08 Aug A TRIP TO FANTACITY. THE ART OF BEING HAPPY
By Fortunato D’Amico
The journey toward FantaCity begins in Rome. You must have your papers in order and keep your passe-partout close if you want to enter through the Magic Door to begin the pilgrimage which, from the Esquiline hill, will take us to wondrous places where, to cite a song from the Seventies, ‘love and fancy become one’. Our Roman holiday bills itself as an unending walk through the ruins of the past and the marvels of the future; accompanied by the perspectives of panoramic backdrops, fractal elements mirroring multidimensional universes from the personal to the planetary, we will come to know the most impervious – and the most comforting – regions touched by the ‘trip’ promised by Andrea Felice – and a new human model for a character born in a comic, that behaves like a comic. Because this story has strange, mysterious roots, little known to the jangling, invasive mass communication media even though our narrative uses and abuses those media and builds on them perverse mechanisms which, when all is said and done, also free potent energies that radiate states of wellness difficult to attain if not via mediation by a symbolic and representative language predisposed to turn our thoughts and actions toward something that goes beyond the everyday. A return ticket ‘from and for Rome’ that crosses the subtle boundaries among all the universes that separate reality from magic. Certainly, our fear of facing the unknown, of seeing, touching, hearing things undreamt of, spirals and nests within us; but the sensation is transitory. Accompanied by our guide, we will circumnavigate the unplumbable to reach salvation. Two thousand years ago, Emperor Hadrian had already thought to treat his guests – who arrived in Rome from all the far-flung provinces of the Empire – to an experience akin to that of FantaCity. In Tivoli, he built a corner of the terrestrial and celestial cosmos, a concentrate of all the then-possible ‘visions’ of the ‘trips’ that could be taken on the paths of his era.
Rome holds the password, the keys of Peter and Paul – ambivalent founders of Christianity – but also the keys misplaced by Massimiliano Palombara, Marchese of Pietraforte, alchemist of Rosicrucian leanings who alongside the Trofei di Mario built his Villa Palombara of which there now remain but traces variously known as the Magic Door, the Alchemical Door, the ‘Gate of Heaven’. Paths of the sacred and the profane, both to be taken, dancing lightly on a funabulist’s wire and with the grace of a ballerina over the stories of yesterday and the near future.
On entering Rome, therefore, the foreigner could have gone to the sites built for just this experience and passed magically through the symbolic gates set up against the city walls to find himself in other places of which he may have had only distant knowledge.
Andrea Felice’s FantaCity shows us its affinity with those localities-sanctuaries where purification comes about as one proceeds along the path of esoteric initiation. The traveller, himself an eternal flower child, retrieves an identity lost in memory and projects himself into tomorrow and into the past, indiscriminately without a hiccup.
An incredible tour of the infinite suggestions and polyhedral face of a city that is ever different but fabulously singular, a destination for tourists, pilgrims, foreigners and strangers, dreamers, believers, architects, idealists. Roma-amoR, Caput Mundi scented with roses, location and logo of History set apart by the presence and persistence of its relics, substantialities of human thought induced by poetic subversion, gathered at this site where they receive the stigmata and their physical guise, daughters of a philosopher’s stone contracted to raise buildings, cities, territories – and act as custodians to the genius loci.
Many centuries ago, between the 600s and the 700s of the second millennium, the Grand Tour inaugurated the era of mass tourism. The final destination was always Rome, with its archaeological ruins, mementos of an Imperial past, vestiges begging recovery to reconstruct the collective memory and the horizon line on which to gingerly set down the future.
In the Roman metropolis, the demand for images and souvenirs by foreigners visiting the capital reached a fever pitch. Giambattista Piranesi catalysed the coeval spirit and the ferment that animated the modus operandi in the age of the First Industrial Revolution: his black-and-white graphics, with their abundance of ‘splendid things’ and dramatic chiaroscuros, reveal – to the most attentive observers of the mystery – the religious and sacrilegious essence that animates the DNA of the community of children of the Capitoline Wolf born on the banks of the Tiber.
A sacrilege also achieved by Andrea Felice when he decides to contaminate the views of the Roman landscape made eternal by Piranesi with characters from Disney’s imaginings.
Fragments of temporal extremes conjugated in the present tense – inspired by covers drawn and coloured by Carl Banks, showing the fictitious Duckburg of Donald Duck and friends, grafted onto decadent extracts of the ancient city – give rise to the apocalyptic settings of FantaCity.
Ancestral intuitions in a subtle limbo in which the ethereal overflows into the tangible and allows for invention of something that was not there before but which now is shared by everyone who has participated in viewing the image. Elective affinities with the immortal worlds prefigured by Hieronymus Bosch, territories of the psychological substrate, echo in Andrea Felice’s dazzling visions and project them into the dimension of portentous wonder, of sudden intuitive realisation of a destiny that announces its own imminent appearance.
The FantaCity net branches out into the tightly woven fabric of connections running along the main roads linking this fantastical site to the visionary follies of artists of the last century – first and foremost, Salvador Dalì. The Spanish artist’s surreal bizarrerie anticipates the modern bent, derived from use of mass media, for mixing scenes and images drawn from the most disparate sources and situations, anachronistically matched and absolutely incongruous when compared to the commonly-held idea of the ordinary course of things.
In his works, Andrea Felice, architect and professor of multimedia set design at the Sapienza University of Rome, manifests an inclination to experiment with techniques for creating subjects and settings marked by an excess of performative elements redundant on the stage of the iconographic representation and emblematic of a figurative conception strongly influenced by the media’s invasion of contemporary thinking.
He is a scion of the generation that grew up during the economic boom of the Sixties and Seventies, that moment in the post-war period when the U.S. exported the ideology of consumerism to Europe: the myths and the social values promoted on radio, television, cinema, magazines, comic books and with all the home appliances that were destined to constellate our habitat even prior to the great planetary crisis. Anthropic phenomena that taught young people to accept the idea of economic growth and a model of progress without end, strictly linked to the rise of modern capitalism and the multinationals. Directions in culture which, nevertheless, made possible a new condition for art that forced it to match wits with contemporaneity and to interact with it using the same technological means and their languages.
FantaCity is the recapitulation of a poetic path which, as the sections of this catalogue illustrate, winds through the world of cartoons and Edgar Allan Poe’s stories of mystery and adventure and though the narrowest door enters that of popular language and iconography, understandable to all, capable of rousing numbed sensibilities and of capturing, in collective archetypes, the sentiments with which we, in this first episode of the new millennium, are readying ourselves to cross into the future.