Since 2010 the Anna Mahler Association has hosted a series of residencies and projects with artists, writers and curators in Spoleto, Umbria, Italy. The programme celebrates Anna Mahler, sculptor daughter of Gustav and Alma, who kept a studio in the town. 

Marina Mahler, Anna’s daughter, invited David Gothard to Spoleto in 2009 to explore its  creative opportunities. In 2010 he invited a group of artists and Guy Robertson, who became the Association’s curator, to explore the town in a series of residencies. Anna’s studio is adjacent to the studio of conceptual artist Sol LeWitt and subsequently the LeWitt family became involved in the residencies. As of 2015 the residency programme is organised by the Mahler and LeWitt Studios.

The Anna Mahler Association continues to support projects with its affiliated artists and is a vital partner of the residency programme.







James Cave

Composer in Residence

James Cave is a composer and singer with a particular interest in collaborative practice. During his residency at the Mahler & LeWitt Studios he will be working on a new composition titled Returns, an opera in one act which is based on the play by Joshua Casteel.

Casteel (1979-2012) was an Iraq veteran turned peace campaigner and playwright. At aged 27 he died of multiple cancers contracted as part of the cleansing procedures involving contaminated material facing the army in Iraq. His work attracted widespread attention, including a performance at the Royal Court, London for Human Rights Watch.  alias also seen at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin and Princeton University.

Returns, directed by the Mahler & LeWitt Studios Artistic Advisor David Gothard, is based on Casteel’s own experience of post-traumatic stress and revolves around the struggle of James (baritone) to organise his memories into a coherent narrative. The other characters in the opera each represent aspects of James’ fragmented consciousness. In a 20-minute extract from Returns, premiered at Rough for Opera 13 (York, UK), Cave combined Indian tala rhythms with a taut operatic language to dramatise the narrative.

Cave was recently the recipient of a Terry Holmes Award and a Sir Jack Lyons Celebration Award for Composition. In 2015 he was Composer-in-Residence at the Banff Centre (Banff, Canada) and participated in the inaugural World Music Residency in Eastern Traditions. He is a permanent member of York Minster Choir and a member of the Gavin Bryars Ensemble with whom he has performed internationally. Most recently he performed Beckett’s Songbook with the ensemble at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, as part of Sean Doran and Adrian Dunbar’s ‘Happy Days Festival’.

Recent compositions include Latrabjarg, commissioned by the York Spring Festival of New Music, in which Cave worked with an electric cellist and soundscape artist to weave together saga texts, bird-calls and folksong to evoke the disintegration of Iceland’s ecosystem. Fothcoming works include  Eonsounds, a collaborative project exploring the links between music and geology, with geologist Dr Tim Ivanic and spatial sound-researcher Dr Jude Brereton.

During his residency, at the request of one of our writers in residence Rye Dag Holmboe, who himself has research interests in seriality in the visual arts and literature, James delivered a fascinating lecture, for invited guests, exploring the history of seriality in music. In a second event he presented his opera as a work in progress to Teatro Lirico Sperimentale, the Spoleto based opera prize and commissioning body.

The devastating earthquake which shook central Italy in August 2016, a week into the residency session, had its epicentre 50kms away from Spoleto in the Valnerina. We felt it keenly in Spoleto and it upset the rhythm of work at the studios – a negligible price, comparatively. James, who has an ongoing project in collaboration with geologist Dr Tim Ivanic, explored his experience of the quake and its aftershocks in a sensitive and evocative blog post for the University of York Music Department titled ‘La Terra Trema’:

On a secluded backstreet in the ancient Italian town of Spoleto, there is a house full of statues. Open its heavy oak front door, and you are greeted immediately by an imposing stone figure guarding the central courtyard. Entering the main body of the house, you meet a reclining figure; climbing the stairs, a vast mask stares down upon you with unblinking eyes. On the first floor, in a stately music room flooded with light, and lined with scores, a series of busts of musical luminaries – Mahler, Schoenberg, Klemperer – look down unwaveringly across the curved form of a Steinway grand.

Gustav Mahler’s sculptor-daughter, Anna, bought this house in the late 1960s, and swiftly populated it with examples of her work, making it her home and studio until her death in 1988. To this day, the house remains a family home, but it is also the venue for an innovative artistic programme, the Mahler & LeWitt studios.

Spoleto has a lengthy and varied artistic and cultural history stretching from Roman times to the present day. Its cathedral boasts frescoes by the great Renaissance artist Fillipo Lippi, and the town is an architectural masterpiece in its own right. In 1958, the Italian-American composer Giancarlo Menotti founded a major arts festival in Spoleto, the Festival dei Due Mondi. At the time, people suggested that Menotti was a crazy fool – ‘il matto’; though splendid, the town had few hotels for festival-goers, and was over an hour away from Rome by train. But over the years, audiences flocked to Spoleto, to see performances by Pavarotti and Nureyev, amongst others, and to attend exhibitions of work by artists such as Alexander Calder. Menotti, ’Il matto’, was vindicated and hailed as a hero: there is a small family-run restaurant just off the main square in the historic centre, Osteria del Matto, that commemorates this triumph through its choice of name.

Spoleto’s vibrant artistic life began to attract internationally acclaimed artists, in addition to Anna Mahler; the eminent American artist Sol LeWitt began to work in Spoleto from the 1970s onwards, and finally relocated to the city from New York around 1980. LeWitt bought a house perched on a hillside overlooking the town, perched above a vast chasm spanned by a Roman aqueduct, the Ponte delle Torri, and later a studio in the town’s historic centre. Following the lead of fresco painters centuries earlier, LeWitt began to embellish the walls of villas owned by friends with his own striking geometric forms, and producing designs for local ceramicists.

In an intriguing twist of fate, it turns out that Sol LeWitt and Anna Mahler were in one way, near neighbours; LeWitt’s studio space directly adjoins Mahler’s spacious casa. In 2010, their shared artistic legacy became the basis for a new venture, a residency programme initiated by the Anna Mahler Association. In 2015 it became known as the Mahler & LeWitt Studios. During the summer months, Casa Mahler and LeWitt’s adjacent studio play host to an international community of artists, writers, researchers and curators as part of an extensive residency and projects programme. In 2016, I was fortunate to be selected as the first-ever Composer-in-Residence, sponsored by the Anna Mahler Association, in order to complete a first draft of my opera, ‘Returns’: I have been in residence at Casa Mahler, working in the music-room, since August 15th.

The casa was a place of tranquil retreat and a productive workspace until two nights ago. At 3:36am a massive earthquake, measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale, hit the picturesque mountain-towns of Amatrice and Accumoli near the Lazio-Abruzzo border. Reverberations buffeted the walls of Casa Mahler, some 40 km away from the epicentre, causing walls, floors and furniture to shake violently. The first tremors roused the house’s inhabitants from sleep; the first aftershock, not much less violent than the initial quake, made us gather in pyjamas on the stairs of the house in shock and surprise. Swiftly, we realised that the violent shaking that had woken us up was in fact the edge of something much larger. The initial indications from Amatrice, which we read minutes after the earthquake were chilling: ‘half the town has disappeared’ said the town’s mayor, ‘and all the lights have gone out.’ We hoped that this was exaggeration; sadly this has not proved to be the case. At the time of writing the death toll from the earthquake is around 270, with hundreds of others injured in hospital. The images from the stricken towns are heartbreaking.

Italians use the word terremoto for earthquake, but they also use the word sisma, which if I am correct contains the idea of a wave or vibration. And that is what earthquakes, in all their monstrous unpredictability and devastating impact, are; giant reverberating waveforms. If I grasp the geology correctly, the discharge of wave-energy within a shallow tranche of earth, as has just happened here, will cause massive repercussions – and violent shaking at the epicentre. Further away the discharge of energy – in the case of this earthquake, roughly equivalent to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima – is felt, but not as keenly.

And, as we musicians may understand from studying the science of sound waves, the expansion of energy in earthquakes is exponential not linear: each degree increase on the Richter scale is an increase of ten times in the power of the earthquake with a 6 being 100 times more powerful than a 4. The other quality of earthquakes that is difficult to grasp is that each major incident precipitates a complex echo-pattern of aftershocks. These aftershocks are typically less intense that the main event, but vary in their exact force and distribution according to the fractal arrangement of the fault-lines that cause them. Peculiarly, earthquakes are so rigorously monitored that I can tell you, by using the website, that there have been three aftershocks since I started writing this article, one (at 3.8 on the Richter scale) strong enough to cause slight reverberation at Casa Mahler. And they continue.

Peculiarly, at the same time as finishing the score for ‘Returns’, I’ve been working on a new collaboration with geologist Dr Tim Ivanic, Eonsounds. ( The aim of this project is to use sound and music as a means of enabling an audience better to understand the ways in which the earth itself acts like an organism, but on a vast scale and with significant events often occurring huge number of years apart. Dr Ivanic and I are interested in finding ways that the earth’s lifespan, all 4.4 billion years of it, can be better grasped through the innovative transformation of data into sound, and, in order to do this, we’ve been working with a fantastic team of creative researchers, including data-sonification expert Dr Jude Brereton and Carnatic classical singer, Supriya Nagarajan. Experiencing an earthquake is, of course,terrifying; but working with my colleagues on this project has enabled me at least better to understand the nature  of this experience.

The reverberations of an earthquake are of course, psychological as well as physical. Working on ‘Returns’ which dramatises the effects of combat stress on Iraq veterans, I’ve learned that traumatic experiences can lie dormant in the memory for years, only to awaken suddenly in a rush of emotions, images and sensations than can feel as intense as the original event itself. This morning I woke suddenly in a panic: looking at my phone, I saw that the time was close to 3:36, the time at which the earthquake struck two nights earlier. This is a mild form of traumatic repetition, but traumatised communities can experience the after-effects – the after-shocks – of traumatic incidents for generations. These communities must be – physically – rebuilt, but they must also be healed.

