(Background and mechanics)
There are random thoughts about the random state of affairs we are embedded in that we weave in and out or into each other: the political situation of the given country we happen to live in, the ones of other places that in some way are close to us, or that we hear about from the news, and the histories that can be researched, known, heard of and read about from different sources; we can relate personal narratives to narratives of other situations that are essentially distant, but then the inherent similarity of the plots makes one wonder if there aren’t but a few different plots available and the rest is variation on the same theme.
Considerations bridging these stories are added to the daily package of thoughts, that stem from encounters with different objects, all heavy with their own baggage of significance, their own histories and the ones they allude to. The fertile humus of the thinking animal’s brain provides a moist flower-bed for associations between stories at different latitudes of distance from our bodily standing point, and the ones pertaining to the various organic internal workings that are dealt with daily, part of the quest for the highest possible standards in our social hours, or simply for maintaining homeostasis.
In this kind of routine information processing, the data is sorted according to relevance, and it happens that even the most distant story can assume a very familiar face if it strikes the right chord. Britain pours over animal documentaries to recognize the polar aspects of human behaviour and find in pack mentality, for example, a suitable mirror.
An emotionally wet scene from the bus sends a call out to the place in the brain where that article about racism in South Africa is stored. By the end of the day, or the week, or the year there are millions of these broken chains of thought that float in the ether and probably latch onto each other like carbon chains. The mastery is in devising the appropriate contraption to capture some of these chains, to thread them together and grow them into one cohesive story, to plant them deep into the flower bed so that they develop into something that can bear fruit, rather than just looking at the seeds and wondering really, where did this all come from.
If the unity and cohesiveness of the story is a myth, at least it would be nice to have a bigger picture, with our faces printed on it, to utilize the resemblance.
Unaffected by the unspoken rules of social acceptance, babies publicly stuff the world into their mouths as a way to apprehend what is out there. This approach lingers on privately into adulthood, where stories have to be phagogitated: transference is an essential skill. Understanding comes from eating a portion of information until it lodges itself into one corner of the stomach, where it can be felt properly.
One needs to watch what food one eats because there is truly a lot of it and obesity is a rising problem in first world countries. The food of the world can’t be eaten all by one single person, and there is not enough for all. A well-balanced diet, where in a single small portion many of the nutrients that are required will be absorbed: the search for the key ingredient that can be spun out into all the information that is needed.
Trash literature and poor-quality information make you fat and from there it is a vicious cycle, movement is more difficult and those ideal ingredients are stacked in the fridge, which is an abyss away from the couch. What exactly is the light shining on?
Nutritious and cheap, the key to success if you are a food that wants to be eaten. The psychology behind you is murky, because as much as the fruit’s body is nutritious, the skin is unscarred by even a graze – as if you hadn’t a past. I may know your past but you are free from it and you look forward only, and this is unfamiliar. The future of your kind relies on consumption for proliferation. What is there in your afterlife? Continuation, transformation into liquid, and the mobility of it. In effect it is difficult to move as quickly and freely in the solid state. As a liquid, through dilution you can infiltrate the whole surface of the world, be at the same time in the water tank of a city office and in the pearls of sweat of the farmer that tends to your millions of solid clones, or in my computer screen. A blissful limbic state of complete selflessness and contemplation. You have completely alien dynamics, I have to eat you to spin out a story because I think in this way and see my life, even the unlived part, as a story, while you essentially are, in the Buddhist sense, within yourself, and you have no brain. Like a jellyfish. A useful alien. Our co-dependency is stratospheric because I live off your liquidity, yet I detect traits of xenophobia within myself as I’ve learned to mistrust those, like you, who see all and don’t do anything about it. But then you are a different beast, you’re not scared of extinction even if a strain of disease comes to mow all your plantations down because essentially you recognise yourself as liquid – be it water, money, sweat, urine, condensation, syrup. Like history that we turn to to learn things, but doesn’t really write herself. To humanise anything that is amorphous requires much more imagination. To think that we are composed by the same elements but they are organised so radically differently, and your transition from one form to another is so seamless, while ours are so hard and conscious. As you must be aware of my presence, since you also grow towards the light and respond to physical constraints, the feeling is that you perceive me exactly like you, and you’re probably right.
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.