A conversation between Hannah Heilmann, Davide Savorani and Michelangelo Miccolis. Galveston, Texas, April 2013.
Hannah Heilmann: …You know it would be wonderful to make a book, with the beads coming out of your butt. Or the banana walk, or the banana wall. To make a framing, rather than try to fit the entire project into the book.
Davide Savorani: Yes, a book about me following Michelangelo as-the-banana, walking around Galveston, that could work.
Michelangelo Miccolis: But how does the walking banana relate to the banana peel alphabet on the wall?
H: Maybe it begins with the Banana Days. The other day I asked you, Davide, about a quote, which hung among a bunch of similarly dried up banana peels on the wall in your studio in Copenhagen – it said, ‘Banana days are over’. But now, as then, is it not like the banana days have only just begun? When you proceeded to Galveston the banana peels appeared on your wall again, almost as if they had been following you, this ancient alphabet. In any case, your answer to my question was that the ‘Banana Days are the Past’.
D: Yes, death is written in the banana peels. They are the ancestors, ghosts, or they are not even ghosts, they are shells, but without the mollusk, they are generally regarded as waste and fertilizer. But at the same time the peels are containers without content, and drying into strange shapes they turn into content themselves.
H: And so the question is: What does it mean then when Michelangelo gets in the banana suit, how does that relate to these ancestors?
D: In a way he is a successor. Like a whole new generation of the bananas, but coming from the same roots.
M: In a sort of cyclical rhythm?
D: You could say that the banana obviously came first. It became food for men, and because of that it became a trade, and with the banana trade, it became a symbol, and so eventually turned into a costume. Surreally the costume is looking at its ancestors. So the dried banana peels are not just about the bananas, they could be just a physical metaphor, as is the costume. In a way it is I, looking at the bones of primitive men.
H: Like a continuity of stuff taking on new meanings. Every day we climb into bed like little children trying to take care of themselves, but we always wake up like teenagers… It is a way of describing the act of looking at history, the feeling of being connected, but on a totally different planet. How you are appropriating the folklore, geography and historical signifiers from Galveston in the project, which you leave very open to speak for themselves – like that broken painting of a house with the house all peeled off, which was the only surviving item from the hurricane Ike in the Galveston Residency studios. It lost its face, and spectators will need to project a new one onto it themselves.
D: I think there is this instinct when we face something that seems incomplete and does not satisfy our need for an answer; as if we are asked to fill a void, or find a solid stone that would let us climb the wall. Can we not enjoy the fact of being lost sometimes? When visitors come into my studio they usually have interesting reactions about the banana wall, as if it were a riddle to solve. Now I think that these voices, these conversations, should make their way into the work, as if the wall could not exist without the one who is staring at it. A wall, a choir and a warm light.
M: Warm yellow banana-colored light…
H: It goes back to all these other stories. The banana peels on the wall take on the appearance of mysterious symbols, shapes that do not reveal a content only known to the bananas themselves. Then you realize they also have this indexical quality – they are traces and witnesses to Davide’s days in the studio. But as you said Davide, when people enter the studio, they often react to it more as icons than symbols: ‘This is a giraffe, that’s the letter A – oh, and this one looks like a bridge’. Or it brings associations, because the banana is a charged fruit, it carries many associations. It is a silly fruit and a sexy fruit. Someone from Galveston saw the wall and thought of the American Banana Trade War. Also, if you care to look up the etymology of the banana, it reveals itself as being connected with the word ‘muse’.
D: After all it is a project about language. You see, sometimes you end up wondering and wandering for a long time, but it has been about language since the beginning. It is about translation and the parts that you miss, lose and transform during translation. It is about transmission, how the source gets altered during its journey. The ghosts are also there, in both what is missing and what is altered.
M: I guess you could say the same about the banana walk itself, since you gave me a frame of action and a not too specific set of instructions. As a second agent in your work, I often end up activating a parallel production that is generated by what you delegate to me. Eventually, what usually happens is that I break free from you, at least during the action itself. Only in a later stage do you regain control over what has happened, but during the walk itself, for example, you really placed yourself outside of your work, you were following the banana, ‘your’ banana, without knowing where it would go or what it would do next…
D: Is the project itself escaping a closure?
H: I hope so! You could say that on one hand the objects, sentences, videos and performances that you have produced while in Galveston clearly reflect the local folklore. There are seagulls, oyster shells, palm leaves, pearls, disposable coffee cups and abandoned barracks galore. Not to mention the strange coincidence of the banana man who is in fact a local mascot for the hiking club, Walter Walker, which you did not know about when you came to Galveston. These references are presented in a flat hierarchy of sorts, which does not ascribe more meaning to one thing over another, and which seems to leave everything open in a random yet strangely meaningful chain of occurrences. In many ways your project occurs to me to be a by-product of life on the internet, just as much as a view of Galveston. Arriving at this place, roots dangling all lonely behind you, you formed this rambling mythology, trying to cope in a number of deliberate yet delightfully powerless gestures. The studio works as your browser window, which you are bringing Galveston into, moving around objects, adding a google search, closing down another and linking it up with this compulsive need to broadcast, to speak and to pose questions – in your case, signifying a longing for answers?
D: I am not really longing for answers… It is more about the donkey and the carrot… Sometimes answers happen, like the other day when visitors were looking at the pictures from the walk and everybody was giving us stories and anecdotes about the places that appear in them. ‘Oh, here is the fence of the community garden! It is so important that you put it in the book!’, and then we heard the story of the woman beyond that project, and so on… Suddenly something that seems anonymous and peripheral turns into a monument and opens another layer.