In 1981, the artist Alberto Burri was invited to visit the town of Gibellina in Sicily, which had been decimated by an earthquake thirteen years earlier. Having visited the new city, Burri then asked to be taken to the ruins of its earthquake-stricken predecessor. Deeply moved by this experience, Burri determined to build a memorial to the town. He created the vast Grande Cretto of Gibellina, which entirely covers the ruins of the town, being 300 by 400 metres in size. The cracked cement surface of the work, evokes both the landscape in which it is situated, and the vast geological processes which tore the town apart. Of this work the architect Alberto Zanmatti writes: ‘Old Gibellina, will remain for those who lived there a place of continual pilgrimage, in memory of their dead and their past life. The ‘cretto’ or crack [of Burri’s work] almost a figuration of the earth which shook, becomes a pathway where old roads meet up, a labyrinth of memory which proposes a new life…[it enables] the people of Gibellina…to rediscover themselves by remembering how things were and accepting how things are.’

James Capper

Residency & Commission, 2016


Above: ATLAS, commissioned in 2015 by CGP London with support from The Henry Moore Foundation, Arts Council England and The London Borough of Southwark, outside Basilica di San Pietro, Spoleto.

Artist website



The Anna Mahler Association commissioned a major project by British sculptor James Capper and with the Mahler and LeWitt Studios in Spoleto.

James brought his sculpture TELESTEP on a residency during which time it was tested, in the Umbrian landscape, and recorded on film in collaboration with Matthew Burdis (see below). The sculpture and film were exhibited during the Festival dei Due Mondi.

He also brought his sculpture ATLAS to Spoleto. Throughout the course of his residency it created a series of concrete sculptures in the town. ATLAS was commissioned in 2015 by CGP London with support from The Henry Moore Foundation, Arts Council England and The London Borough of Southwark.

Capper’s sculpture employs the techniques of engineering problem solving. Beginning with concept sketches, he designs and builds hydraulic machines that apply mass mark making to work into the surface of the materials to which they are applied. He considers them as both sculptures and sculptural tools in demonstration. The machines vary in size, from handheld power tools like the NIPPER FAMILY through to mobile sculptures like MOUNTAINEER 8TON to the massive WALKING SHIP that utilises the use of four knuckle boom cranes as legs that would allow the sculpture to walk out of the sea.

TELESTEP is a sophisticated mobile sculpture in the Prototype family with six legs. A variety of attachments known as ‘teeth’ are attached to the legs. These support the weight of the machine and leave marks in the landscape as it travels across it. TELESTEP is suitable for use on rocky terrain, like that of the Umbrian landscape. The different teeth leave meticulously composed marks, reflecting the precision with which each leg of the machine delicately steps and positions itself.

Capper’s residency echoes a tradition of showing monumental sculptural in Spoleto. For example David Smith, who is an important influence on Capper, exhibited the famous Voltri sculptures in 1962  at the Festival dei Due Mondi after his own month long residency in Italy.

James Capper’s project was accepted as an official part of the Festival dei Due Mondi program. When James arrived in Umbria both he and film-maker Matthew Burdis made their way to a remote farmhouse in the mountains near Gubbio, a one hour drive from Spoleto, generously made available to us by Jill Segal. On the surrounding land TELESTEP, a sculpture from James’s ‘earth marking division’, was tested and filmed.

James Capper

For a week, hampered by the stormy June weather but assisted by the indispensable Antonello Bevilacqua, a Spoletini who facilitated the necessary transportation, excavators and generators, James and Matthew set to work. The result was an experimental 20 minute film, premiered 9 days after they started filming on the opening weekend of the Festival in Sala Pegasus, a cinema in a deconsecrated church. We screened it alongside a film by Giovanni Carandente and David Smith, drawn from the formers archive held by the Comune di Spoleto. It dramatically tells the story of the 28 Voltri sculptures that Smith made on his own residency in Italy in 1962 and then displayed in the seminal ‘Sculturra nella Citta’ exhibition in Spoleto. Smith’s work has been an important influence on James. The TELESTEP sculpture itself was placed, for the duration of the Festival, in the “Malborghetto” archeological area at the Rocca Albonorziana, delicately scaling the ruin of a 12th century church.

After filming TELESTEP the group moved back to Spoleto to join the other residents and begin the next stage of the project with ATLAS.

During the Festival, ATLAS moved between three concrete plinths placed at Basilica di San Pietro, Piazza della Signoria and, finally, on a 2 metre high block towering over Spoleto at the Rocca Albonorziana. At each site, in a series of scheduled demonstrations, ATLAS spent several days carving its plinth.

The project fulfils an ambition that our work should connect meaningfully with the fabric of the town of Spoleto. The reception was excellent. The works are immediately engaging to people from all backgrounds, twisting the common language of construction into a unique art. Matthew Burdis carefully filmed ATLAS throughout the project and in the coming months will put together a complete film, incorporating all the footage.

Matthew Burdis

Residency, 2016

Matthew Burdis is a filmmaker. During his residency at the Mahler & LeWitt Studios he explored his own projects as well as working with James Capper to take footage of his sculptures TELE STEP and ATLAS. For more information about this project click here.

Matthew’s own work, which he also spent time developing, often features his own sculpture and photography. He graduated from Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2015 where he was awarded the Landmark PLC Award for his degree show film Lindisfarne One One.

Lindisfarne One One is a silent black and white film shot on the tidal island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland. It deals with personal and historical loss, drawing on first hand memories of the island as well as its representation in cinema.

He has recently written and directed a short film in partnership with the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London as part of the STOP PLAY RECORD program. The film will be screened at the ICA later this year.

He has been invited back to Chelsea College of Art and Design to set up and run The Chelsea Film Forum: it aims to create a space to view and discuss experiences of cinema, artist’s film and video. The forum consists of regular screenings and events, including the work of current students as well as guest artists and filmmakers.

He will be featured in this year’s XL Catlin Art Guide, launched at the London Art Fair 2016.

Lindisfarne One One - HD Video - 4mins 25 secs - 2015_lowres

Above: still from Lindisfarne One One, digital video, 2015

Matthew Burdis, Second, 2016, film still)lowres

Above: still from Second, digital video 2016

Steve Hurtado

Residency, 2015

In 2015 the Anna Mahler Association sponsored Steve Hurtado as one of the artists in residence with the Mahler & LeWitt Studios in Spoleto.  

Steve Hurtado (b.1979) is a British artist of Bolivian descent. Interested in large-scale public architecture, his maquette-like sculptures reference brutalist bunkers and sports stadiums. Increasingly his larger work in wood introduces organic tones to this minimalist vocabulary and his drawings evoke an artist’s impression of the structures being used in various environments.

Artist website

Recent solo projects include Celerina, Lendi Projects, Engadin, Switzerland 2014; Us and Them, Fokidos 21, Athens, Greece 2013; and Together as one, Tim Sheward Projects, London 2013. He exhibited in The London Project Goes North, Gerson Zevi at the Yorkshire Scultpure Park 2013-2014 and was awarded an Artist’s Commission for Art Licks Magazine in 2014.

During his residency Steve developed two exhibitions which were staged as Fringe events of the Festival dei Due Mondi: Rocca Joints (4–12 July, Via degli Eremiti, 1) and Drawings and Maquettes (5-12 July, Via Filliteria, 1)


Steve H portait

Steve wood

The following text was written by the artist and describes his experience working in Spoleto whilst discussing various influences on his practice:


The logistics were straight forward. The studio space was on the ground floor, electric power was readily available and the space, having previously been used as a recording studio, was sound proofed so there was no noise pollution from my machinery, even though we were in the centre of the town. I made two simple work tables using 2 by 4 inch wood. In the studio there were three rooms separated by glass panels with doors. The main room was used as the workspace, I had ideas of what I intended to do but it was not until I physically entered the space that I got a sense of scale and proportion and therfeore a clearer idea of the possibilities.

The pine wood was sourced locally, we had local contacts who got in touch with a reliable supplier who had an abundance of sizeable pine already felled. We saw the wood in the morning, and by afternoon the wood was cut to length and delivered to the studio on the same day; this is one of the benefits of working towards the festival, things get geared up more quickly which helps everyone.
We sent a pallet box of tools from London to Spoleto, it arrived shortly before me so after a short period time I was ready to work.

I had begun making drawings, developing my recent work on joint-making. I am interested in creating equilibriums with materials, however, I try to manipulate our natural sense of that equilibrium – to make materials work in ways they are not expected to.

There is never any end to learning about how you make the work.

The kind of basic need to change one thing into another thing does not leave us, it is partly talent but you have to work on the imagination to produce something that is more robust.

For me the need to connect is inherent to the making of art, sources from different backgrounds coming together in a way that has never before been achieved in a specific time and place.

I made three large new joint sculptures in the studio which were then exhibited in that same space. I called the exhibition Rocca Joints and each sculpture Saint George, Saint Francis and Saint Claire respectively. This was a response to the sense of deep history and raw beauty I found in Spoleto. La Rocca is a phenomenal medieval fortress jutting out from the top of Spoleto’s old town. La Rocca had an immediate need to exist; so physically secure and time intensive. From looking at all the different sized blocks that were used in its construction – in the hexagonal, cyclopean walls – it feels like every hour mattered in its construction.

I’m aware of folding a sense of history into my work. I was fortunate enough to see monuments from pre-Columbian culture that are still standing. I myself am of Bolivian descent. I am not an art historian but the sense of the scale and boldness, the sense of strong line I perceived in these architectural constructions, has been influential. I relate this to my fascination with brutalist architecture as illustrated, for example, in Paulo Virilio’s Bunker Archaeology. I am aware of pushing those influences through my mind as I work.

Guy Gormley

Publication, 2012 | Residency, 2013

In 2012 we supported the publication of Guy Gormley’s artist book Jack Follow. In 2013 he was subsequently invited to Spoleto.

