Wonders of the Volcano by Salvatore Arancio

Saturday 24th of September h.1.00 pm
Federica Schiavo Gallery –  Piazza Montevecchio 16 – Rome

Wonders of the Volcano is the first artist’s book by Salvatore Arancio, published by NERO in collaboration with Federica Schiavo Gallery.

Wonders of the Volcano is a faithful reconstruction of a Victorian era book that is part of Arancio’s own collection and the source of some of his etchings. The original volume, printed in London presumably in the second half of the 19th century, was written by Ascott R. Hope and comprises 11 original illustrations in black and white.

Salvatore Arancio has re-elaborated the book’s original images, altering their scientific and documentary function, and added 8 plates to the final section of the volume. The text from the first edition has instead been reprinted in its entirety, and the book’s material and typographic characteristics are identical to the original.

The volume by Ascott R. Hope is an impassioned piece of research into the naturalistic wonders of volcanoes and of the geo-telluric phenomena related to them. The inexact geology of the late 19th century mixes here with landscape descriptions so ingenuous that they transform the underlying romanticism into loose and enthusiastic popular adventure literature. The most impressive natural phenomena – registered at that time not only in Italy, but also throughout Europe, South America, in the Indian east and across the entire Mediterranean basin – are described with all the imprecision of a vague science. In this book, the inductive method overlaps with the deductive, making space for oral testimonies, fairytales and superstitions, all philologically inventoried.

It is not by chance that Salvatore Arancio has chosen to work within a context that is “science-fictional” avant la lettre.  The ambiguous alterations that the artist has brought to the original images do not merely evidence the book’s original nature, but, decontextualizing it, reinvent an inexistent past that oscillates between mythology and fantasy.

Such a rehabilitation of the past bears a twofold temporal valence: it looks back in order to go forward. Indeed, by means of this enigmatic booklet, Arancio reverses the very direction at the heart of the concept of innovation – scientific innovation, if we look strictly to the contents of the book; artistic, if we consider the entire conceptual operation – evidencing an “innovative” past on the one hand, and on the other a future that never occurred. And it is precisely into this temporal fissure, tinged with nostalgia, that Arancio drops his hypnagogic, unconscious and apocalyptic imaginary, letting it fluctuate in a spatiotemporal field that belongs neither to the present, nor to the future, nor to our past.

Wonders of the Volcano is accompanied by an insert containing a critical essay by Michael Wilson, editor and freelance critic, and a text on the relation between mythology and geo-telluric phenomena written by Luigi Piccardi, Researcher at the C.N.R. – Institute of Geosciences and Earth Resources, Florence.

Wonders of the Volcano is printed in a limited edition of 600 copies, together with an edition of 20 multiples composed of a wooden box containing the book and an original photoengraving by the artist.