapers like The Guardian or right-leaning ones like Il Giornale. In the end however I always regret to get into these more politically contaminated media channels. Right after checking the world news I often give a quick glance at national news from my own country. For this I mostly check Il Fatto Quotidiano website and I always feel sad and ashamed of the political instabilities in my native Italy. Here however I might find some world news of casualties that were not reported in the main world news channels. Also at times I check Il Giornale di Vicenza website, a highly bias channel from my native province where often news are reported about the project museum I have built there. While in the morning I read the on-line news in the evening I often read the scrolling titles at the bottom of news channels such as CNN and Al Jazeera getting a full global perspective and often finding casualties not mentioned in other media channels (Fig. Picture showing our television in the Netherlands. At times I turn on in the evening after dinner to rapidly check the world news. Most of the times I read about casualties in the scrolling titles underneath as show in th the picture. At times during the day I might get to read a printed newspaper but this became rare).

NEWS 10/12 In some respect this work reflects the work of early conceptual artists such as On Kawara who has been painting dates on canvases and used to glue behind them newspaper pages with newspaper articles from that time. Even more so outsider artists such as Vivian Maier used to collect newspaper headlines with casualties, hoarding them as components of their archives, traces of an era that only survive based on their effort. In the course of the project I was also able to find old newspapers particularly in Sweden when renovating my oldest son farm. Newspapers from the 1920s and 30s were used as isolation and were later covered with more layers of wall paper. In this respect it was interesting to experience how much drier news used to be in the past, free of all the polemic that accompany them today (Fig. Screenshot showing me checking a local newspaper after a night spent in an empty Italian hotel. Reading national newspapers especially in my own country, I was seldom able to get a global perspective. There were often no hints of actual conflicts going on in countries I might have in fact visited or I might have had a first person account of. I realize that the rise of nationalism is partially to blame on these nationally limited news channels. In this respect also I have become somewhat and old kind of traveling historian with a full depicted picture of the globe in mind).

NEWS 11/12 Having no way to get lost in reading news about my social netrwork, I began to replace the need for reading news about living people with reading news about dead people. Soon however I noticed that traditional media have re-mediated into social media, with many of the headlines of newspapers only following up debates occurring on Facebook or Twitter. As finding actual real news and powerful news such as those relating about casualties became more difficult, I began to try to limit the time I spend searching for them. This is particularly the case during the time I spend in my native mountains. There I am fully occupied taking care of my farm and the project museum I built within it. In these occasions I feel fully content and without any need to check for news. Also in the mountains I barely have any reception to do connect to the Internet. At times I have to walk on a cliff in order to get some Internet and be able to search for the main headlines phone on my phone. Other times I hear the news from an old neighbour who spends her days with the television always tuned on the national channel. When it is too cloudy and there is no reception I make it to the nearest town (Fig. Screenshot showing how I first check for the news on my mobile. If I find casualties I write an email to myself and the next day I paste them on the braille document I update on a daily basis).

NEWS 12/12 In an ideal exhibition each of the resulting 432 resulting panels reporting a month worth of casualties using Braille is installed in 1 of the 12 45.5 meters-long corridor surrounding the main hall of the exhibition. With this set up the panels are placed in groups of 6 for a total of 72 segments of the length of 7,2 meters each. The embossed panels function as the handrails of these corridors. In this respect while in several other instances of the project I have used visual or audio material and in one instance even smell to report on the air-quality I inhale, in this work I focus on touch. Strikingly what the audience touches is actually something one does not want to have to deal with such as the many casualties mostly occurring far away from the western man in poorer countries. This very record of casualties also very much resemble the monuments of war I confronted since my childhood. Right in front of one of the houses where I grew up as a kid stood a triumphal arch under which the names of all the 54.000 soldiers who died in my native highland during the First War World are reported. Rather than a tribute to war my record is unique in that it reports on casualties that are easily forgotten and anyway have little resonance in the official overly simplified history books (Fig. Screenshot of the exhibition taken from above were the panels in each corridor are red highlighted).