Born London, England 1985, Gormley studied at Central St. Martins, Brighton Univeristy and completed a BA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College of Art in 2009. He works primarily with photography and music. His DJ name is Enchante and he co-founded the club night and record lable Top Nice. He also runs the curatorial platform Brickhouse with Thomas Bush. He has produced three artists books and a collaborative publication with the poet Rachel Allen. He exhibits regularly in the Uk and abroad.

Artist Website | Brickhouse | Top Nice

Above: a spread from Jack Follow. 

The images were produced during a trip to Unst in the Shetland Islands, the most Northerly point of the U.K. The book is in three sections, each one a narrative consisting of a continuous run of images taken over a few minutes, these function in a similar way to film stills, describing periods of time. The sections are prefaced by the file names, which contain the date and times they were made.

Jack Follow is a hand made book designed by Thomas Bush. It was made in an edition of 100 and is staple bound. The cover is rubber-stamped with a bitmap image.

The book can be purchased here.


During his residency Gormley, informed by his time in the LeWitt Studio, began making objects.

His conversations with young people in Spoleto led him to stage live events combining photography, sculpture and music in social contexts, making use of derelict spaces in the town.

In his first event, 7.9.13, Gormley blocked out the vaulted medieval ceiling of a disused brewery in the old town of Spoleto. He erected a makeshift cardboard roof and showed photographs looping on a tv of the outskirts of Spoleto’s new town.

Read the conversation below between the artist and residency curator Guy Robertson.

GUY ROBERTSON / GUY GORMLEY – Conversation, Spoleto, September 2013. 

GR Was it an event an installation or a party?

GG I always called it an event. It’s neutral. ‘Party’ feels different, its more specific – for fun and social stuff. An event could be a party but it could also be a lecture or something.

GR In one room there were photographs looping on a television screen and there was a lowered ceiling made out of cardboard. The room you were using for this event actually had one of those typical Spoletan vaulted ceilings.

GG Yes. Lowering the ceiling was about taking ownership of that architecture, which you see everywhere in Spoleto: ignoring it or blocking it out somehow. I think that’s how people read it: covering up the things that people often treat with the most importance – which is the history of a place. But history is one of the things, in Spoleto, that seems to get in the way of doing stuff.

GR And its more easily felt in a town which is so steeped in its own history – with history comes people who are empowered by that history and people who aren’t. As a country Italy has one of the richest cultural heritages in the world.

GG Did you know that in Rome they want to expand the Metro, but they can’t because of all the ruins – they can’t dig any tunnels – so the city is in a kind of cage. And that’s the capital. It feels like an allegory for the country itself.

GR The photographs on the television screen were playing on a loop on a TV with its back to you as you walked into the room. Each one of the pictures was being panned across. What did they depict?

GG Well, this guy who came to the event was saying that the pictures I’d taken were of a suburb of Spoleto where the land in dispute. He said that after the earthquake in ’97 the council had given all the building contracts to Neapolitan companies through some Gomorrah connection. The local people had been up in arms about it and as some sort of apology the council had given them this area of Spoleto to develop without any controls. So they’d done quite a lot of crap stuff, I think, and so that’s why the area looked funny and that’s probably why I’d photographed it.

GR I suppose in the same way that with the lowered roof you were denying the natural heritage of the building you worked in, the photographs were looking at an area of Spoleto which isn’t normally looked at; its not the Aqueduct, its not the Amphitheatre, its not La Rocca: the spaces which are known, which if you’re passing through Spoleto as a tourist you might photograph. It ties into discussions we’ve been having about the sense you get of young people feeling disempowered.

GG Our friend Tommaso was saying that anything that gets young people up here is good. He’s quite passionate about it because he’s someone who has stayed in Spoleto whereas a lot of his friends have left.

GR As well as making your own work you put on events in London, curating with Brickhouse and hosting the club night Top Nice: so to you its kind of natural to go out and put on events. Was your impetus to do an event here in Spoleto to show that, look, you can do this kind of thing?

GG Maybe yeah, part of it, but its lots of things happening at once. I wanted to try and cause a few conversations so I activated the bar, or added tension, by two interventions: firstly this video of CCTV-like footage which presented Spoleto as a place with problems, as a paranoid place. I didn’t really know what the problems were but by presenting it as such you make people think about what the problems might be. Secondly, by covering the ceiling and bringing it down to a claustrophobic or oppressive height. So you have this sort of social open place but with these things which would gear conversation a certain way.

GR What about the music?

GG The music was all Italian post-punk from the early eighties. It is really good but disaffected, disenchanted music. I feel like the young people in Spoleto don’t have a space to exchange songs, you know; you need a scene to have things happen – there’s no point saying something if no one listens.

GR What were your responses on the night from locals who came?

GG I was really wary of pushing any politics because I’m under informed; brand new to the place. But the points that were being suggested, I wouldn’t say made, we’re relevant and people really engaged with it.

In the final live event of his residency Gormley, in a disused recording studio with a makeshift bar and sound system, incorporated the sculptures he had been making in the LeWitt Studio with his own photographs as well as those taken by local artists.

A description of the Club 68 event by the residency curator:

After dinner we went to the old ‘Cantina’ – the disused space on Via Brignone where there used to be a recording studio. It is underneath the Sol LeWitt studio. Guy Gormley hosted an event there called Club ’68. He wanted to provoke questions about youth engagement in Spoleto – to set a scene which would encourage conversation. He closed off the glass walled rooms where the musicians would have sat to record instruments, and posted up photographs on the glass. Half of the photographs were his own, depicting friends or everyday scenes, and the other half he had found in Spoleto, many from the newsfeed of a local persons Facebook account who he had become friends with. Behind the closed glass doors was an arrangement of concrete sculptures which he had been making – some looked a bit like rubble, but more purposeful, in unusual shapes. Others were amorphous, like busts but lacking a specific identity. It reminded me of looking through the glass floors you find in Spoleto, in the library or the pharmacy, at bits of Roman remains, a comparison I know Guy had intended. The music that he played was Italian New Wave, precursor to mainstream Club music and politicised in its own way. There was a bar in the space and people talked with increasing liveliness about the work. The sculptures and photographs could be intimately viewed with handheld lights (some people found pictures of themselves in the installation). We had flyered the event the evenings previously, particularly in the busy Piazza Garibaldi, and we had kept in contact with the young people we were meeting throughout the month – as a result we had a good turn out.

Guy Robertson, extract from residency diary notes

Michele Drascek

Residency, 2013 | Exhibition projects, 2015 ongoing

Michele Drascek is an Italian curator. He began research, now ongoing, with art historical libraries and archives in Spoleto including those of Casa Mahler.

Drascek had worked with David Gothard in 2012, using parts of his archive for Neue Slowenische Kunst 1984-1992 at Chelsea Space in collaboration with Tate Modern and Calvert 22, London.

Born Gorizia, Italy 1974, Drascek graduated at the Department of Educational Sciences, University of Trieste and holds a MA in Curating at Chelsea College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London. He has collaborated with several institutions: Contemporary Art Centre Villa Manin, Cittadellarte Michelangelo Pistoletto Foundation, Observatory on the Balkans, Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia (Italy); Moderna Galerija and SCCA Center for Contemporary Art (Slovenia); Stacion Center for Contemporary Art (Kosovo); Chelsea Space, Tate Modern, Flat Time House and Royal College of Art (UK); FLACSO Latin American Faculty on Social Studies (Ecuador); Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation (New York, USA). Curator of David Gothard Archives Collection (London, Gorizia) and now Chief Curator of Projects of The Marignoli di Montecorona Foundation (Spoleto), he is member of IKT International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art and of Europeana Network . His recent research includes organizing and exhibiting archives. His most recent commission is as curator of the Slovenian Pavilion at the 56th edition of La Biennale di Venezia.

Whilst cataloguing the Casa Mahler libraries Drascek came across a rare group of Oskar Kokoschka prints. He is now developing plans for their exhibition.

Drascek writes, “I spent a month in Casa Mahler in Spoleto where my research was primarily focussed on the library and discovering its content, step by step. An important portion of the library is dedicated to music and art, both in terms of literature and essays. My research became deeply involved in discovering the cultural scene in Vienna between the end of the 19th and the start of 20th Century. In particular, biographies on Gustav Mahler, diaries by Alma Mahler, and books by Franz Werfel. Unfolding the content of the library floor by floor, I started to concentrate my attention on art history books related to this period. Soon I discovered a large portfolio, protected by a book of similar dimensions. Within it I made a surprising discovery: ‘Oskar Kokoschka Zeichnungen’ is a collection of original prints by Oskar Kokoschka printed and produced by Der Sturm for the 13 April 1912 Issue. It brings together the prints that the artist produced as covers for several issues of the Der Sturm Review. It is an original, in very good condition and with all its prints intact. It includes portraits of Adolf Loos and Herwarth Walden amongst others.

This publication is significant not only for the relevance of Der Sturm in art history but more generally for the cultural period in which it was produced – relating to the Viennese cultural scene at the start of 20th Century before World War I. Moreover, it is significant for the design of the book itself and the quality of the prints.

Right: Paul Scheebert by Oskar Kokoschka,
from the ‘Zeichnungen’ album, 1912

He also initiated a project to produce a re-edited edition of Bruno Toscano’s celebrated 1963 art historical book on Spoleto and its environs Spoleto in pietre. Guida artistica della città.

In 2014, as a result of developing these projects, Drascek was elected Chief Curator of Projects at The Marignoli di Montecorona Foundation, Spoleto. Its focus is primarily on Italian art from the 16th to the 19th century, with special attention to Umbria and Central Italy. The mission is to enhance and disseminate studies and projects on Italian art and culture, and beyond.

Marignoli logo cropped

Image: Paul-Émile Colin, View of Spoleto, 1920
Marignoli Collection

Tom Barnett

Residency, 2013

During his residency with the Anna Mahler Association Tom Barnett explored his creative relationship to his performance persona Colden Drystone. He developed a series of video works and performances which took Spoleto and its environs as their setting.

