Margherita Muriti

The blood liquefied at 10 am – it will be a good year!

Some drops of myrtle
A vine leaf
2 Oz of moonstone
Add a pinch of scratched image powder
Leave it to stand in the sun for a while
Make a wish
Once it becomes soft put it on your skin

Every year, on the 19th of September, thousands of people assemble and wait for the miracle: the liquefaction of Saint Januarius’ blood, according to legend he was saved by a woman just after his death. The archbishop tilts the ampoule with the solid blood through a very precise ritual of hand gestures. If the blood turns into liquid, it will be a good year.

Touching is always a mutual action: what is touched, touches back. This work is about the empty space where two surfaces seem to mingle, the proximity between my hands and images. In Ancient Greece, it was believed that the act of seeing happened through a very thin film through which the scene reached the eye. It was this pellicula, a wafer-thin skin, that made things visible.

What’s the relationship between the act of seeing and touching? Do we touch when we cannot see? Do we touch in order to see better, to see further? Do we touch to stop seeing?

Candles were the first lights; they were used to heat as well as to keep hopes and desires alive. Used in different kinds of rituals, they have always bonded our visible, concrete and material world to invisible ones.

A ritual is a repetitive sequence of gestures which is the external manifestation of an internal belief. 

The blood liquefied at 10 am – it will be a good year! is a photography and installation work which consists of wax tablets laid out on a surface with floating heating light bulbs suspended a few centimetres above them. Every day, slowly heated, the opaque surfaces become transparent, allowing the images to appear.

Touching images, hiding and revealing them, sometimes scratching, creasing or crushing them. They are brittle images, never fully graspable.

In Byzantine culture, the defacement and disappearance of the images was not an act of defilement but a sign of devotion, a recirculation of the painted body in the body of the beholder.

The work has evolved through a study of gestures, the photographic gesture itself and the imprint process. The imprint process is similar to photography, but, unlike the latter, which creates a specular resemblance, the imprint needs contact and proximity. The image becomes a matter of surface, its materiality acts as a protection, gradually hiding and revealing it.

Wax is a prodigious and almost living material. Like organic forms, it’s malleable, it assumes the temperature and the form of my body. Once heated, this ductile material is neither solid nor liquid. Images become viscous and sticky. Unstable and fragile, just a little heat can transform them, create an oscillation between form and formlessness. One part flows, changing its shape and the other one evaporates, mixing with oxygen. The evolution, change and disappearance over a certain period of time proves its instability and relates these images to living organisms.

Margherita Muriti lives and works between France and Italy. After literary studies,

she graduated from Gobelins, l’École de l’Image, in 2017. Ranging from photography to film and installation, her work focuses on the fragility and persistence of images, questioning the photographic medium and its process of transformation. Margerita’s practice also draws from the dialogue between senses, how different

languages stimulate us, act on our body and its perception.

Her work was part of collective exhibitions such as Voies Off Festival, Rencontres d’Arles 2017, Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie de Niort 2018 and Futuruins at Palazzo Fortuny, Venice 2018/19. One of her last projects, Le Blanc Nuit, was exhibited in Venice, at the VAP gallery during the summer of 2019. On that occasion, she invited artists to perform with her installation pieces.

How constantly
images become
a space
of encounter? 

Yuliya : Your project is very much about the physicality of images and the relationship between their

essence and their elusive form. The concept of a gesture seems very important to me regarding your work, both through the process of creation and afterwards, when the images constantly transform in the wax. What is the importance of gestures in your work for you? In particular, I mean the archival gestures, such as revealing, folding and unfolding…

Margherita : I think that somehow this project is about gestures. One of my starting points was the interest in our gestures when facing images, how we physically approach them. 

I’m now thinking about a performance I assisted during the last Venice Biennale. It was about idols and how we relate to sculptures in the public space. A Spanish actress played the role of some statues from the Catalan public space, such as the ones of famous football players or royal personas. People were asked to make some gestures towards them: gestures of devotion, violence, protest or any kind of gestures. I started from a reflection on images in a very large sense and on how we relate to them. In general, I’m very attentive to gestures, trying to understand what they suggest, mean, translate and reveal of our way of being. 

Yuliya : How does this relationship to gestures influence your work for our common project on a future-oriented archive?

Margherita : Photography is a gesture in itself, and an archive is an ensemble of gestures, isn’t it? 

In this project, I started thinking progressively about our relation to images, the way we look at them as if they were alive, the reason and the way we do it. 

