Fireflies in prison

The exhibition at Avignon’s former prison takes its title "The disappearance of the fireflies" from a famous Pasolini article published in 1975.

The disappearance of the fireflies, photo François Halard
A few months prior to his death, on 1 February 1975, Pier Paolo Pasolini published in the Corriere the «Firefly Article».
This now famous text, tinged with nearly testamentary introspection, echoes the letter he wrote to his friend Franco Farolfi, member of the Eredi literary group, formed when Pasolini lived in Bologna 25 years earlier: «In the early 1960s, due to atmospheric pollution and, in the countryside especially, to water pollution (azure-coloured rivers and limpid canals), the fireflies began disappearing. This was a devastating, violent phenomenon and after a few years there were no more fireflies. (Today, this amounts to a rather heartbreaking recollection: a man with such a memory of the past is incapable of recovering his youth in the contemporary young people, and therefore no longer has access to the lovely regrets of yesteryear). So, this ‘something’ that occurred a decade ago we shall refer to as ‘the disappearance of the fireflies’».
The disappearance of fireflies", Markus Schinwald, <i>Ivy</i>, 2008
"The disappearance of fireflies", Markus Schinwald, Ivy , 2008, oil on canvas, collection Enea Righi
This title has been adopted as the theme of an exhibition to be held at Avignon’s former prison – an especially meaningful title upon rereading this founding text of the social, aesthetic and political culture of 1970s Italy. By choosing fireflies as a metaphor for a bygone society, P.P. Pasolini shed light on the world like some sort of night watchman bearing the final scintillating glimmers of a lost civilization, that of a culture that throughout Europe would eventually be devoured by The Society of the Spectacle, to borrow the title of the masterwork by Guy Debord, another «night watchman» and contemporary of the author of Teorema, Mamma Roma and The Gospel According to Mathew.
"The disappearance of fireflies",
"The disappearance of fireflies", left image: Roger Ballen, Sickroom , Recluse , Animal Abstraction , 2002, b/w photos, collection Enea Righi, right: Miroslaw Balka, 200 x 100 x 200 , 2012, Plastic strips, stell staples, courtesy Galleria Raffaella Cortese. Right image: Francesco Vezzoli, Self-portrait as Antinous Loving Emperor Hadrian , 2012, two parts: Buste d’Antibon en Marbre de Carrare du 18ème siècle et buste de l’Empereur Hadrian en marbre, collection Enea Righi
The year 2014 marks a watershed for the Collection Lambert in Avignon. Indeed, so as to offer an exceptional home to the important donation made by Yvon Lambert to the French state, comprising 556 contemporary artworks, the Collection Lambert must close its doors to the public until the summer of 2015 during the site’s extension.
The museum staff decided to take advantage of this imposed closure to pursue a unique, important project combining contemporary art, retrospection and the showcasing of heritage. Thus was born «The Disappearance of the Fireflies», an ambitious project beginning in late May 2014 and housed at the Sainte-Anne Prison. An emblematic heritage site for the town of Avignon, located behind the Papal Palace, this edifice – closed a decade ago – is a rare example of a purpose-built prison dating from the end of the 18th century (rather than representing a reconverted convent, hospital or military barracks).
"The disappearance of fireflies", Avignon 2014
"The disappearance of fireflies", left: Pascale-Martine Tayou, She , 2007, Sculpture en cristal, matériels variés, socle en bois, collection Enea Righi. Right: Anna Maria Maiolino, Entrevidas (between lives) from Foto poemaçao series , 1981-2000, b/w photos

The Collection Lambert will occupy the cells, corridors and certain courtyards of the prison, to exhibit works from the prestigious private collection of Enea Righi, with the ensembles of certain artists complemented by works from other great public and private collections.

The title borrowed from the famous text published by Pasolini in 1975 in the Corriere will impregnate visitors’ entire collection tour; indeed, this exhibition is meant to be a sensorial experience in which the memory-steeped locations and their hosted artworks will come together and interact in the manner of the Italian director’s beloved fireflies. The theme of «imprisonment» will naturally be evoked, as well as «the passage of time», «solitude» and «love».

So as to maintain an intense and meaningful dialogue between the edifice and its housed oeuvres, the decision has been made to leave the Sainte-Anne Prison unaltered. Exhibited within its cell, each work of art thereby becomes a firefly, a poetic element of soft resistant light, offering spectators the possibility of experiencing a novel experimental field.
"The disappearance of fireflies", Avignon 2014
"The disappearance of fireflies". Left: Kiki Smith, Girl with Globe , 1998, installation, courtesy Galleria Raffaella Cortese; right: Douglas Gordon, Guilty…(Tatoo for reflexion) , 1997 Photographie, CNAP / Dépôt Collection Lambert

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