(In Italiano: http://valeriapierini.it)
Soundtrack: ‘Almost’, playlist on Spotify.
When I arrived in Derry, the first thing I came across was the story of Dopey Dick. I read it in a pub: a killer whale was swimming along the Foyle.
Sometimes, when I am tired I sit by the river, hoping to get a glimpse of it.
I did some research and I found old articles about a scientific research from some years ago: according to these articles Dopey Dick is alive and well. He is part of an orcas’ pod somewhere up north and, until he was identified, his name was ‘Comet’. I couldn’t help but thinking of the Bethlehem’s Comet.
One morning I went to a café, I sat outside, in the sloping road, where the Bogside begins.
I rolled a perfect cigarette but I did not have a lighter. Right in front of me there was a barber shop, a girl combed a boy outside the shop, on the other side of the street there was a pub from which you could hear ’90s music – maybe a normal day in Derry. I asked the barber for a lighter and he gave me a matchbox. It was funny, music and matchbox taking me back to the days when I was young, in a totally different place. There was a man in the pub with a bright pink mug, I hoped that he was drinking whisky.
Books and vintage
At last I made it to the bookshop near my studio.
Because of the tiny size of my travel luggage I didn’t buy the entire poetry section: old editions about D. Thomas, W. B. Yeats and all the rest… A man in the shop asked me where I came from. When I said ‘Italia’ he went: ‘I saw Pirandello’s play, I love his black humor, it’s like Beckett…and Joyce, you know Joyce?! He lived in Trieste!’ ‘Yes, I know Joyce and I visited Triste, years ago.’ While talking to me, he handed me a lot of books, I passed the offer of ‘Ireland’s Fairies’ by Yeats ‘I know this book, thanks’, but he continued: ‘Heaney! You know Heaney!’ and put his latest handsigned book in my hands. Hoping he wouldn’t notice, I put the books on the counter (the counter was so covered by books, that you couldn’t see it). The man returned three times and repeated the same story: Pirandello, the black humor, Beckett and Joyce, I tried to fold up the maps that I had found.
Oh, library stories, I suppose.
I am collecting stuff for my next project, so I went to several vintage shops and I found a lot of old photos and postcards. One of these postcards is a Millais’s draw: ‘Pears soap’. I saw the original painting, last month in Perugia, I couldn’t but buy it.
Visiting Brooke Park is like entering a muffled world with peaceful avenues and the smell of grass.
Hearing the wind ruffling the trees made me think of David Hemmings, maybe I’ll see heaps of mimes on a jeep or I’ll find a crime scene. The city feels so far away: like in Blow Up, you turn the corner and you find yourself immersed in silence.
My research is now over. In the next few days I’ll set up the exhibition. I collected stories and anecdotes about the city walls from the local community and paired them with forensic images. A succession of hand written stories materialized in the most unexpected ways: under the door, hand delivered or appearing almost by magic on my desk…
I am touched by how we can piece together (or even imagine) the history of a city through the recollections of its inhabitans. Someone wrote their story on music paper found outside their front door, someone else wrote a story in collaboration with their family, others added drawings to the text. As an artist it’s usually really exciting working with the wider community, in this case I am totally fascinated by the way the participants embraced the process of hand writing that I had hesitantely suggested.