Tom Barnett, born London, England 1984, studied painting at Chelsea college of Art and Design. Through performance, drawing, painting, video and installation his practice broadly investigates creativity and its relationship with human behaviour. He is represented by Hannah Barry Gallery, London which hosted his most recent solo exhibition The Beautiful Game. Recent performances took place at the Victoria & Albert museum, London, as part of the Peckham Takeover, at the closing event for the Copeland Book Market 2013, London, and at the opening night of Art Brussels 2013, Brussels. He was Artist in Residence (2013-14) at Girton College, Cambridge.

Artist Website | Colden Drystone Soundcloud | Hannah Barry Gallery

As well as these three video works Barnett made two new live performances  called Melodia and Residency. They are described here in his own words and illustrated in the slideshow above. 

Melodia – Saturday August 31st 2013

Using the four walls and slab stone floor of the courtyard outside the old Sol LeWitt studio in Spoleto Colden Drystone made a 20 minute performance with amplified, loop pedal vocals, a large wooden staff and surrounding objects for percussion, three pieces of paper, an oil bar, gold pigment and a ladder all lit by candle light. He was dressed in a white three piece suit with bare feet and with a stripe of gold leaf across his forehead. After constructing and looping a beat he began to sing. Running through the entire performance was a phrase written the previous day using mono prints that read “make melodies with lines, draw rhythms in space” and which Colden looped and harmonised over the top of a second more rhythmic phrase that read “something to respond to”. Once the initial beats and loops had been established and the melodies had been expressed, Colden wrote a word across the three pieces of paper using a clear coloured oil bar. He then sprinkled gold pigment over the papers, blew the excess pigment away and revealed the word Melodia written in gold. With the looped vocal phrases and simple beat still playing he then exited the courtyard carrying the written word into the quiet street outside. Climbing a ladder he slowly attached the three pieces of paper to some clips that had previously been installed into the upper third of a stone wall. With the golden word Melodia now hanging seven feet above the ground and gently moving in the open air Colden returned to the microphone and loop pedal where he then developed the initial vocal ideas into a wash of extended harmonies and textures. Finally the sound was taken back to its starting point with the beat and the phrase “something to respond to” looping over and over. Colden erased the beat leaving only the phrase as his accompaniment while he quickly moved around the courtyard blowing out the candles one by one. When only one candle remained he crouched above the flame and let the phrase about response play one more time before deleting it, blowing out the light and leaving the courtyard. End.

Residency – Saturday September 21st 2013 

Starting out in the same building that was the location for his Melodia performance Colden entered the courtyard, again dressed in his suit and with gold leaf across his forehead. He was carrying a gold rock in his hands. He exited the courtyard and lead the crowd of onlookers down the hill, through the square and down a side street to a second location where various props had been installed as material for the performance. In the first of two rooms were three TVs, three amplifiers, a dictaphone, a loop pedal, a snare drum, 40 mono prints in a grid and a piece of coloured silk lying in the centre of the room. Colden placed the golden rock onto this piece of silk and looped a beat using electronic bass drum samples.He then sang through the entire grid of 40 mono prints. Each contained a word or phrase written during his time in Spoleto. The 40 sung sheets then looped behind Colden as he sung them again. During this second recital of the texts Colden gradually turned on the TVs, one by one, to reveal short looped films with audio. The films all featured Colden either speaking, singing or shouting whilst out on a walk across the hills around Spoleto and the audio of each film now joined the audio of Colden’s looped singing gradually filling the space. When Colden pressed play on the dictaphone a third source of vocals was added to this score. The recorded voice discussed the conundrum of Colden wishing that all his work could be experienced first hand by an audience, in real time. After a time the loop was simplified, the TVs were muted leaving them just providing visuals. The dictaphone vocals were given centre stage. Around this talking audio Colden begin to create a more structured and contemporary loop that included a sub bass line, synth chords and a full array of samples from house and techno drum pads. Over the top of this he began to improvise rhythms on the snare drum before including some of these into the loop. All other audio was erased leaving only the new beat-led loop. Part two of the performance now started. Colden spoke a sentence into the new loop that read “this work is…”. He then sung the word Awesome adding this to the loop too. Colden then left the loop and ran into a second room. The room was empty apart from a ladder against the wall and one spot light. He turned on the light and scaled the ladder. Writing with a thick stick of graphite he wrote the word Awesome onto the white wall. As soon as he had written it he took up a can of gold spray paint and painted a line through the word, crossing it out. Coming back down the ladder he ran back into the first room, deleted the word Awesome from the loop and added a second word Bombastic. Once that word was ringing out in the recorded loop he ran back into the second room and repeated the process of writing the word on the wall before crossing it out with gold. Colden ran back and forth between the rooms deleting and adding adjectives until the wall contained 26 crossed out words, one for each letter of the alphabet. The letter X was the only non-word to be included and remained unspoilt with no gold line running through it. Once the words were all written on the wall Colden returned to the loop pedal and deleted all traces of the loop except for the repeated phrase “this work is…”. Over this he gently sung “everything and nothing”. He gradually faded out the audio from the pedal until only his own live voice could be heard singing “everything and nothing”. Continuing to sing this Colden walked out of the building back through the streets of Spoleto and out of sight.

Finally he made a short film called Climbing Castel Monte. It was screened in the Anna Mahler Studio at the end of his residency. Later he and the residency curator Guy Robertson turned the film into a book. The full film can be viewed by following this link.

Climbing Castel Monte

The publication ‘Climbing Castel Monte’ can be purchased at the following link:

Published by Guy


Florence Judd

Residency, 2013

Florence Judd, a sculptor based in London, worked with local artist Tommaso Faraci and Umbrian ceramicists on several new works.

Born Shoreham by Sea (West Sussex), England 1983, Judd gained a BA in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art & Design, London. Her practice explores ideas of weight, tension and placement. She creates structures and spatial drawings using multiple units made up of painted slabs. Her most recent exhibition was held at Son Gallery in London and was titled Wall Sculpture. Since her residency she has started developing her practice in the direction of ceramic making.

Judd found a new way of making site-specific preparatory sketches. A series of these drawings were included in an exhibition at the end of her residency:

Tom Lovelace

Residency, 2012

Tom Lovelace works mainly with photography. He looked closely at the legacy of sculptor David Smith who after a 30 day stay in Italy in 1962 presented his important Voltri Bolton series at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto.

Born Cambridge, England 1981, Lovelace gained a BA (First Class) in Photography at the Bournemouth Arts Institute and an MA in Art history from Goldsmiths College, University of London. He works across the media of sculpture, performance and photography. Recent research has centred on the photogram and the readymade.

He is represented by Flowers Gallery, London UK. Recent exhibitions include PROJECT 05 (Contemporary Art Society, London, 2014), Totem and Taboo (Unseen, Amsterdam, 2013), Uncommon Ground (Flowers Gallery, London, 2012), Work Starts Here (Son Gallery, London, 2012), Ristruttura (Project B Gallery, Milan, 2012) and Gouge (Centre for Photography, Aarhus, 2011). Features and reviews include Philosophy of Photography, Source Photographic Review, Time Out London, Contemporary Art Society, Art Licks, a-n Magazine, The Guardian and the Financial Times.

Artist Website | Flowers Gallery

Since his residency in August 2012 He has developed works for a solo show at Flowers Gallery in April 2015 which relate directly to his time in Spoleto. Right: Monteluco Sole No.01.

A record of a conversation between Tom Lovelace and the residency curator Guy Robertson: Spoleto, August 2012: 

GR There’s often a fantastical or surreal element in the tone of your work.

TL The materials that I use in my visual language are often drawn from the industrial landscape. The landscape of machines, concrete, steel. I’ve always been drawn to them. Not because of their austere, cold, or clinical characteristics, but rather to the potential they hold as fantastical or surreal objects.

There are two related experiences that have been very defining for me in relation to this. The first was spending a lot of time as a child in my fathers’ timber factory. Here, I was spending time within an industrial environment and my mind was racing and wondering. I was surrounded by towering, powerful, highly functional apparatus and machines. Significantly, I often didn’t know the function and I liked it that way as I could play make-believe. I could form a function in my head. I could believe whatever I wanted to believe about what they could be and do.

Secondly, again during my childhood, I was surrounded by a lot of second world was film footage depicting Nazi Germany; rallies, machines, tanks, brutal military apparatus. This imagery became significant for me. The important parallel with the first point mentioned is that there was a gap of information in both instances which allowed me to project my own ideas and functions onto both the machinery and tools in my fathers’ factory and the military apparatus deployed in the second world war. I was interested in the brutal, uncompromising aesthetics of these two environments, but also how without insight and full understanding of function, form could slip into the surreal, the uncanny and the fantastical.

GR In relation to your work I’m reminded here of Paul Virilio’s book ‘Bunker Archaeology’ in which he looks at WW2 German bunkers along the coast of France.

TL Absolutely. That’s interesting. One of my earliest memories is visiting both Guernsey and Jersey with my father, trekking around – he was hugely into the history of the Second World War and we went for a few days exploring bunker remains. I think they are the most complex buildings, primarily due to their simplicity and the little visual information attached to them. Concrete, brutalist things. And I believe this lack of information leaves space where ones imagination can really grapple with what might have happened there and what they could be or had been.

A key element to my early Machine Studies series is that although they were very much influenced by minimalist and modernist sculpture, they were also suggestive of function. I was attempting to build an object as simply as possible. The idea of breaking a form down in terms of its design, and thus hopefully leaving a significant space for the viewer to take over. By stripping it down – essentially to a series of decorated boxes – the balance left more and more room for its function and so the concept essentially twists and turns the idea of the standard equation of function equals form. I wanted to reverse this notion so that form could potentially dictate function. An oblique platform where the imagination could run.

GR Leading on from that, what it makes me think to, in recent developments in your work is the way you’ve brought the object into play in the gallery and how that implicates the body and the viewer in the space.

