THE MAGICAL LANDSCAPE OF VILLA BARBARIGO’S GARDEN IS THE SET THAT INSPIRED YOUNG AND TALENTED GUITARIST RICCARDO MORANDINI FOR EDEN, HIS DEBUT EP
Text by: Chiara Guidi
On February 23, already established guitarist Riccardo Morandini released EDEN, his debut EP as a songwriter. The sequence of images that inspired Morandini’s compositions was entirely taken from the otherworldly Garden of Valsanzibio, on the Euganean hills. The garden is part of the monumental complex of Villa Barbarigo, a fulgid example of the phenomenon of the Venetian villas, which were purposefully built as testimonies of Venetian nobles’ wealth as the Serenissima began to face its naval decay. Valsanzibio Garden was conceived by Cardinal Francesco Zuane Barbarigo to thank God for having spared his family during the plague epidemic in 1630. It is, therefore, structured as an allegoric path of redemption, where the beautiful statues and fountains for which Valsanzibio Garden is known internationally serve as symbolic stages. The cathartic path terminates in front of the Sonetto steps, leading to Villa Barbarigo, where the final triplet reads “Here weeping has no place, yet laughter can be found / The lightning of the Court is not heard here / There is Hell and here is Heaven.” Valsanzibio Garden is, in fact, a locus amoenus, representing Eden; a place from which to escape the tumult of worldliness as well as the scourge of pestilence. In short, we could compare the garden to the Florentine villa where the Decameron’s storytellers took refuge during the 14th century.
The cover art of EDEN and the videoclip of “Raccolto,” one of the two singles of the EP, feature the most suggestive monument of the entire complex, the Statue of Time, which makes its phantasmagoric appearance in the center of a secluded clearing, with all the magnificent theatricality of the Baroque. The symbolic significance of the monument is priceless. In line with his traditional representation, Saturn-Chronos is represented by an old bearded man, whose figure also appears in the Hermit Tarot, which Morandini holds on the back cover. But Chronos is also an angel which, winged like the hours (“Fly with time the hours and flee the years,” reads a hendecasyllable of the sonnet engraved on the staircase of Villa Barbarigo), holds an hourglass and carries on his shoulders the heavy burden of an imposing dodecahedron. In fact, in its mad rush, time moves following the rule of 12. From months, to hours, minutes, and seconds (the 60 has in fact 12 dividers). The stillness of the statue, the nunc stans, the motionless aspect of time, is contrasted by the multiplication of the subject, obtained with a multiple exposure effect, to symbolise time as becoming, the nunc fluens. Morandini is portrayed in three positions, just like the three ages of man are marked by the three transits of Saturn in the course of human life.
What else could the fall from Eden symbolise if not the entry into temporality? By picking the fruit from the tree of knowledge, good, and evil, Eve chooses. Her decision represents the first act of free will*.
Conscience originates in the possibility of choosing and in the knowledge of good and evil, unknown to the innocence of animality. With Eve’s choice, we leave the stillness and the Edenic unity of the animal world to enter the time of man, which is instead mobile and split. The time of man is the son of the dialectic internal to his conscience, of the Heraclitean pòlemos, which is becoming, change, the flow of opposites into one another. With the fall from Eden, the first great dialectic to begin is that between life and death. The wonderful tragedy of man is the awareness of having to die, while the natural world, in his unconsciousness, is eternal. In Morandini’s record, time is a recurring theme, especially in relation to the suffering caused by the tumult of the nunc fluens, which is war, conflict, clash of opposites. Salvation is instead sought in the nunc stans, in the eternal stillness of Nature, which reveals to us how the becoming of appearances and the pain associated with it are illusory. From such awareness springs the peace that pervades man in the contemplation of the natural landscape where, relieved of the weight of time, he feels like dissolving into the perfect unity of the whole.
* A disobedient act, a Luciferian act. It is in this act that the need for evil-malum-mela is revealed, a revelation that starts the engine of existence, emerging from the undivided perfection of good which, without its opposite, is reduced to nothing.