Il folle volo (Dante, Inferno, XXVI, 125), l’alto volo (Dante, Paradiso XV, 54 e XXV, 50).
“Ladies and gentlemen. good evening. Brief communication from the captain of this flight…”
Boltanski, in this book that serves as a catalogue for the Ustica Memorial Museum, reports the words that the passengers of the tragic voyage must have heard, some more attentively, some chatting with their neighbours, just as we all do when we are on a scheduled flight.
At 8.59 p.m. on 27 June 1980, over the brief sea loch separating the Italian islands of Ponza and Ustica, 81 people died on flight IH870, which suddenly broke up and crashed into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Decades after the massacre, the dynamics of the accident are not fully clarified.
In order to tell us about this event, which still stains Italian history today, Boltanski makes lists, his artistic signature, of all the objects found. This work of cataloguing records a passage that is not only one of quantity – in the exhibition, the objects are collected but left covered by black cloths, far from prying eyes – but above all of quality: how does one maintain the memory not of illustrious biographies, but of mostly anonymous lives?
After the collective trauma of two world wars and the squinting that afflicted Italy in the 1970s, and in the context of a mass-consumption civilisation, where individual existences all resemble each other in unbridled homologation, the accumulation, seriality and listing of objects and images are transformed from an inert container into a powerful means of expression.