TL My image making was born out of my interest and my subsequent disappointment in interacting with sculpture and three dimensional works in gallery spaces. I encountered frequent experiences of interacting with, and experiencing objects and displays, presented in gallery spaces, but significantly as delayed experiences, as I had previously viewed the exact displays through reproductions in journals and catalogues. So my initial experience was channelled through compressed, two-dimensional compositions. My subsequent interpretation, walking into the actual exhibition had been shaped by a previous encounter, predominantly through photography. This led to a frequent sense of disappointment with the actual physicality of matter. So this drove me to create a strategy of creating objects and scenarios which were extremely physical and which were inherently three-dimensional, but importantly they were built purely to be experienced in two-dimensional visions.

The recent developments that you refer to, where we have presented both photographs and inter-related objects and sculptures has been somewhat uncomfortable for me. However, this awkward dynamic between picture and object has been what I think will prove to be an extremely important development for me. It would have been easy never to have stepped into this territory, as the beginnings of my practice were born upon a strategy of presenting inaccessible realities, or rather realities which are only accessible via the photographic document. By the time the photograph is in the public domain, or being consumed, the depicted object has been disregarded or dismantled, it has left the physical world in its depicted state. So thus, bringing the objects into the gallery space aroused a natural apprehensive

GR Why do you think it has worked?

TL I believe because the three-dimensional works have been born out of, or directed by, the photographic work. So they totally co-inhabit with my imagery.

I have previously referred to them as photographic sculptures. They have evolved from my investigations with photography. This is something I shall continue. A good example of this dynamic was the presentation of the photograph Blue Loop in close proximity to the steel hoop sculptures in the show Work Starts Here at Son Gallery; an installation composed of components derived from both images & objects.

Viktor Timofeev

Residency, 2012

Throughout his stay Viktor Timofeev worked from the Sol LeWitt studio. He produced a series of new drawings and a photo-essay.

Born Riga, Latvia 1984, Timofeev received his BFA at Hunter College, New York, and currently lives and works in Hunter, New York. He works with drawings, text, software and music, driven by science-fiction and improvisation.

Recent exhibitions and events include Proxyah at Jupiter Woods, London, 2015; Nimm’s Mal Easy at Ausstellungsraum Klingental, Basel, 2015; Palace Of Peace and Reconciliation at Arcadia Missa, London, 2014; and Palazzo Peckham at the 55th Venice Biennale with Simon Werner and Cindie Cheung, 2013.

Artist Website

Viktor Timofeev at work in the Sol LeWitt studio.

The pictures above, top to bottom, left to right, are: lalalalair, ink on paper 2012; Once there was ones, pen on paper 2012; W complex, pen on paper 2012; IWANTTOFLYRIGHTUPTOTHESKY, pen on paper 2012.

He published his photo-essay about Spoleto on the blog Opening Ceremony. It illustrates his engagement with landscape and architecture as well as figures as diverse as Giotto and Buckminster Fuller.

Right: The first two images from Timofeev’s photo-essay. To view the article follow this link.

Opening Ceremony, Viktor Timofeev Spoleto

Andrzej & Teresa Welminski

Workshops and Exhibition, 2011

Andrzej and Teresa Welminski, Polish artists who since the 1970s had been working closely with the playwright Tadeusz Kantor, directed a group of actors and visual artists in a series of workshops at the La Mama Umbria International Summer School.

David Gothard has been closely connected with the world of Kantor since hosting Cricot 2 performances at the Riverside Studios in the 70s. Connecting with Andrea Paciotto of La Mama Umbria International, he facilitated the workshops with the Welminski’s.

The result of the workshops was a performance titled Flammarion. The style and techniques used were inspired by those methods used by Kantor’s theatre company Cricot 2. The performances took place in the disused church Chiesa San Simone in the centre of Spoleto as part of La Mama Open 2011.

Photographs above and right: © Paolo Caponi.

Artist Website | La Mama Umbria International

While Andrzej Welminski ran the workshops we also hosted an exhibition of his drawings and sculpture in collaboration with the La Mama Spoleto Open 2011.

Andrzej Welminski Fotogrifien e Verboten, 25 June – 10 July 2010, La Mama Spoleto Open, Spazio Teatro, Largo Oberdan, Spoleto.

Curator Guy Robertson’s text on the Andrzej Welminski exhibition ‘Fotogrifien Verboten!’

Andrzej Welminski’s drawings are an intimate reflection of the artist’s approaches to history, philosophy and creativity. Having lived and worked in Poland, since 1973 as a member of Tadeusz Kantor’s Cricot 2 theatre company and in close relationship with the Foksal Gallery, Welminski continues to make pictures and direct performances.

The work addresses the history of his native country, particularly in relation to the censorship and devastation inflicted on its people and culture by Nazi and Soviet occupation. In the process of addressing these specific concerns, however, Welminski’s art evokes universal themes about life and death, entrapment and escape, and our relationship to individual and collective histories.

The title of this exhibition emerges from a performance, “Da lieht der Hung begraben” [There lies the rub], which Andrzej and Teresa Welminski developed with a group of German actors at the Stuttgart Theater De Rampe in 1997, as part of their efforts to share the ideas of Cricot 2 after Kantor’s death in 1990.

In a hallucinogenic turning of the pages of time, the performance ad- dressed shared German and Polish history from their mythical Nibelung origins to modern times, culminating in a scene from a concentration camp in which a model of a stag appears with a sign, commonly found in concentration camps, reading: “Photography is strictly forbid- den. Photographers will be shot without warning.”

Welminski has for many years engaged with the camera as a means and metaphor for ways of remembering and creating: for exploring ideas about control of the mind and history. In Kantor’s “The Dead Class” Welminski played a photographer with a five metre long billows camera which the artist had carefully replicated. The object in this exhibition, a receptacle on a stool with gas taps, takes on direct relationships both with a camera and with gas chambers in concentration camps. Welminski also used this object as an alchemical device: putting drawings inside and flushing liquids through it to affect the surfaces. With the ‘In Ruins’ series he develops parts of photographs on found paper and paints with photo-sensitive emulsion, allowing it to congeal in wells and cracks in the page. Elsewhere, in line drawings, figures appear and dissipate like half-formed prints made in a darkroom. By its nature photography gives a sense of permanence – of its ability to put a stamp on time and memory. Welminski’s use of photographic techniques, therefore, coupled with the emotional direct- ness of drawing, upsets this permanence and accepts instead a more realistic reality: one in touch with cycles of life and death and of the present as represented by complex and layered combinations of the past.

His subjects are too various and complex to give due credit to in a short text. Each, however, has a symbolic power, appealing to universal concerns, which must be opened up by the viewer. Many relate to an ongoing struggle against oppression or danger from unknown forces: children at play with a paper stove, the stag as an honorable victim and the wind-up painter as a comment on freedom of expression, to name several examples. The 20th Century history of Polish culture attests to terrible censorship and destruction: in the genocides thousands of intellectuals, artists and academics were sought out and killed. Books were burnt, the press gagged, entertainment banned, art was destroyed or seized in an effort to wipe out Polish identity. The title of the exhibition, then, Fotografieren verboten!, draws attention to this history whilst using the theme of dispossession as a springboard for the development of new thoughts and ideas about our current situation.

Guy Robertson, 2011.

Supported by the Association Guy Robertson also took a version of the exhibition to the Edinburgh Art Festival.

It was hosted by Richard Demarco’s venue Summerhall, August 6 – August 31, 2012

Tim Smyth

Residency, 2011 | Publication, 2013 | Charity Edition, 2015

Tim Smyth, a photographer interested in still life and the  social landscape, explored with producers of food and drink the unique cultural status of the edible that is preserved with great success in Umbria.

Born Bristol, England 1985, Smyth graduated from London College of Communication with a Photography BA. His work focusses on the documentary and social landscape genre. His work is published by Bemojake and he exhibits his work in the UK. He contributes photography to several editorials including BJP, Raw Magazine, Yet, Guardian Weekend, Hotshoe Magazine and works internationally on both personal and commission based projects.

The picture above is from Smyth’s series In Your Absence. He explains, “In Your Absence is a series of images and ongoing project I conceived in response to my partner emailing me digital photographs of the various dishes and meals she had cooked. These digital photographs were emailed from our home in London whilst I was staying in Italy for six weeks…” To read more and see the rest of the series click here.

Smyth’s residency coincided with the Festival Dei Due Mondi in Spoleto. In collaboration with the La Mama Spoleto Open we hosted an exhibition of his series Defects.

24 June – 10 July, 2011, Osteria Del Rossobastardo, Piazza Campello: Defects is a visual exploration into the culture of food, particularly in relation to human nature and consumerism. On a visit to a factory in Yorkshire, England, Smyth collected carrots which are not considered fit for the table or for the supermarket’s display shelves. The images, at once familiar and bizarre, address our understanding of choice and value in food culture.

In 2013 we continued our support of Smyth’s Defects series by contributing towards the printing costs of his photo book Defective Carrots published by Bemojake.

“Just when we thought everything had been photographed along comes a book, where the subject was both fascinating and unlikely. Defective Carrots is a charming and quite scientific study of … defective carrots. It is a beautifully produced book and
is likely to be one of the best books of the year.”

Martin Parr

Smyth’s book has since been acquired by the following collections:

Joan Flasch Collection (SAIC)
British Art Collection, Yale

Smyth’s second exhibition during his residency was created spontaneously after David Gothard’s meeting with refugees housed in the suburbs of Spoleto.

My Son’s Absence
24 June – 10 July, 2011, La Mama Spoleto Open, Osteria Del Rossobastardo, Piazza Campello, Spoleto.
David Gothard writes: “The project was a photographic and narrative tribute to the courage of the young men of countries beyond Libya arriving at Lampedusa from Niger, Togo, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. In Libya they have lost jobs and been maltreated through no fault of their own after often horrendous journeys to obtain work. It is also a tribute to the work of the charity, Il Cerchio, which houses these refugees in the suburbs of Spoleto as it does throughout Italy.”

