Yuri Ancarani’s docu-film Séance on Carlo Mollino is, for the artist, a work on the artist in the general sense. It forms part of “Shit and Die”, the exhibition produced by Artissima and curated by Maurizio Cattelan with Marta Papini and Myriam Ben Salah.

Yuri Ancarani, Séance, 2014, still da video
Yuri Ancarani’s latest work, seen in the Casa-Museo Mollino, shows he is an increasingly polished filmmaker – which is what he has become now that his works possess this quality and feature in film festivals as well as the most exclusive art circles and, in this case, on television.
This documentary will be shown in conjunction with the “Shit and Die” exhibition of which it forms part – produced by Artissima and curated by Maurizio Cattelan with Marta Papini and Myriam Ben Salah – on Sky Arte HD from 4 November at 8.30 pm; it will run continuously during Artissima and feature on Sky channels 120 and 400 for the month of One Torino; it will also be available on Sky On Demand.
It is important to Ancarani that Séance is a work on the artist in the general sense, on how artists feel and why they define themselves as such. This is why he opted to show all the credits at the end, to avoid providing viewers with any distractions from his intention. Although the work is a documentary on Mollino, the famous architect is a secondary presence. However, the short film, lasting 30 minutes, is more than simply this.

Ancarani constructs a story not lacking in irony and turns the apartment into a far more fascinating place than it actually is.

With skilful lighting and excellent sound design – created by Mirco Mencacci who mixed voices of the dead and ambient sounds – and occupied by two people in flesh and blood, plus a “stone guest”, both apartment and story come to life. Some parts feature insistent shots and slow camera panning, taking on pictorial qualities that bring out the yellows, greens and reds in what can be interpreted as almost Pop or even quasi-Renaissance effects, depending on your preferred visual repertoire.

Yuri Ancarani, Séance, 2014
Yuri Ancarani, Séance, 2014. Still from video

The word sèance defines an attempt to communicate with the spirits and Ancarani tells the story of a strange séance held in the Mollino house-museum.

The “custodian” of the Mollino house-museum, Fulvio Ferrari, has recreated the apartment piece by piece and opened it to scholars in 2000. Dressed now in white and with a vaguely priestly air, he vacuums the floor, irons the white hand-monogrammed tablecloth and lays the table. Here, we see Ancarani’s irony – a séance must not be taken too seriously.

It then all starts from a very low angle beneath the dining table resting on columns to demonstrate that we really are here, in the architect’s apartment.

With the scene set, we then see a close-up of a woman’s face, a psychologist playing both herself and Mollino. She speaks to the architect’s spirit.

Yuri Ancarani, Séance, 2014
Yuri Ancarani, Séance, 2014. Still from video
Her eyes closed, the woman speaks in the masculine form which has an extremely alienating effect. Turquoise ear-rings, necklace and ring plus her voice all convey a very female image. She speaks in a low voice and with carefully chosen words but a woman speaking in the masculine form becomes a man, interpreting the artist and his point of view on art, beauty and even sentimental relationships between the two sexes. It all seems paradoxical in 2014, as if a female presence in a shrine can only be nullified. Ancarani dwells on her face.
The “custodian” wants to speak to the dead person’s spirit and refers his questions to the woman, at which point, the work takes a brief realistic turn and Ancarani is forced to record what happens. Despite the clear-cut and extremely prosaic images of the moment, we catch sight of the Turin of the occult – one of Mollino’s own obsessions – and the cult of the dead, with considerations on life and death. The answers are intense and genuine (?); the words really do seem those of Mollino and of an artist: his view on beauty and art.
Yuri Ancarani, Séance, 2014
Yuri Ancarani, Séance, 2014. Still from video

The psychologist has actually been invited to dinner; this is the excuse that drew her to the house-museum so that Ancarani could film the séance.

So, the “custodian” reappears dressed as a waiter and fills her plate with ravioli and sauce. The table is laid for two but just one plate is filled; the other is covered and remains empty: spirits don’t eat, of course!

Don Juan and his stone guest are well suited to the situation and, to some degree, to Mollino who sought out many women in real life. The torment and solitude of Mollino/Don Juan surface in the psychologist’s words as she says that only art, the oeuvre, is stable while sentimental relationships are not. Can we contradict him?

Ancarani’s film, or rather art work, ends with beautiful shots of the apartment and the incredible views from the terrace; his artistic sensitivity eliminates the dust, that old age that weighs on houses not lived in.
Yuri Ancarani, Séance, 2014
Yuri Ancarani, Séance, 2014. Still from video

Before the showing, Fulvio Ferrari, assisted by his son, explains the history and interpretation of the house, from the floors to the curtains. Carlo Mollino never lived there and Ferrari says it was the house of the “Warrior’s Rest”. Ferrari believes it is linked to Mollino’s reflections on the afterlife, inspired by Ancient Egyptian philosophy and his own passion for the occult. So, the bedroom has a single sleigh-bed, blue carpet and butterflies. Every detail is explored and linked to this ancient concept of the afterlife.

But, how can we forget that, the very years when Mollino was constructing this apartment – between 1960 and 1968 – witnessed the release of a film directed by Roger Vadim entitled Warrior’s Rest (1962), with Brigitte Bardot and based on an eponymous novel by Christiane Rochefort published in France in 1958. It was a part of the culture of the period and, back then, prompted a certain debate on the novel, its characters and the film. The novel narrates the difficult relationship betwen a writer – the intellectual – and a middle-class girl; it is a love story founded on sex and lack of understanding.

© all rights reserved
Yuri Ancarani, Séance, 2014
Yuri Ancarani, Séance, 2014. Still from video

Yuri Ancarani
Séance, 30min, 2014, colour, italian, video HD
With: Albania Tomassini, Fulvio Ferrari
Produced by: Dugong, Sky Arte HD
Associated producer: Antonella Rodriguez Boccanelli
Supported by: Film Commission Torino Piemonte, Fondazione Casa Museo Carlo Mollino

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