Riccardo Giacconi

performance and mixed media installation, 2015

Controvena is conceived as something between a mechanical séance and a performance for a machine.
It concerns Guido Tallei, my great-grandfather.

Guido Tallei was an engineer: he designed and patented dozens of machines, most of which have never been realized.
These were mostly war machines (for example, a battle tank) and means of transport. For example, he designed a strange mix between an aircraft and an airship which, although was never realized, became relatively well-known, whose project was published in German and American magazines.

Guido Tallei started working as an engineer in 1920 in Rome, just after having fought in the First World War. He therefore lived the rise to power of the fascist party. Although his professional life took place under the fascist regime, his diary shows that he was not an ideological supporter of it.

In 2001, while exploring Guido Tallei's folders of papers, projects and documents, the draft of a letter was found. It was something between an autobiography, a criticism and a call for help. After having deciphered it, it was realized that the likely recipient of the letter was Benito Mussolini.

It is unknown if the letter, dated 1942 (in the middle of World War II), was sent or not.
Controvena is based on such letter, and takes the form of a radio play presented live, with only lights on stage.

he performance was commissioned as part of the 2015 edition of “Reims, Scènes d’Europe” at La Comedie de Reims, France, within a program produced by FRAC Champagne-Ardenne and curated by Florence Derieux and Antoine Marchand. A second version has been presented as part of the 2015 Drodesera festival at Centrale Fies, Dro, Italy.

Performance at Centrale Fies, June 2015.

Performance at "Reims, Scènes d’Europe", February 2015. Photos: Martin Argyroglo.

Excerpt 1 (performed at Centrale Fies, 2015):

"When the European War broke out, I was 19.
At the end of 1914 I was drafted, and I had to abandon my studies.
In July I was promoted to Artillery Officer and assigned to the Second Auxiliary Battalion “Campagna”.
I volunteered and headed for the Lower Isonzo front. [...] In 1917, while I was in the trenches of Ortigara, I invented the flying torpedo. I sent a project draft to the Arms and Ammunition Commission.
For a couple of years, the answer I received was that the project was under examination. And has remained so until today. [...] When the war ended, in 1920 I found a job as an Architect-Surveyor.
In the course of two years I directed several building sites in Rome. Although I worked very hard, this was one of the happiest times of my life. [...] I had a small laboratory at home, and in my spare time I was totally engrossed in what was a true passion. I spent hours, sometimes the whole evening, working with the help of a workman (Bruno Massi). [...]
Duce! I am not old. I am confident that I can still do something, and it is my honor to ask for Your consideration."

Excerpt 2 (performed at "Reims, Scènes d’Europe", 2015):

"A terrible neuritis kept me in bed for over three years. I had to liquidate my construction sites; I was forced to suspend all my activities. Everything went to ruin. It was one of the worst periods of my life, and I ended up becoming a morphine addict."

Excerpt 3 (performed at "Reims, Scènes d’Europe", 2015):

"In 1931, I patented a new type of propeller. The usual examination; the usual phrase "not of interest". However, I realized it at my expense, mounting it on a device that I defined "hydroglider"."

Excerpt 4 (performed at Centrale Fies, 2015).

Excerpt 5 (performed at "Reims, Scènes d’Europe", 2015):

Lately, there is a scene that I constantly see in my head.
I'm with my friends from the second Battalion. We all under 20 years old. We're celebrating something, in a chalet in the Alps. My friends are around me. They eat meat and play cards, sat at wooden tables. High in the sky, the sun shines.
Suddenly, my friends all turn towards me. They point at me."

Exhibited at: WUK – Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna, Austria (2016); “Reims, Scènes d’Europe” festival at La Comedie de Reims, France, as part of a program produced by FRAC Champagne-Ardenne; Drodesera festival at Centrale Fies, Dro, Italy; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Torino, Italy (2015)