In 2014 we funded the production of Smyth’s limited edition print sale, taken from his series The al Assad Campaign. This has helped ensure that all proceeds from the print sale are donated to Syria Relief, a charity and NGO working in Syria.

Edition size: 50
Media: Digital c type
Print Size: 12″ x 16″
Image Size: 11″ x 9″

Bespoke sleeve with essay by Malu Halasa, print signed and numbered on reverse.

For more information and to purchase the print please visit the Artist’s Website.

Mary Garner

Residency, 2011

During her residency Mary Garner, a conservator and artist, explored print and books in dialogue with the local history of Umbria.

Born London, England 1985. Garner trained at Wimbledon College of Art and studied History of Art at Edinburgh College of Art. She has a Masters with Distinction in Book and Paper Conservation from the University of The Arts, London (Camberwell). She works as a book and paper conservator for the National Conservation Service, a consortium aimed at supporting libraries, archives and businesses to care for their collections. Her artwork mirrors her work in conservation in that it is associated with capturing the ephemeral, often taking the scientific endeavours of the Enlightenment period as inspiration.

She has been awarded the Royal Scottish Academy Kinross Scholarship to Florence, the Andrew Grant Bursary, and the Archives and Records Association International Conference Bursary. Recent exhibitions have included Topographies, a solo show at Jane Newbery Gallery, London, and a group exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh.

Artist Website | Conservation Website

Garner carried out research in the towns of Foligno and Fabriano, where the first printing presses and paper makers of Italy originated. In Foligno the first printed edition of Dante Alighieri’s ‘Divine Comedy’ was made in 1472.

Joschi Herczeg & JocJonJosch

Residency, 2010 | Performance, 2012 | Exhibition, 2013 – 2014

Joschi Herczeg, who is part of the JocJonJosch collective, joined us in Spoleto to research Sol LeWitt and Anna Mahler as well as pursue his own interests in photography.

JocJonJosch is comprised of Joc Marchington, Jonathan Brantschen and Joschi Herczeg. The collective is based in both London and Switzerland. Their collaborative practice explores issues related to the body, transience, memory and narrative, as well as complexities inherent to collective decision-making. They have exhibited and performed extensively across Europe since 2008. In London they have worked at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Photographers Gallery, and at the Saatchi Gallery.

Artist Website


During his residency Herczeg and curator Guy Robertson produced a JocJonJosch exhibition titled The Beasts for the temporary Anna Mahler Project Space in Spoleto.

‘The Beasts’, 9 – 31 October, 2010, Anna Mahler Project Space, Piazza Mercato, Spoleto: The first exhibition in the temporary project space. ‘The Beasts’ series shows JocJonJosch entwined in a series of monstrous embraces. Each mutated beast that is born from the swallowed individuals is central to their investigation of collaboration.

Installation photographs of ‘The Beasts’ by JocJonJosch in the Piazza Mercato, Spoleto.

Herczeg also photographed a number of previously undocumented Anna Mahler and Sol LeWitt works

In 2012 we supported a major performance piece by JocJonJosch called Existere

Working with over seventy volunteers JocJonJosch created a performance sculpture: a ‘shelter’ made of naked human bodies. The ‘shelter’ was held in an endured brace, before being dismantled and then reforming. It took place on three separate occasions in July 2011 at Tesbed 1, the architect Will Alsop’s project space in Battersea.

An edited version of a conversation about ‘Existere’, held between Rye Holmboe, David Gothard and Jo Melvin at the ICA, was published by The White Review.

The White Review, JocJonJosch ‘Existere’

Then in 2013 we helped JocJonJosch build Worstward Ho! a performance sculpture

The work forms part of their series Investigations into Collaboration. It takes the form of a round boat with three oars, symbolic of the collective’s dynamic, in which Joschi, Jonathan and Joc wrestle towards a destination.

Worstward Ho! was put in water for the first time as part of the Art Licks Weekend 2013, on the river Lea in Hackney Wick, London. It was then exhibited at Bosse & Baum in Bloomsbury, London, before being displayed in Sion, Switzerland, as part of the collective’s retrospective Hand in Foot at the Musée d’art du Valais.

Luca Bolognesi

Residency, 2010

During his residency Luca Bolognesi made an installation of his film An Island in the Anna Mahler Project Space, Spoleto.

Born 1978 in Ferrara, Italy, Bolognesi received a BFA degree from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan and a MFA degree from The Slade School of Fine Arts, University College London. His works, which include mixed media installations, performance, static and moving images, literary essays and sound, have been shown at the 10th Istanbul Biennial, the 37th Film Festival Rotterdam, the 5th Prague Biennale, The Haus für elektronische Künste in Basel and numerous other national and international museums and venues. In 2009 he was selected for the XV Superiour Course of the Ratti Foundation in Como with visiting professor Walid Raad and in 2010 he has been awarded the “Lo Schermo dell’ Arte Film Festival Award”. 


With his film installation An Island (2010) Bolognesi was the second artist to transform the temporary Anna Mahler Project Space. Bolognesi’s attention to detail ensured that the entire space was included in the experience of the work. He was helped by Leonardo Scaramucci, son of Fausto who had worked with Sol LeWitt on his Complex Forms structures, and also an expert carpenter.

Exhibition text: “The video documents a small uninhabited island.The peculiarity of this place is that seagulls have chosen a depression in its interior as the place to die.This area which is mainly constituted by layers of decaying carcasses is periodically clothed by feathers. Once a year it turns into a lake.The video was shot over one year, from May 2009 to April 2010”, Luca Bolognesi.

Rob Sherwood

Residency, 2010 | Exhibition, 2012

During his residency Rob Sherwood made new work in a studio at the heart of Spoleto with shop windows facing the Piazza Mercato.

Sherwood’s studio then became the Anna Mahler Project Space, open to an inquisitive public and thereby developing the residency programme’s policy of engaging with local audiences. The paintings went into exhibition at the Palazzo Collicola Arti Visive (installation photographs above) Spoleto’s gallery of modern art.

Rob Sherwood is a painter based in London. He graduated from Chelsea College of Art in 2008. He Has exhibited internationally since then including solo exhibitions in London and Italy with the galleries he is represented by which are respectively; Hannah Barry Gallery and Federica Schiavo Gallery.

Artist Website | Hannah Barry | Federica Schiavo

In 2013 we supported an exhibition by Rob Sherwood called The Warp and The Weft at Son Gallery.

The installation involved painting, paper making, sound, video and photography: A cycle of works which aimed to create unexpected, sensory experiences out of seemingly systematic processes.

28 September – 3 November, 2012
Son Gallery, London

Read the publication here, with texts by Hannah Barry, Rye Holmboe, Paddy Langley and Guy Robertson.

Tommaso Faraci

Exhibitions & Events, 2010 – 2014

Spoleto based artist Tommaso Faraci has provided invaluable advice and assistance to the Association since 2010 when he had an exhibition in the Anna Mahler Project Space.

Born Spoleto, Italy 1985, Faraci studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts Pietro Vannucci in Perugia. His abstract paintings aim to be testimonies to spontaneous moments; to evoke an atmosphere, remembered or imagined, from specific times and places. He lives and works in Spoleto. He has regularly supported or collaborated with the Anna Mahler Association’s visitings artists. He has exhibited widely in Italy and participated in the Biennale di Venezia Padiglione Italia: Umbria – ‘La Biennale di Venezia a Palazzo Collicola’, Spoleto, Italy.

Above: Tommaso Faraci ‘Luoghi Primi’ installation photographs. Anna Mahler Project Space, 6 – 12 November 2010.

Artist Website

Umbrian art historian Cecilia Metelli wrote a catalogue text for Faraci’s exhibition:

Tommaso Faraci, ‘Luoghi Primi’

It is with some amazement that I discover a reference to the “Very first place” amongst the verses that make up the XXIX canto of Dante’s Inferno. “First” here stands for “the very first place” and refers to the image that strikes the poet intent on speaking with “his duke”, at the very moment when he climbs on the bridge, the “cliff”, when the tenth pit is revealed. It is not distinguishable because it dissolves in the shadows. There is nothing infernal nor of Dante in the paintings of Faraci. Apparently not, at least.

The choice of the artist is indicated by the title given to the series, “Luoghi primi.” Beginning in 2007, he began a series of paintings and etchings born from other assumptions. As the artist has confirmed, he is drawn to the boundless gift of ideas and unexplained knowledge in the writings of Elemire Zolla (1926-2002), influencing the artist to take up the following definition: “Luoghi primi” are unity and entity in origin in which is recognised a certain capacity, not only to contain a portion of existence but also to generate life.

It is from here that Faraci’s search takes life, or at least wants to arrive; it is a search that cuts across the painting’s attempt to bring back to the light however much is hidden in the profun- dity of that “place”: the distance between the geography of the soul and the topography of “real” landscape returns to zero. The challenge is not wasted on the “here and now” but is in the postponement itself, the putting off, where memory becomes the source of the very energy that makes action possible. The action leads into the waiting that unravels from one version or contract, to the next. At the least, this is indispensable for the full drying of the paint. This process in itself generates new adjourn- ments, often heralding surprise. In the meantime colour can evaporate and the flow of consciousness can become a void.

For the artist distance can become a key word, as can suspen- sion. “Distance” is achieved thanks to cunning techniques like the use of frames which would be an interruption and imposi- tion if our concern were for the isolated phenomenon itself. It is in contrast to the position of the artist who holds the exclusive perspective of repeated immersions into the experience of cer- tain places.To the observer, it offers generously the fruits of his own binding experience, now deposited firmly on the superficial- ity of the canvas. The result of such an undertaking is expressed across and beyond the untouchable nature of his landscapes, in which a state of light or darkness is given with the use of very fine sand, of vanishing forms, playing with distance or evaporat- ing into improvised flashes. By contrast, shafts of light and forms cut and tear the space creating a monotype spectrum with echoing strokes, slicing the highest architectural structures, all in hyperbolic visions from beneath.