I think of the novel by Wilhelm Jensen, Gradiva – which is very well known thanks to Freud’s work on it. It is the story of an archaeologist who falls in love with a woman depicted in a bas-relief in Rome. When he gets back to his country, he commands a plaster reproduction of it and starts to imagine her moving. He has visions of her walking and then he comes back to Italy to search for her. What touched me in this story was the power of a very small detail of the bas-relief and seeing how it leads him to make her alive: her left foot can be just glimpsed under her raised garment-dress and it is barely lifted, as if she was walking. It is thanks to her foot gesture that she becomes alive in his dreams. 

George : Your project makes me think about this phrase: “see it to believe”. Touching and seeing something makes it real and tangible for us. It also makes me think about Charcot’s obsession of opening up the body and trying to find diseases or madness, as if it could be grasped somehow and found, located somewhere to prove that it is something real. But you cannot find it, it is not physically there. So does it actually exist? 

Joachim : Instead of talking about these hidden facts, hidden matter within the work, I think the work is much more the opposite: it is revealing something.

I think that my project is about revealing something, using language to reveal, Margherita’s project makes a statement: as the wax slowly melts and shows the final pieces, it reveals something. Margherita, I guess that by styling your work you hide something within it, but then, during the process, it is revealed again. 

Margherita : Yes, absolutely. If you think about the process of heating the wax, the time of revealing is much longer than the time it takes to become veiled again. It can take two hours to reveal and then five minutes to be hidden.

Joachim : It is really interesting also because it is really connected to a political statement concerning the archive: it is easy to hide something compared to revealing it.

George : There is a connection in both of your works, Margherita and Joachim, between this kind of performance of an archivist and how things are revealed by the archivist: there is an archive, and then an archivist’s role is to dig in the archive and reveal things. It is almost a performance which seems to relate to your work, Margherita, in the sense that during the process you are doing a kind of performance. And also the light, the bulb melting the wax – it is about revealing some kind of information or an insight. 

Margherita : The whole process is very performative. The way I print images, I melt wax and put it in the mould… it is a ritual of gestures that follows exactly this path.

Joachim : I also think that revealing and hiding is very much present in Soren’s work, which is about hiding images side to side, the performance of walking, as the archivist going into something and revealing are very present.

Margherita : It is very much linked to the physical place of the viewer as well.

Søren : Yes, I agree. I also think about the use of wax in your work, Margherita. Of course there is the question of preservation in it because wax encapsulates things and it is a sort of preservation. But wax is a fluid material, almost alive, and it is a sort of skin you put on the image and it becomes a way to give images their own life. It’s like moving between the visible and the invisible. The invisible is a part of the visible, it is always present and you have to engage to make it reveal. It is not something which is away from the world, it’s there but you have to activate it, engage yourself in a performative act to make it visible.

I would like to hear more of your thoughts about this material, wax, and its living aspect, its transformation. I recently read an article about religious wax sculpture, and there was a restorer talking about how these sculptures still sweat, hundreds years later. As if they are alive. It is giving these images their own life, and it would also connect to the archive as a constant accumulation of meaning, which is not settled, but fluid. 

Margherita : It is precisely about wax as a living material and its transformation. In this sense, it is linked to the idea of preservation, or maybe non-preservation. What I point out is its changing character, how its state is constantly changing, as life is. 

Yuliya : How is the concept of temporality linked to your work, and especially to the future in our project? 

Margherita : The installation focuses on transformation, so, somehow, it is just about the present, as if the work asked you to be there, in that precise moment, and look at its transformation.

My work is not about recording or registering, but rather about the importance of the transformation, even if I think about the material, wax, and the relation my project has with the concepts of palimpsest, recording marks, fingerprints. 

Carola : I’m not quite sure that time does not play a role in your work, because even if you see something in the present, you might match it with something in the past or the future, because it is changing, slowly…

Margherita : Yes, of course. It is changing. Maybe we should state more precisely what the duration of the present we are talking about is. When I say that it is not linked to temporality, I mean that it does not make a difference between past and future, as it focuses on the present, on the “now”, and you do not really have any marks of the past or the future on it.

So I think it is about an image in a very large sense and about being in the present to look at its transformation. It is also a way to be patient, to stand there and wait to see what the image reveals. The image is not there yet. It asks you to take time and see what it slowly reveals… It is a way to add a different temporality, as if it asked you to stop, wait and look. 

Yuliya : In your statement, you wrote about the empty space, where two surfaces seem to mingle. In terms of gestures, an archive is also an empty space between what is really conserved, what happens and what remains as knowledge.

Margherita : I would relate it more to the idea of the role of the viewer, a visitor to an archive. Actually, the space I talk about is far from being empty. It is the space of connection, encounter. In a metaphorical way it is empty, but finally it is far from being empty, it is the place where interesting things happen.