Rome, a city of small cars and scruffy green spaces. Hints of old artifacts visible from a bus window. Does it smell as it did three thousand years ago? A country of roundabouts in lieu of traffic lights, a roading system with more curves than a sack of spiral pasta. Big blue skies framed by rising ranges in one direction, and the halitosis of progress breathes its smoggy breath out the other way. A city adorned in street-art tattoos on almost every conceivable surface.
Italy is our next destination after China. We land after an exhausting 30 hour journey from Beijing, through Qatar, to Rome, to train, to bus, to van to bed. We’re camping down at Invizin. We arrive on the Monday night and have a few days to recover from the jetlag before a show on Friday. The party is to mark the 1st birthday of this recently established cultural hothouse in San Giovani, located on the outskirts of the village of Tornareccino, East coast, South of the city of Pescara by an hour or so.
It’s warm when we land but the temperature drops as we head into the hills. On a clear day you can look down to the north and see the Adriatic coast. For the first couple of days jetlag dictates our patterns.
Invizin is the new art/science/technology and sustainability project of Hilary Binder.
“Invizin is a not-for-profit international cultural laboratory focused on stimulating and supporting ideas that challenge the status quo of social tolerance and material and intellectual sustainability. We invite and form international collaborations to apply artistic practice, scientific research and analysis, technological advances, and radical thinking across multiple fields. Based in the Italian region of Abruzzo, Invizin develops and implements model solutions that build creative and sustainable common futures…”
We first met Hilary about ten years ago when SABOT, the duo she drummed with, toured Aotearoa New Zealand. Sabot had been based in the Czech town of Tabor where Hilary, and Sabot bass player Chris Rankin, established the cultural exchange station called CESTA. The CESTA project was an art/culture/activist/community development project. It was truly inspiring for us when we first encountered it, and it still remains a key example of art and action in practice.
As well as catching up with Hilary on this tour, we are excited also that we have the opportunity to return to CESTA in a few weeks to perform at the house. Chris remains at CESTA and it’s been wonderful reconnecting in the setting up of our show there. More on that later.
We take refuge at Invizin, wrapped up in the presence of Autumn turning across the countryside. We sleep, then wake to a valley dressed in low cloud, go slow and charge up with food and coffee. We head into the village for a beer and visit local cheese shops and hardware stores. The population of the village is 1832.
The days roll past slowly as we recover from the jetlag. We spend the hours talking, eating, exploring the Invizin library, eating Gelato by the Adriatic and seeing flags of local successful protests to stop off-shore oil exploration. In the evenings it’s back to more food and alcohol. It’s a holiday.
Much of the conversation centres on the working concept Hilary has for Invizin. The building is a multi-level space on the top of a rise on the outskirts of town. Hilary has one level as living space and library. The ground floor has a history of being a restaurant many years ago. This project of Hilary’s is a new iteration of her ongoing commitment to social justice and social change, based on anarchist philosophy and the power of creative expression. Invizin is continuing to grow into a regular space for local musicians to gather and discover musical improvisation, to gently and sonically push out boundaries of perception while establishing new patterns, friendships and opportunities. There have been other previous Italian projects as well, such as creating festivals to celebrate the women of the villages.
Recently though, the place was burgled. A whole collection of useful tools and other bits and pieces were taken. Hilary entered into conversation with the thieves in the form of posters around stating to not steal from poor artists, but the rich and the state.
Earlier in the year Hilary was approached by some local musos asking her to sing for a group they were establishing. Eventually Hilary said yes and the group Polemica burst into life. They have recently self-released their first album of original material on vinyl and are touring across Europe diy style. Many of these ways of working, in an independent self-determined way are new for the band members. It seems to us that Hilary has already helped to create new openings for some members of the community.
A huge focus of our stay though is that we get to perform at the first birthday of Invizin on our final night, playing alongside Polemica and a local reggae DJ for the locals.
The building Hilary uses for Invizin used to be a local restaurant years ago. Downstairs from the main living space is the actual restaurant and the large kitchen including a purpose built pizza oven. We spend a full day tidying up the space in preparation, and we get a fire going in the pizza oven in anticipation that it will be functioning perfectly on the day of the party. We are guided by text messages from a local pizza oven master on the best way to reignite the oven afters 18 years of sitting idle. And it works perfectly, there’s no fleeing of nesting birds or any other critters from the smoke and the heat. The heat radiates. We bank it up and close it down and hope that in the morning we have made a hearty bed of charcoals to facilitate perfect pizza production.
Our final day rolls around, the kitchen is prepared. We work on finishing setting up the space. There is constant communication back and forth of what other provisions will be brought, food, drink, sound equipments. We stoke the pizza oven and given it the first test run. Will it work? How long will it take? So many blind questions. The only way to find out is to put the theory to the test. A base is rolled, toppings applied, make-shift instruments made, and the tray is pushed into the centre of the oven, surrounded by a mound of brilliant orange embers. There’s no thermostat so we have no idea how hot the beast gets. It takes about 5-6 minutes, the pan is rotated, moved around and monitored. The Utopizza is born! And to our estimation, it was as perfect as it needed to be! As far as signs and portents go, this is a goodie.
The afternoon rolls, people start to arrive with food, drink, the DJ with a box of music, the sound system has a few bugs discovered and corrected. And the evening cranks into a party. The oven is in production, kids are in the kitchen making their own food, and the music starts. We are up first and we are warmly and generously welcomed. A few dance, people charge drinks, and we feel like we fit right in. It is a delightful thing. Wonderful conversations afterwards, people want to share there experience of us, sense is made across language divides, enthusiastic Italians with no english proclaim at length of the fun they had, alcohol is a good lubricant for language exchange. And then Polemica prepare to do their set. There’s an air of excitement for the lads of the local community and Hilary. They have just recently returned from a two week tour and are honed, great song writing, some really solid tunes, and a confident delivery. It is really very good. It is the first home show for some time and they are welcomed and the party ramps.
All finished. The community leave for home, the Dj plays the last reggae tune and powers down the system. We head off to bed for four hours sleep before we need to be up and off to catch the bus back to Rome’s airport.
Heading back towards the airport, sleep, snack, stare out the window listening to Leila Adu on headphones in this mist-lifting landscape, a fine musician and true internationalist, music for the world, skillful and hopeful. The warm weather undressed the night.