“Suspension”, the second key word, is associated with images of unspecific and uninhabited horizons along the length of which there are relentless procedures of osmosis between land and sky, high and low, inner and outer.

The prototype of the series can be identified in the oil on can- vas, “Iperborea” (2007), a name which takes us back to the mythical land of idealised beauty and happiness described by the Greeks. As a prototype it is a composed module that reoc- curs in the works which follow. It is a module which in its mark- making acquires a strong clarity of drawing of outline imposed by the technique itself which becomes more deliberate and cutting. “Iperborea” (Hyperborea) connects ideally and visually recognisably to Dante’s description quoted at the beginning of this piece, becoming a symbolic place between two extremes, the Infernal and that of Paradise.
This is not the place to analyse the complex relationship which links Faraci to the genre that is landscape; however it is sufficient only to mention a watercolour painted by Albrecht Durer in 1525 (Dream Vision, Kunsthistorisches Museum,Vienna) during his journey through Italy. It becomes the point of reference pointing to the enterprising journey of the artist.

Cecilia Metelli (October 2010)

Cecilia Metelli graduated from the University of Rome in History of Art, after specialising in the history of contemporary art at the University of Siena. In 2008 she received her doctorate. She is currently researching seventeenth and eighteenth century painting in Umbria.

In 2013 Faraci exhibited two new book works in a series of exhibitions held during the August/September residency programme.

The same year he worked with artist in residence Florence Judd, helping her develop two new sculptures.

Francesco Marcolini

Exhibitions, 2010 and 2013

Since his exhibition in the Anna Mahler Project Space in 2010 the Spoleto based artist Francesco Marcolini has been an invaluable source of advice and company for visiting artists.

Born Spoleto, Italy 1987, Marcolini studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts Pietro Vannucci in Perugia. He spent time studying in Poland at the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts, Kraków, under the Euopean Erasmus Programme before specialising in Net Art and Digital Cultures at the Academy of Fine Arts Carrara. His practice incorporates a variety of materials and often addresses human interaction with technology or the meeting of organic and inorganic matter. He currently lives and works in Spoleto.

Recent exhibitions include Anna Mahler Association Exhibitions & Events, Spoleto, Italy, 2013; 12° FME – Festival de musique émergente, Rouyn-Noranda, Canada. 2013; and Viaggiatori sulla Flaminia 8a Edizione: Arcadia: mente_corpo & paesaggio, Spoleto, 2013, curated by Emanuele De Donno, Giuliano Macchia and Franco Troiani. In 2011 he participated in the Biennale di Venezia Padiglione Italia: Umbria – ‘La Biennale di Venezia a Palazzo Collicola’, Spoleto, Italy.

Artist Website

The residency programme curator Guy Robertson wrote a catalogue text for the exhibition:

The rolls of 35mm film that Francesco Marcolini took from the outset of a journey to Cracow made from Spoleto, via Perugia and Danzig, make up a highly personal travel diary, expressing something of the emotional intensity of discovering a new culture alone, and the way these experiences are reflected in our lives at home.

After visiting Poland, Marcolini returned to his home town Spoleto, in Italy, and found that his most treasured public sculpture, Nino Franchina’s monumental tower from Carendente’s famous 1962 exhibition, had been removed. The only trace he found were its foundations and, as illustrated in one of the three framed photographs in the exhibition at the Anna Mahler Project Space, these drew a black iron pentacle on the street outside the Palazzo Collicola Arti Visive where it had been installed. Confronting the power of the photograph to record and remind, Marcolini, in a defiant gesture, scratched and defiled the Franchina pentacle negative before feeling at peace to develop it. This action shows a coming to terms with feelings of loss and memory as articulated through photography.

Other photographs in the series also show signs of damage done to the negatives, Marcolini is unconventional in his attitude: normally negatives are kept sacred, but here they are treated with contempt: the artists way of rebutting the personal views that they afford into his experiences. This attitude is further conveyed by the way in which Marcolini has chosen to display the negatives dangling from a string nailed into the wall.

A common theme amongst the images is the desire and struggle to identify oneself with location: we see reflections (in puddles and mirrors), nervous side-long views through window panes (peering in and out). We see photographs taken from the cover of buildings or trees and others taken from a safe distance. Marcolini’s answer to the struggle to find an identity within his journey is to lend a certain iconic beauty to his subjects: a garbage bag, a floating apple core, a broken mirror – these become the anchors giving a sense of meaning to new experiences. Similarly the artist’s method of displaying the photographs, laid out in a cloud anchored by architectural points placing photographs from Italy alongside others from Poland, illustrates his wish to fix foreign experiences in the context of those formed at home, and vice versa.

Marcolini works also as a sculptor. Indeed he has just begun a course at the Accademia Carrara, and this occupation is illustrated not only in his method of displaying photographs but also in the way he treats the negatives as objects, manipulating them materially, and sometimes developing photographs with the perforated tracking left visible. Elsewhere he playfully puts a finger in front of the left hand side of the lens to effect an ideal perspective with a building on the right hand side of the frame. Remarking on his use of photography Marcolini tells me that when he is in the darkroom he sees the tonality of a black and white photograph as a sculptural quality: he compares it to the white Sol LeWitt Complex Form he exhibited alongside in the Castello Pissignano, in an exhibition curated by Ann Metelli in September, and the shadows that the sculpture threw, in contrast, in the changing light.

Revisiting the photographs for this exhibition, most of which were taken over a year ago but which have never been exhibited previously, Marcolini has found new resonances in his documentation. Its display producing a meditation on memory and an exploration of the way these memories are given physicality in photography. Another framed photograph from the exhibition, of a deserted street in Danzig, has three soft gashes made on the negative, running across the sky like unidentified flying ob- jects: by its manipulation, this photograph of loneliness is delicately lent a sense of life and activity.

Guy Robertson (London, 2010)

For the end of residency event programme in 2013 Marcolini displayed a new sound work called Rattle Clips.

Rattle Clips is a musical instrument capable of emitting sounds through vibrations emitted by galvanized, hand-made clips.

Sam Belinfante

Residency, 2010

As a result of his residency Sam Belinfante, an artist working predominantly with sound, made a film relating to music and Umbria in association with the Teatro Lirico Sperimentale, an internationally respected summer school for opera singers.

The project involved collaborations with Umbrian cultural groups from folk musicians to a young Spoleto composer and organist. The film, Many Chambers, Many Mouths, was premiered as part of Pieces of Eight at Project Space Leeds, England, in 2012.

Right: Still from Many Chambers, Many Mouths, 2012, 24 mins, digital video”

Artist Website | Teatro Lirico Sperimentale

Born Bristol, England 1983, Belinfante works in London and is a graduate of the University of Leeds (BA) and the Slade School of Fine Art (MA). Along with filmmaking and photographic work, his practice includes curation, sound and performance.

He is represented by Southard Reid, London. Recent exhibitions include the curating of and participation in The Voice and The Lens, IKON Gallery, Birmingham; Slow Boat in collaboration with Benedict Drew, Chisenhale Gallery, London; IKON, Corpus Sonus performance at V22, London and Turner Contemporary, Margate; The Blue Bird performance at Barbican, London, all 2012. He has collaborated with or exhibited at a variety of major art centres including Hayward Gallery, London; Tate britain, London; and the Wysing Art Centre, Cambridge.

Southard Reid Gallery

Daniel Kwiatkowski

Residency, 2010

Daniel Kwiatkowski is a writer based in the US. Daniel has benefited from the tutoring of the artistic advisor to the Anna Mahler Association, David Gothard.

Born on Lake Huron in Northern Michigan, USA 1982, Kwiatkowski graduated from Hope College in West Michigan with a degree in Theatre performance. Since moving to New York in 2005 Daniel has been a founding member of Semi-theatre Company as a writer and performer. He was an Artist in Residence with Mabou Mines and has been mentored by the late Ruth Maleczech where his first written work THIRST was performed. This past April his play BED received a successful reading/workshop with Royal Family Productions. He is also a founding member of the Alt Folk group The Hollows where he is a contributing song writer and banjo and guitarist. He wrote and directed their first music video Poor Eyes and this spring they will head back to the studio for their third full length album.

The Hollows

The Carpenter, by Daniel Kwiatowski

I used to take  the  blade of my knife and run it across  the  calluses on my hand. It always made me smile to see  the  skin dull  the  metal. At least I thought it did. Might have been my imagination but I took pride in my thick hands. I used to love  the  way dirt and oil got trapped in all  the  tiny cracks. A pair of hands that look like  the  face of a hundred year old man. At least that‘s what I remember.

And it doesn‘t matter how careful you are either. Something always jumps up and bites you. A nail or maybe a stray splinter makes it’s way in. You start to bleed but  the  blood’s so dark. It isn’t even red. And my fingers are filthy but I still suck  the  blood right off them. And with my fingers right under my nose I can smell it. My hands are shaking right now just thinking about it.  The  reason I was born. The  stuff I was made of. Sawdust.

See  the  strange thing about sawdust is that it gets in your mouth and it just… stays. It’s like sand that way. Doesn’t want to go. It holds onto you and you can spit and curse all you want but at  the  end of  the  day when you’re lying in bed, you’ll still be trying to pluck it out of your mouth. But see that’s not  the  strangest thing. That’s just one of  the  reasons why I love it. No, see what always truck me as funny is  the  way that sawdust has no taste. Nothing. I bet some people would argue with me about that one, but I’m betting there isn’t a single one of them son’s a bitches who’s felt like they’re carrying two twenty pound bags of sawdust in their lungs. Something so light making you feel so heavy. I used to feel like I was carrying two tons and now I feel light as a feather. I miss it. Not  the  taste. And why? It’s  the  only thing in  the  world you can smell but you can’t taste. You might be tasting something else,  the  dirt,  the  glue, maybe even the  sea, but it’s not  the  sawdust. Trust me my tongue works fine. People say you can’t have one without  the  other. Taste and smell. Well, stranger things have happened.

Stranger things like what? What do I remember? I remember what I can‘t forget. Finding somebody who loves  the  smell as much as you do. Someone who’s not afraid of  the  way  the  body smells. You spend your whole god damn life washing away  the  smell of what you do. You work so god damn hard and then you watch it spin down  the  drain. You drown it because you have to stay clean. It’s like writing a book your whole life and every time you finish a page you dip it in white paint. I did it. Id’ come home covered head to toe in my work. I used to sit in my chair. I used to stare at my hands until it got dark, amazed at what they were capable of doing.  The  moon would come out and suddenly I’d be scrubbing it all away. Of course when you do something long enough there are always traces of it, shadows, ghosts, that kind of thing. But we’ve been taught. You have to stay clean! As if we should be ashamed that our bodies get hard or even a little jagged or maybe a little dull, depending on who you are and before you know it, you’re in  the  ground covered in mud.

Talk about things being funny.

What was I talking about? Right. Of course.  The  smell. She loved  the  way I smelled. I didn’t know her but  the  second we were twenty feet from each other I could tell. Her nose lifted slightly in  the  air. She caught  the  breeze that had just ran through me. I hadn’t had a wash yet. There was plenty of light. It looked like I had been in  the  sun all day but that was just  the  sawdust, clinging to me, making another layer of skin.  
She comes over. She stands in front of me and we just blink at each other. Every time I blink she’s closer and closer. Every time she inhales through her nose her blinking becomes more and more like sighing. We can feel  the  heat from each other and she stops blinking. She puts her finger in her mouth and then places her finger on my chest. She traces a line across my chest and then slowly draws a circle around my heart. She smiles when she sees my pale skin underneath and then she closes her eyes and puts her finger back in her mouth. She whispers. She says she’s never tasted anything so good and true in her whole life.

Well I just about fell over when that happened. She could taste it. She could taste what I do, she could taste who I was and she loved it. I wanted to taste what I tasted like in her mouth. So we walked. Just started walking towards  the  woods. We wanted each other in the  shade.  The  walk and  the  sun made us both begin to sweat.  The  dust on my face became mud and began to carve lines down my face. I imagined her licking me clean. I wanted to drink her spit. We were so close to a wall of trees but we couldn’t wait any longer. Everything she tasted was now running down my throat, making  the  tips of my fingers tingle. I kissed her on  the  forehead and all I could taste was her salt.

What happened after that is like a dream but sometimes things happen because there’s just no other way that they could happen. Like we were a pair of trees begging for water,  the  sky opened up. It started with a single drop that fell on  the  tip of her nose and that was the  only warning we had. We hadn’t noticed  the  sky and now it was falling.

Now, in my opinion, there is only one way that one should ever be washed clean and that’s getting caught in  the  rain. That’s God or somebody saying it’s time. Because then your work, your life, it isn’t running in circles, spinning down  the  drain, drowning in a pipe. It’s part of a river that’s running on  the  land, not under it. You return what you took and it couldn’t be more natural. Doesn’t happen nearly enough. People don’t think like that anymore. But  the  rain. Yes  the  rain. We were caught in it. Mother Earth was weeping tears of joy for Adam and Eve.

The  funny thing is she was born in  the  city. Left it for reasons she‘d rather forget. She was a singer and she played an old guitar. She sang lovely sad songs that she had learned from her father. She learned how to sing in  the  church and was then born again on  the  road. She said she’d been all over  the  country. Singing about all  the  beautiful sadness in  the  world. Like she’d been plucked out of some dust bowl town about eighty years ago. She played music west of  the  Mississippi but it was north and south. That’s what it sounded like if that makes any sense. She was like me. Not made for this world, born too late, wishing it was before all this goddamn madness. A simpler time. Too late. Where was I? Right.  The  rain.  The  sky. I Can’t forget  the  sky.  The  things it does when two sad souls come together.  The  colors you see.

I remember everything turning green. It was like being a kid again, like hiding under an old blanket. I imagined I was sitting in a tree, inthe  middle of summer, when  the  sun is in  the  west, in  the  late afternoon and it sets  the  leaves on fire. Everything just starts glowing green. It’s  the  same color when you know  the  sky is about to open up, when it’s really going to rain. Everything seems darker though because  the  rain‘s so hungry for  the  light. When everything goes green you can either be afraid of it or make love in it.  
She said that she was drunk off  the  way I smelled. I ran my hand across her thigh, underneath her simple country dress.  The  wild flowers on her dress seemed to be swaying in  the  wind.  The  tips of my fingers snagged her stockings and cut them to shreds. I apologized for my rough hands and she took them in her own and kissed  the  tips of each finger. When she finished I did  the  same for her. They were so soft. I’d never felt hands so soft. Only  the  very tips were callused but even her calluses were smooth. Years of skin being polished by  the  metal strings.

She said she wanted my hands inside her. I hesitated. I was afraid. I thought I’d tear her up inside but  the  rain never stopped and she carried my fears away when she took my hand again. My rough fingers were on fire now and she was burning away all  the  sharp edges. She told my hands what to do and they listened closely. And  the  rain just kept coming and before too long we were washed clean. We were two pale ghosts in  the  rain. We slid down each other, onto  the  ground and then before too long we were covered head to toe with black mud. So much for staying clean. We made love right there in an open field.  The  only things watching us were  the  trees on  the edge of  the  field.  The  sacred forest swaying back and forth in  the  rain as if it were nodding its’ head in approval. It wasn‘t afraid.. There was no fear that a lineage of axe bearers might be  the  next thing to follow. There is a reverence that no longer exists but I felt it that night. I could feel  the  ground giving way, like I was pressing us both into a quiet grave. Her hands were digging into my shoulders and me wishing, wanting her to tear me apart with those soft hands. All  the  while  the  rain did it’s best but couldn’t rinse away  the  smell of sawdust. If anything, it only made it hang heavier in  the  air.

We refused to stop until  the  rain stopped. Who could last longer?  The  rain or us? Proud to say that  the  rain had nothing on us and now the  sun was gone. We couldn’t see each other. Our bodies were covered in mud and we looked like two small lumps of land. We were shaking, so we just held each other. We became a big dark stone heaving and sighing in  the  night. She’d smile and I’d see  the  white of her teeth. I Smelled her breath and thought I could choke to death on it and that might be heaven itself. I asked her to sing a song for me and she said not until I sung one first. I told her I could build her a house but I wasn’t much of a singer. Though, I used to sing in the  church too, with my mama and people said I had a heavenly voice. I was pretty young. I always made my mama so proud but she’d never let me forget we were singing for God. That’s who we were singing for. She’d remind me that Jesus was a  carpenter  and I’d always say he couldn’t have been that good at it if he became a fisherman instead.

I told her this as  the  mud slowly began to dry on our bodies. She wrapped her legs around my waist. I think we must have rolled about a hundred yards from our clothes. We weren’t too worried about it. I felt like I‘d just woken up. I felt careless and connected. Her flesh moved in and out as my fingers pressed it. My hands were so used to  the  cold, stiff beauty of wood. Her body was still but it never stopped moving and it was so warm. As it grew even darker  the  sound of crickets and frogs grew louder and louder. She said in a strange way it reminded her of  the  city. Having never been, I couldn’t quite understand but when I think about it now it makes sense. The  whole world’s just white noise anyways. It doesn’t matter if it’s a field of crickets or a mess of  yellow cabs. Eventually  the  sound swallows everything up until you forget about it or notice it for  the  first time.

I asked her again to sing me a song and again she tells me that she won’t sing me anything until I sing her something. I tell her I’ll build her a beautiful little bird house and then  the  birds can sing to her all day long. I’ll build her a whole town of bird houses. Every morning she’ll wake up and hear  the  sweetest song imaginable. She just stares at me through  the  darkness. She takes my hands again and she kisses  the  tip of every finger and tells me she can taste what my hands are capable of doing but she wants to hear my song. She said the  thought of anyone building her a town made her sad. I could tell she wasn’t looking for anything I could build her. My fingers started to feel stiff. I wanted to saw them off. She asked me again if I would sing for her.

I clenched my hands and they became two stones unable to hold  the  body next to me. I was angry. I was scared. I could feel my teeth putting pressure on my tongue. I thought I might bite it off . I was becoming rigid again. I tried to unclench my hands. I felt a finger snag on her skin. I pulled my hand away. I was building a wall between us and I didn’t even know who she was. I turned my head away from her to see if I could locate a tiny mound that would most likely be our clothes. I couldn’t find it so I looked up hoping to see  the  stars but  the  clouds were hiding them. I was just about to sit up, let go of her, when a small miracle flickered in front of us.

I believe he was watching us. He was waiting for  the  right moment. I needed  the  stars and so he flew in to take their place. He was my shooting star. This single firefly hovered just above our faces. His pulsating glow imitated  the  green of  the  storm and it was in everyway just as powerful. He made  the  whites of our eyes glow green. We had to smile, so then our teeth were green. I put my hands back on her body, still warm, my fingers started to melt. I noticed how her breathing moved in and out with  the  glow of  the  fire fly, like they were breathing for each other. I told her a story about fireflies. When I was very young my brothers and me caught dozens of fireflies and put them in a mason jar. Later that night when we were in our room, getting ready for bed, we unscrewed  the  lid and let them loose.  The whole room began to glow green. Our father walked in and was furious. He made us catch every last one. I told her how we used to squish  the  fireflies and smear  the  glowing blood on our faces like war paint.

Our little friend began to rise further and further into  the  air until we were in  the  dark again. I could hear  the  wind making  the  leaves sound like running water. She ran her fingers through my muddy hair and said I didn’t have to sing if I didn’t want to. I took a deep breath of air. I could smell  the  sawdust on her breath. I don’t know where  the  words came from but I started singing something. I remember.

I’ll build a roof and place it right above your head

I’ll build a roof and place it right above your head.

If  the  rain falls on your bed then you can see me dead

I’ll build a…..